If you want to know the power of a brand, just watch how other brands try to emulate it. That’s exactly what’s happened in the tragic passing of music icon Prince.
In the moments after the news of his death spread on social media, social media itself became the channel by which brands tried to create their own memes in tribute. Some in self promotion. Therein lies extreme risk.
With a few exceptions, most brands weren’t just thoroughly thoughtful, they were creatively evocative, and dare I say it—shareable. After all, that should be one of the top goals.
Among the most shared was a simple tweet from Chevrolet. It’s classic Corvette forever drives one of Prince’s most classic songs. The six words of copy were as powerful as high-octane fuel.
Perhaps no one did it better than a government agency—NASA. The very folks whose job it is to shoot for the stars paid tribune to one of pop-culture’s brightest stars in a way that only they could do. Their post on Twitter was metaphorical brilliance.
The creative minds at advertising agencies are pre-programmed to make the metaphoric connection between values, emotion, and motivation. The team at Minneapolis’ Carmichael Lynch not only made that emotional connection, they have a physical connection. Their offices are across the street from the First Avenue night club where Prince filmed “Purple Rain.” On a rainy day in Minneapolis, their post proved the power of minimalist design to speak volumes.
Simplicity also defined the post from Caribou Coffee. The homegrown Minnesota company didn’t waste words or images. The message was unmistakable.
In contrast, brands risk scrutiny and backlash when they try to participate in social events by making the conversation—even subtlely—about themselves. Minnesota brand 3M took that leap. Its post with a redesigned purple logo and a tear drop in the center was creatively clever, but makes the viewer question what their true motivation was.
The Minnesota Vikings football team went there as well. In its attempt to jump on the Prince bandwagon, they too made the conversation about themselves. How much more powerful and meaningful would have their post been if their social media team had simply dropped the Vikings logo?
In contrast, the Minnesota Twins took a different approach. The team’s veterans each year try to connect the rookies to the club and the community by making them sing Prince songs. Their montage of outtakes wasn’t just a tribute to Prince but an invitation to viewers to enjoy the best of Prince and the memories he’s created for them, too.
It only takes one summer of living in Minnesota to understand the most powerful cultural institution in the state is the Minnesota State Fair. It is the single camp fire by which people from every corner of the state gather to celebrate summer, music, food, and each other’s company. The State Fair’s post reinforced how culture honors culture.
Star Tribune photographer Jeff Wheeler has become a brand in his own right. The images he shoots for Minnesota’s largest newspaper are often filled with metaphorical emotion that ooze from the frame. His image of Prince’s star at the First Avenue night club needs no caption.
Finally, MTV proves how sometimes it’s best to simply make the message about the subject. In this case, Prince’s own words.
The power of social media is how it can stimulate conversation, emotion, and reflection. The artist we knew as Prince certainly accomplished that with his music. The fact that millions of fans world wide shared their grief and reflections speaks volumes not just of Prince’s own brand but how he became a part, ever so small, in the story of our own lives.
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