Three things corporate brands can learn from Justin Bieber

January 8, 2013

Corporate brands can learn a lot from teen pop icon Justin Bieber who has built a brand that his audience can identify with, nurture relationships through and engage with as a form of self-expression.

Corporate brands can learn a lot from teen pop icon Justin Bieber.

In December, Twitter declared Justin Bieber the most powerful tweeter of 2012, with each tweet able to generate hundreds of thousands of retweets and favorites across the world. He was second only to Barack Obama whose three words “Four More Years” following the election generated the most buzz of the year. I was not surprised to learn that there were so many Beliebers.

In addition to the teen pop band, One Direction, Justin Bieber is the artist my 13 year old sister speaks of most often. Parents across the nation have children who are “Beliebers” and, just like The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, to name a few, Justin Bieber will hold a place in their hearts for the rest of their lives. All it takes is a lyric or melody to reignite the love for their teen pop icon. Here are three things corporate brands can learn from Justin Bieber in regards to planting seeds at an early age and remaining in the hearts of brand followers for a lifetime.

1. Brand followers are seeking to form an identity or sense of self
In the teen years, a natural phase occurs when children attempt to distance themselves from their parents and family. They develop the need to be seen as an individual. As a Belieber, they are making a statement about who they identify with (someone that their parents do not), who they look up to (other than their parents) and who they want to be like (NOT their parents).

Apple is a corporate brand that the youth has found itself able to identify with, and continues to the foster the relationship through consistent brand voice and presence. Apple has an uncanny ability to follow its own intuition on what makes for good design, what people want and what will be the next big thing. In most cases, they have been right. Apple’s ability to trust itself and go against the crowd is exactly what teenagers want to be identified with. So this Belieber, who probably already has an iPod, will now want an iPad for Christmas, and when they learn to drive they’ll need an iPhone so mom can get a hold of them wherever they are (actually, so they can remain in constant contact with their fellow Beliebers); and when they go to college, they’ll get a MacBook. And as long as they are able to identify with the brand, Apple will forever hold a place in their hearts.

2. Brand followers are seeking relationships
So now the teenager has identified with Justin, and starts going to his concerts and buying his product. They meet other Beliebers who go the concerts and buy the product. They find friends who understand them and make connections in a community that identifies with the same core values and truths as they do!

Harley-Davidson is a great example of a corporate brand that fosters this sense of community and relationship-building. Many automotive brands try and capture that sense of freedom that comes with the open road, but none so successfully as Harley-Davidson. Boys see groups of motorcycles on the road and they think they are so cool, hoping one day to ride in a pack. As they grow older they’ll learn more about the brand and the mechanics of a bike, and someday, when they have worked hard and become a man, they will celebrate their achievement by purchasing a Harley. At that moment they will be a part of the Harley community. They’ll go on road trips with other Harley riders, hang out at the Harley dealerships and events and have an international network of friends inherited through the Harley-Davidson brand. It will be an achievement that they will share and brag about all their lives.

3. Brand followers are seeking a form of self-expression
Not only do our teen Beliebers seek their own identity and others to identify with, they also need a way to express themselves. They do so by supporting their brand/icon: retweeting tweets, friending their pop icon, spreading the love through the clothes they wear, songs they sing and the activities they participate in.

Whole Foods is a corporate brand that has a strong brand following of people who believe in healthy, natural, organic food and better living. Not only will Whole Foods shoppers pay a premium for their food and product, they’ll tote their Whole Foods reusable bags around town, download recipes from WholeFoods.com to share with their foodie friends, make postings about local cooking and composting classes, and always be sure to mention that the food they're eating is locally grown and hormone-free. These shoppers identify with the Whole Foods brand and what it stands for, they are fully immersed in the brand culture and community, and they are taking it to the next level by using Whole Foods as a means to express who they are. Not only does the Whole Foods brand hold a place in their hearts, it holds a place in their daily, active lives.

So what can corporate brands learn from Justin Bieber?

Now that corporations are more mindful of the effects that branding has on their company they, too, want Beliebers for life. Apple, Harley-Davidson and Whole Foods each have very distinct audiences that identify with them, support them and will continue to choose them over all competitors because these brands deliver a consistent (yet refreshing) message, product and feeling over the years. They remain the brands that we can still identify with, build relationships with and express ourselves through. My little sister will play a Justin Bieber song at her wedding, I’m sure, and she will probably stumble across the songs again when she has children of her own and Twitter is a thing of the past. She will blast his music on occasion for the rest of her life. After all, she is a Belieber.

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