Having worked in brand management since 20XX, I can easily summarise the characteristics of an appealing, saleable, and long-lasting brand in 3 points:
- Likeable but deviant
- Unique and useful
- Simple and timeless
Like it or not, this applies to everything – consumables, services, events, people, you name it. I live and breathe marketing so I can’t help but evaluate everything I encounter based on these three buckets. I use these qualifiers to shortlist if a certain product/service is worth my money and time and if it strongly it resonates with me.
Since a remarkable chunk of my salary is spent on music, I do this most often on artists I listen to as a way to justify if I should buy more of their stuff (album, concert ticket, merch, etc) or not. I encounter more than a handful of new artists everyday, but to be honest, only a few have stood out amidst this clutter to the point that it has made me at the very least like/follow their social media account.
One of these artists is George Maple. I first heard her early 2014 when she released her single Talk Talk, and my first impression of her reminded me so much of Jessie Ware. Her overall vibe was very similar that it was not surprising that you’d mistake her for the British artist. Because of this resemblance, I can’t help but feel that she was just another ripoff. I felt there was enough room for just one of them, so that time, I chose Jessie over her – the original over a wanna-be.
But recently, I’ve noticed how much she has changed her branding as an artist. From her image, wardrobe, her collaboration, and even down to her logo, she did a complete 360. Her rebranding hit the 3-point characteristics I mentioned earlier, and it worked to her advantage that it made me look and listen to her twice.
George Maple is deviant, but likeable.
From meek and traditional, she became deviant and daring that I’m actually comparing her to either the 80s era Madonna or the 00s Britney Spears. Placing her side-by-side with the other female artists I listen to, she very distinct. I can instantly pinpoint she’s not cutesy like Kimbra, not eccentric like Kucka or FKA Twigs, not dark and mysterious like BANKS, not sexy-sweet like Alina Baraz, not “innocent yet conniving” like Lana Del Rey, not bohemian like Florence and the Machine, not gothic like Lorde, and not tomboy-ish like Shura. She stands out like a red rose in a field daisies and daffodils.
I find her likeable because she exudes, and is able to pull off a certain masculine femininity that gives her that strong yet approachable appeal. And she carries it well. She reminds me of a female George Michael. From a brand manager’s point of view, possessing this vibe allows her to appeal to two ends of the gender spectrum.
George Maple is unique and useful.
Image-wise, I’ve already described her uniqueness extensively. In a way, her image is also useful as its very empowering to women.
Sound-wise, she’s distinct from the other female artists I listen to as she’s very versatile and open to different collaborations that will make her a staple in any genre.
- She can be very in-your-face EDM-R&B-Trip Hop-Hip Hop all at the same time
- She can be soulful, classical and downtempo.
- She can be accesible pop
Her range and flexibility is very useful especially nowadays when there are just too many artists who want to breakout in the industry. Her ability to collaborate with artists from different genres without losing her identity lets her leave a lasting mark wherever she goes.
George Maple is simple and timeless.
In an interview with Triple J, she said she’s exploring a “sex, money, and power” theme in all her creative projects. Her message is straighforward and simple, talking about the 3 most coveted ideologies in the world.
Aesthetically, this is illustrated in her logo. From the dated typography she used back in 2013 to the block and bold sans serif today:
Her on-stage presence also embodies the classic, top-of-mind woman in power: the dominatrix. Clad in leather, mesh, animal prints, and fur, she really is a headturner on stage, demanding your full attention else, you will be punished.
IMHO, George Maple > Jessie Ware.
Since her rebranding, I’ve been more of a George Maple fan than of Jessie Ware as her image is more exciting and intersting than the latter. So when We The Fest announced their 2016 line up and it included her, I booked my plane ticket to Jakarta in a heartbeat. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
And boy, was my decision right. She was a show stopper, singing her originals as well as classics and pop hits like Jeff Buckley’s Everybody Here Wants You and Britney Spears’ Boys. At first, the concert ground was only about half full when she started. But as her show went on, it slowly filled with people who were most likely intrigued and mesmerized by her stage presence and haunting performance. My purchase was worth it, and expect that I will be patronizing more of her projects.
George Maple learned the basics of building a strong brand identity – she was able to balance the optimal level of artistry and accessiblity to make her distinct from other female artists while still appealing to a wide audience through her desirable, timeless image.
But just because she was able to perfect this aspect, doesn’t mean her work is done. Brand building is a continuous process. It is important to always be grounded with market insight to keep yourself relevant to them. Interact with your fans and other potential audience for you to know what appeals to them. Their tastes change, so if you want to them to be with you throughout your career, you should always keep them in mind in your new projects.