By Obinna Agwu
Every Nigerian artist I know swears that they are a brand, a business, and they are, to varying degrees. But building a credible, viable and sustainable brand, in this fast-paced technology-driven world is becoming increasingly difficult. Building a better mousetrap or making a hit record is no longer enough to guarantee you a lasting seat at the table, and brands must now do more. One way a brand can hope to stand out in the crowded market place and strengthen its connection to its customers is by being socially responsible.
These days, people are increasingly looking towards brands to take an advocacy lead on key global and local challenges – and artists are not exempt. Recently, we have seen the amazing work that Rihanna has been doing in education as GPE’s global ambassador. Also, Chance The Rapper has been heavily involved in various efforts to better the lot of folks in his home state of Chicago. In Nigeria, Kanu Heart Foundation which started in 2000 and has directly saved the lives of hundreds of children across Africa by helping them get needed heart surgeries that they would otherwise be unable to afford, is a shining example of a worthy impact project. One cannot deny that these celebrities’ careers and brands have benefited significantly by being socially responsible, and you should follow their act.
Being socially responsible can differentiate you as a music brand, deepen fan relationships, and ultimately create financial value and help ensure the long-term viability of an artiste, and you must now take this aspect of your brand seriously. Enough of the random throwing of cash at fans on social media, artists with means and clout should, as a matter of urgency, begin to work on well thought out social impact projects that make a real difference in the lives of their fans and in the larger community. Fame is such a wild animal, you can’t tame it, you can’t save it up for tomorrow, the best you can do is to trade it for something more lasting, legacy.
Yet, I feel like a lot of our bigger artists squander their hard-won fame and clout on inanities, missing out on huge opportunities to grow their brands exponentially by investing in their communities or in a good cause. For instance, ‘Surulere’ has been such an iconic song for Wizkid, wouldn’t it be nice if Starboy had a well-planned, well-run high impact social project in the area? Or if Korede Bello who is said to be the first Nigerian Police Ambassador used that platform and his voice to support the likes of Segun Awosanya @segalink, who is doing an amazing job of holding the Nigerian Police accountable for the actions of its personnel? When Olamide Badoo released his hit song ‘Science student’ he came under a fair bit of criticism from certain quarters about how the song was promoting drug abuse. But he countered with the fact that he was merely running commentary om the society and not promoting drug abuse which didn’t do much to convince anyone. But you know what would have been better, more convincing? Olamide starting or supporting an existing organization working to tackle the drug problem that is stealing the future of our youth. Yep!
So, here are a few things to consider as you plan to start your own impact project:
Make sure that whatever cause you decide to support aligns perfectly with your core values as an individual and resonates with your fans. You’ll be more motivated to push through if you and your team wholeheartedly believe in what you’re supporting, as you’ll have to practice what you preach both in your music and in yo.ur everyday life.
In the first point above I said ‘cause’ not ‘causes’ and it was intentional. It has been found that companies that support multiple social issues don’t move the needle very far on any of them, so don’t fall into the trap of over-extending yourself. It is imperative to focus your efforts on one social issue and align all internal and external resources with delivering the required outcome with respect to that issue. We must stop this behaviour where everyone and their grandma is an FRSC Ambassador, Peace Ambassador, Police Ambassador etcetera, and focus!
Clear theory of change
You must choose a cause where change is measurable and the social impact of your work is easily demonstrated. Your project must, therefore, be result oriented from day one with everyone involved being very clear about what the desired results should be. This is not a vanity project o.
Merely identifying a cause 0r priority for community investment isn’t enough. Your chances of success with your project is greatly improved by having a significant depth of information about the particular social issue being addressed, through credible research and conscientious study. What you don’t know you can’t change. You don’t have to be an expert before you start, but you must fully commit to learning as much as you can on your issue of interest.
Partner with experts
This point compliments the earlier point made. Sometimes as you research the particular issue you wish to address, you may stumble on a credible individual or organization already doing great work in that area. In that case, it would be best for you to partner with them to scale their efforts.
The best time to start thinking critically about the social impact of your brand is before you ‘blow’, the next best time is now that you’re at the height of your career. Don’t wait until your popularity starts to wane, for you’ll find your audience to be a lot more cynical with time. So, dear artiste, in 2019, don’t just secure the bag, secure the brand and the legacy too.