November 2, 2021

Three Branding Concepts You Can Steal from Adele

Like large sunglasses and the McRib, Adele has once again returned. Her new album “30” drops on November 19th. The first single, “Easy On Me”, is already breaking records:

  • On Spotify, the song debuted as the #1 most-streamed song in the U.S. for the week, with over 20 million streams—more than twice as many plays as Spotify’s #2 song.
  • It also leaped to Pandora’s #1 most-streamed song in the U.S. in its first week
  • On Amazon Music, “Easy On Me” debuted at #2 (behind everybody’s favorite Applebee’s commercial).
  • With the combination of strong streaming and substantial radio airplay, “Easy On Me” jumped to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in its 2nd The song debuted at #68—based solely on five hours of streaming availability.

Adele 30

Songs debut atop streaming service charts all the time nowadays, as Drake can attest. When an artist drops a new project, their core fans flood Spotify to check out their latest project. “Check out” means playing newly released tracks over and over and over.

Since streaming charts measure how many times users play a song, not how many different users play it, a relatively small but rabid fan base can push an artist’s work to #1 when it drops.

What Adele did with “Easy On Me” is much bigger.

Integr8 New Music Research (as callout research has always done) measures the familiarity and appeal of songs among a specific radio station’s weekly Cume audience. That’s a far more complete sample of listeners than any one artist’s core fans. A typical Top 10 Pop hit will take eight weeks for listeners to notice a song, become familiar with it, and grow to love it enough to make it among a station’s most appealing songs.

Adele’s “Easy On Me” was #1 in its very first week among many Integr8 New Music Research clients testing it. For others, it debuted among the top 10 most appealing songs—a feat she also achieved in 2015 with “Hello.”

Adele 25

So how does Adele achieve instant appeal with her new releases?

1)  Scarcity: “30” is only Adele’s 4th studio album since 2008. As her fame grows, she makes fans wait even longer for her next album. It’s been six years since “25” debuted, her longest gap yet between album releases. It’s simply human nature to anticipate something more when you perceive that you don’t get it very often—as witnessed by expatriated Californians visiting In-and-Out Burger within minutes of return visits to the Golden State.

2) Publicity: Whether you care about her or not, you know when Adele’s about to drop a new project. Her releases receive extensive news coverage alongside world events and COVID statistics. So, when you hear Adele’s latest single on the radio for the first time, you think, “Oh, this is the new Adele!”In contrast, when the average listener hears the other 99% of new songs for the first time, her reaction is, “what is this weirdness? Never heard it.” It will take eight weeks of steady exposure for her to decide if she likes a typically developing new song, but Adele’s pre-publicity encourages listeners to actively listen and get to know the song immediately.

Adele would never receive this level of free publicity if her new releases weren’t rare events. (See #1 above.) CBS News doesn’t break in whenever a new project drops from Drake.

3) Consistency: Back when “21” spawned three #1 hits, a major market Hot AC programmer quipped, “If Adele finds a new boyfriend, our whole format is screwed.”

Just as Taylor Swift’s discography is a relationship pattern in need of DBT therapy and Olivia Rodrigo has an entire album exploring the five stages of breakup grief, Adele’s songs address a similarly consistent theme of examining life and romantic relationships form the perspective of her current age. Even her album titles—all of which reflect her current age—reinforce her brand.

Creative people often get bored and want to try new things, sometimes moving too quickly for their core fans. (Looking at you, U2). Rare is the artist that understands their own brand. The ones who do are known by their first name.

Historically, Adele has delivered on the high expectations for her debuts. But hype doesn’t always translate into hits. We’ll tackle what’s next for “Easy On Me” and other singles from “30” in our next post.

In the meantime, do you have ideas on how radio brands could effectively exploit the branding principles of scarcity, publicity, and consistency? Share your ideas in the comments.

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