The Billie Eilish evolution: 3 lessons for brands
30.06.21 | By Ellie Laffner | Vogue Imagery by Craig McDean | opinion
What Billie Eilish’s Vogue Cover tells about brand evolution.
Music to our ears.
It’s hard to believe any 19 year old has been around long enough to have a brand evolution, but if you’ve got the voice of a literal angel, you can do anything you want.
And we’ll listen.
Billie Eilish graced the June 2021 cover of British Vogue, forgoing her usual baggy style for mid-20th century pin-up style. And in true Billie fashion, executed this shift in perception chefs kisses perfectly.
But remove the shameless Gen-Z fangirling and reading between the lines (and covers), what does this spread tell us about the art of the pivot? And how can brands take a leaf out of Billie’s book?
1. Authenticity leads to influence.
It’s simple: Don’t. Bullshit. Your. Audience. If you don’t believe in what you’re saying, why should they? You can spot a brand’s zest and passion (or lack of) a mile away. Passion is unmistakable. It’s contagious, too. And if you’ve ever found yourself hyperventilating through a bikram yoga class because a friend exclaimed you ‘had’ to try it, then you’ll know how vital passion is to persuasion.
The Billie Effect: We’re buying what she’s selling because it feels honest. Billie’s art feels like a raw expression of her. And not just her music, but her fashion. Her sexuality. Her voice. Her self-awareness. All coming together, accumulating into an authentic, holistic brand. And it’s clearly working.
The Brand Effect: If all the touchpoints of your brand are cohesive; colour, logo, copy, design, and style, then it won’t matter if you switch gears. What matters is that you are consistent. Remain authentic to your original mission, brand purpose and brand values, and influence will follow.
2. Don’t be afraid of evolution.
Audiences will grow with you: if you let them. The common phrase ‘people don’t like change’ is only true if the change feels nonsensical - and your audience feels left out of your decision making.
The Billie Effect:
Her evolution is celebrated. Why? Billie’s audience feels in the loop with her change and has invested emotionally in the ride. Thanks to social media, it feels like there is a consistent two-way conversation going on between Billie and her fans. And while the Vogue cover is definitely the first public shift from her usual aesthetic, it doesn’t feel jarring. Instead, it’s a noteworthy move forward in her identity and artistic expression.
The Brand Effect:
Keep your audiences in the know, and keep them at the forefront. Whether through social media, email or website, keeping them in the loop creates brand trust between you and your audience. And when you’re deciding to rebrand or shift a narrative, think less pulling the rug from under them. And more explain why you’ve decided to replace the rug with a new and improved one.
Know your why. If you know that, the rest will follow.
3. Empower. Don’t patronize.
At the front and centre of this cover, Billie is quoted saying, ‘it’s about what makes you feel good.’ In music, life, and branding, you cannot shame people into buying into your product. Not anymore. Audiences (namely, women) have spent a lifetime being patronized into purchase.
“Try our new guilt-free cookies. Baked in self-sacrifice and deprivation for your low-self esteem to enjoy, these will slightly, definitely, without doubt, upset your stomach. But at least you’ll feel READY TO TAKE ON THE WORLD. GO GIRL!”
Women have had enough. And in a spectacularly refreshing shift in zeitgeist, it’s young women who are pushing back from the toxic expectations pushed on them.
The Billie Effect:
Reclaiming her narrative, she has pushed back on the media’s relentless body shaming and women shaming.
The Brand Effect:
Evolution is necessary. Change is good. Keep pushing for representation. The culture is shifting, and as we move into a more inclusive space audiences will leave you behind if you do not adjust to the times. See: Victoria’s Secret.
Keep up with the shifts in culture, and in turn, the culture will keep up with you.
Better yet, lead it.
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