WHEN BRANDS GO BAD
And how the music of R. Kelly and Michael Jackson are viewed when they fall from grace
There are many types of brands. There are brands that represent products, services and companies, and there are brands that represent cities, nonprofits, sports teams, and personalities. Basically, if there is an audience with an emotional connection for something, then it has a brand in the hearts and minds of consumers and supporters.
Even on an individual level, we are all constantly working on our own brand whether it’s how we represent ourselves on social media or how our friends, peers, and family regard us. Basically, we all want to be liked.
So, what happens when a brand goes bad?
Well, if we were talking about celebrities like R. Kelly and Michael Jackson, which have taken over the headlines in recent weeks, we would turn our backs on them and quickly condemn their actions, just as we would stop supporting any business that lost our trust or did something wrong or immoral. But what about the music they are responsible for? Do we now pull their catalogs from the shelves and erase their music from the airwaves?
Now, to be honest, the only song I know by R. Kelly is “I Believe I Can Fly”, but Michael Jackson’s music has and continues to play a huge role in the soundtrack of my own life. It’s not like I have Jackson’s greatest hits on my playlist, but who doesn’t know every word to “Beat It” or “Thriller” or secretly even knows all the dance moves to “Thriller” or remembers where they were when Jackson’s hair caught on fire?
I guess the question is this: who owns the music once it is introduced to the world and how should that music be viewed if the brand that created it goes bad, or in this case, you find out that it may have in fact been bad all along?
It would be hard to deny that the brands of Kelly and Jackson are forever damaged, and along with that, the music they created. But why now?
Clearly both of these artists are bad people, there’s no denying that, but are we really shocked to learn that all of the allegations that we have heard for years might actually be true? Did any of those accusations make us change the channel when one of their songs came on the radio?
How many weddings, graduations and opening ceremonies have “I Believe I Can Fly” playing in the background? Are these moments now tainted or changed?
In the end, successful brands require trust, loyalty, and advocacy to survive. Often with good PR and positioning, a damaged brand can rise from the ashes, particularly if what they provide or have provided is something people still want.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out, and how the music industry itself is affected.
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