Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Christina Aguilera - FAIL

I recently wrote an article for my school's blog on branding and used Christina Aguilera as an example.

You can check out the article here OwenBloggers or read below. It combines 2 of my fav things: marketing and pop culture.

Selling More than Albums

If you listened to pop music during the 90’s, then you’ve heard Christina Aguilera’s music.  She has been wildly successful with 4 Grammys and more than 43 million albums sold.  When she first appeared on the scene, people thought she was another Britney Spears copycat with her bubble gum pop music.  Later, Aguilera was able to generate her own buzz and establish herself as a pop icon with a different sound.  Her sophomore album, Stripped, could best be described as raw and provocative.  She dyed her normally blonde hair dark, wore risqué clothing, and shook her hips while singing about getting “Dirrty.”  The album was a hit and even though she greatly changed up her image, it was accepted by her fans.  

Her most recent album, Bionic, was another re-invention of Aguilera.  This time, she dyed her hair platinum blonde, wore skin tight cat suits in promo shoots, and her first single told of “kissing all the boys and girls” on the dance floor.  Unfortunately, the recipe was a failure and Bionic was certified a flop; Aguilera isn’t even going to tour to promote her album. To make matters worse, media outlets complained that Aguilera was trying to be too much like Lady Gaga with her party attitude and crazy clothes.  Aguilera has spent more time defending her Lady Gaga look-a-like style than selling singles in the past 6 months. 

With all the bad pop music on the radio today, why was Aguilera’s album a failure?  Since the release of Stripped, Aguilera’s life has changed dramatically.  She got married, had a child, and took a few years off to be with her family.  Clearly, Aguilera’s main focus is no longer the club or party scene.  She’s probably had more early mornings than late nights and, like most new moms, hasn’t seen a non-cartoon movie in ages.  The problem with the new album is that Aguilera isn’t being authentic.  Nowhere in Bionic did she mention life as a married woman or a new mother.  She certainly has other things in her life besides her family, but no one thinks that those things are clubbing and promiscuity.  Perhaps if Aguilera was a tabloid staple like Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears, she would have had a better chance of selling herself as the party type.  There is a discord between the paparazzi images of her with her son or now-former-husband and the image she tried to sell with Bionic.  

Aguilera is the example of a failed branding effort.  Like a parent trying to wear youthful clothing so that they would still be considered cool, Aguilera tried too hard to be something she wasn’t.  Branding is about not just selling a product, but selling you.  Aguilera’s story exemplifies the dangers of deviating too far from yourself for a brand or of misbranding in general.  This has the potential to be an issue for everyone, even if we all aren’t trying to sell albums.  The goal is to align who you are with what you hope other people to see. 
Now sure how to determine your brand?  First, write down 3 key characteristics you feel best describe how you want others to perceive you.  Next, ask your friends what 3 key characteristics they would use to describe you and compare.  Maybe you will learn that people think you are very serious, but you had humorous as a characteristic.  If you see a discrepancy, try to reconcile your brand.  A good place to start is to find out why people think this about you.  It’s not about changing who you are, but figuring out how others see you and what you can do help them see you the way you want them to.  So, if you are Christina Aguilera and you want people to believe you stay out all night in a club, then you may just have to do that.

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