Branding Lessons from Prince’s Purple Reign
Published on September 20, 2016, at 2:48 p.m.
by Ashley Stults.
Not only did the legendary performer Prince leave behind a musical legacy, but he also left behind a brand legacy. During his career, he produced chart-topping hits, starred in a movie inspired by his music and sold out venues nationwide. The unparalleled brand he left behind is still talked about today and here’s why.
Throughout his life Prince created a truly unique tone that set him apart from every other artist. Neither his image nor musical style could be replicated or categorized. He let his work speak for itself and by doing so, he created a personal brand like no other.
Effective branding often has just enough mystery about it to continually pique curiosity. Prince captivated audiences by staying under the radar just enough to raise curiosity among fans and journalists alike. Rarely giving interviews, Prince was constantly the subject of rumors. He continued putting out music and letting his work do all the talking.
Prince knew how to use controversy to gain awareness for his brand. For example, after several years of fighting with record companies, Prince broke away and used the publicity to raise awareness about corrupt record labels. In the late ‘90s Prince often wore the word “slave” on his face, his way of taking a bold stance against the music industry who stifled his music and ability to release it when he wanted. Today, artists such as Kanye West and Jay Z have expressed similar problems with record companies, but none have taken a unique stance like Prince.
What you saw was what you got with Prince. He marched to the beat of his own drum, even if that meant rattling the cage. After many years of battling Warner Bros. Records — one of Prince’s record labels — for more rights over his own music, he launched NPG Music Club in 2001, a membership-based website that contained exclusive content for fans. This platform allowed him more power to choose the way his work was distributed. He later gave away a free album to fans who purchased tickets to his 2004 concert.
Prince’s dedication to his music and fans deepened the level of authenticity in his brand. It was evident to fans that he was passionate about his work and would do whatever it took to ensure it was top-quality and accessible.
The famous album, “Purple Rain,” was released in June 1984 and quickly found its way onto the Billboard’s weekly album list where it remained in the No. 1 spot for almost six months. That same year, the movie “Purple Rain” was released with just as much success.
Both the album and the movie featured the color purple, the color of royalty, which Prince used as a brand association. After his death, the world turned purple in the blink of an eye. The Superdome in New Orleans lit up in all purple, Los Angeles City Hall donned purple lights, and Google doodle changed its letters to the color purple with purple raindrops falling across the screen. These are all examples of the iconic visual brand Prince left behind. Purple was the visual link between Prince and his audience.
The brand Prince left behind is one of longevity. After a 35-year-long career and a tragic death, he is still one of the most talked-about artists ever. Prince embodied an amazing brand, and his unique style — coupled with his ability to speak to his fans through music and actions — allowed him to stay relevant for decades. His ability to brand himself in a distinct fashion is something every person or company should learn. Creating a long-lasting brand is hard to do, but even after his death, Prince is still proving he mastered it.