If you feel like you “really know” your favorite musician or TV star personally, you’re not alone. Between on-demand, streaming music and video and a never-ending array of posts on social platforms, today’s artistic creators and audiences are closer than ever before. For some celebrities, that connection gives them the chance to share their brand in a very new, meaningful way.
Spotify and Hulu acknowledged and celebrated this newfound engagement during a panel at the 2018 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity introduced by Spotify CMO Seth Farbman and Hulu CMO Kelly Campbell. The execs then handed the mic over to moderator God-is Rivera, Creative Executive at VML, who invited four influential creators from across the music, film, TV, and advertising worlds—Grammy Award-winning artist Miguel, musician Jessie Ware, actress Samira Wiley, and comedian Ramy Youssef—to explore what these connections mean for artists, brands, and creators in the digital age.
We collected a few tips from the panelists on creating and sustaining your own brand:
1. Use culture to engage authentically
Miguel: “I am genuinely interested in creative work. I love to watch film, listen to as much music as possible, and just generally keep in touch with culture. It’s inspiring and helps continue the conversation.”
Samira: “I want to be able to have fans and people who are following me on social media feel like they are getting a real piece of me. So I try to post pictures where I’m hanging out with real people. I say yes to people a lot on the street—I used to shy away, but being accessible when I can helps me feel like I’m connecting more. I hope it makes them feel like they’re connecting with me as well.”
Jessie: “I try to be as honest as possible. I have a podcast, which helps me be relevant. It was very accidental, I did it to escape myself, but people have quite enjoyed it. I do it with my mother while she cooks dinner … It has shown my fans another side of me. A lot of fans think I’m very mysterious but I’m absolutely not, so this breaks down a barrier where they can see that other side, tap in, be relatable and accessible.”
2. Keep your fans in mind
Ramy: “When you do stand-up, you’re kind of ambushing people with comedy. It informs the messaging. You’re like, ‘Ok, if I’m trying to get people’s attention right away, how can I do it?’ and you have to be as authentic as possible right away. … When you only have a small amount of time to engage people, it becomes really clear what the message is and what you want to say.”
Jessie: “Everyone has a story, and you may not know what’s going on when you’re serenading them, and you’re kind of getting a bit frustrated that maybe the crowd’s not warming up enough, but you’re not doing it for you, you’re doing it for them. That’s very humbling for me.”
3. Take a stand for what you believe in
Miguel: “Being of Mexican and black descent, knowing the journey that my father took as an immigrant to the United States from Zamora, Michoacán Mexico makes trying to figure out the proper solution for undocumented people in the States something that has been really dear to my heart. Learning and speaking up about that is a way that I’ve been able to include something that’s authentic to where I came from into my communication and conversation with my fans.”
4. Use your platform to spread your message
Samira: “Why do I have this platform? People are looking at us to say things. I felt like I needed to speak out on political things because of who I am. I had a wonderful experience coming out … but I know there are so many LGBT youth who do not have that experience. The leading cause of death for LGBT youth is suicide. To have one person who is an advocate for you in your life reduces that by 30 percent. And if I can do that for someone through social media, then that is what I want to do and that is one of the reasons I have the platform I do.”
5. Find a connection
Ramy: “Every time we talk we have influence. Being Muslim is a political thing. Just who I am is political. Now I have a platform and people care. They want to know. So I have to be as much me as possible, as human as possible, and that means putting the flaws first. People respond to ‘Yo, we’re both messed up in the same ways, and we’re both dealing with the same issues,’ and in order for me to do that I have to be vulnerable and honest and human.”
One—perhaps unspoken—piece of advice was that an artist never rests: Miguel brought the evening to a close with a performance of his chart-topping “Sky Walker.”
Whether showcasing their work or sharing their thoughts, these influencers are able to create a unique connection that they don’t take for granted.