#OutstandingBrands2021: How personality brands thrived during the pandemic


COVID-19 has brought upon a very challenging lifestyle for people in the music industry over the last year, which has forced many of them to adapt to the changes of the current climate. In branding, there is sometimes the confusion between brand personality and the personality brand.

While the former refers to human attributes and qualities ascribed to non – human brands, the latter describes a perception and feeling ascribed to a human being often times in the public lens or what those people describe as public figure. These will include musicians, DJs, Comedians and Sportsmen and women. This article will breakdown how personality brands within the entertainment industry were able to remain visible during the course of pandemic.

The sports and entertainment industry went on a major decline with the pandemic. Shows were canceled, sport events closed. Those who attempted to hold physical events had to give this up with growing reports of infection cases even in the so called safe bubbles that some organizers tried.

The African continent had lost great musicians as a result of the pandemic including Manu Dibango, the Cameroonian saxophone superstar, and Aurlus Mabele, the king of Congolese Soukous Music and the changing landscape of the pandemic made it impossible for people to gather at venues in large numbers.

Thus, there was a need to improvise and meet the people half way. One way in which artists kept engagement with their fan base was through virtual concerts. Nigerian artist, 2 Baba, partook in several virtual concerts in 2020. Most notably, he was featured on V-103’s international virtual concert, which was powered by the U.S. Census 2020. The aim of content was for people to join in the fight against racial injustice. V-103 is an urban contemporary radio station in Atlanta.

The concert also featured fellow Nigerian artist, Ice Prince, who appeared alongside 2Baba during the proceedings of the event. The virtual concert concept was also adopted by several artists across the African continent.

In Ghana, popular singer, Lamisi, held a concert on July 25, 2020 to honor those who were deeply affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. According to MusicinAfrica.net, the event was organized by Kofi TV and it was also streamed on Lamisi’s Facebook page. Though it did not have same feeling of an actual concert with food and drinks, the virtual landscape was still a space where fans could still interact and watch their favorite artists perform their hit tracks.

Religious concerts like the Xperience held in Nigeria every end of the year had a virtual version and drew a lot more global gospel artistes than even before. This may be due to the fact that not travelling and having this online made it easier for a lot of them to participate.

Across the world and on social media platforms, challenge competitions among DJs, musicians and dancers have shown the opportunities for personality brands to remain relevant. Their social media accounts especially Instagram live events have become money spinners as some companies also see this as opportunities to advertise their brands on these platforms.

According to dw.com, In the Southern African region of the continent, specifically in Botswana, upcoming musicians are using the social media platforms to engage the audience and grow their business. What makes this unique is that these artistes pay for their audience to listen to them and share feedbacks. They also are very digital savvy by uploading their work on Facebook and other social media outlets.

We also saw how strong personality brands grew their brand through the fight for social justice during the pandemic. The #endsars protest in Nigeria took interesting dimensions when renowned brands like Davido, Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage and Wizkid called for an end in police brutality and the dissolution of the Special Anti- Robbery Squad (SARS) involved in alleged extrajudicial killings and violence against the youth. Davido even led a delegation to visit the Police Inspector – General. The involvement and advocacy of Nigerian celebrities led to an international outcry and the intervention of other artistes in Africa and beyond to speak strongly against the happenings in Nigeria.

In December and ahead of the 2020 Ghana’s elections, Shatta Wale, Bronya (Christmas Crooner) and Ghanaian Dance Hall King advised the youth through public campaigns to desist from violence at any time of the election and to ensure that they are not manipulated and used as tools for violence in the country.

Personality brands in the music industry kept their light shining with their humanitarian efforts. Popular Nigerian Musician, Seun Kuti partnered with UNESCO on the #DontGoViral campaign. This initiative featured a two-minute video clip of Seun Kuti & Les Freres Smith, as they collaborated on a song warning people about the dangers of misinformation during the pandemic.

The campaign itself was indeed successful and according to UN News, the online initiative reached over 90 million people in a week. In Southern Africa, SA artists, Riky Rick and Zimbabwean singer, Sha Sha, collaborated on the “Play your part Africa Unite” initiative by the South African government.

In an interview with CNBC Africa, the two artists shared that the initiative was to raise awareness on the virus. Others like Master KG with his gospel Zulu song Jerusalema, and its three-step move danced with Frontline Health care workers in South Africa and inspired this motivational dance across the world. Partnerships have also helped to sustain and enhance these brands.

Back in Nigeria, popular artist, Runtown, pledged a 10-million-naira financial support to his fans, who were affected by the onset of the pandemic. According to the life magazine, Runtown made this announcement through his Twitter page. He also asked his fans to send him screenshots in order to confirm that they had received the money sent to them.

Davido also led the charge in his humanitarian efforts for 2020. Before the outset of the pandemic, he was in Los Angeles to shoot the music video for the song, D&G, featuring American singer, Summer Walker.

According to Billboard, Davido explained his love for the fashion brand and even reveals that he used to wear it since he was a kid. This passion for fashion was what Davido used in his philanthropic efforts. Following the release of the video, Davido planned to donate all the proceeds from the music video to Dolce & Gabbana and Humanitas Coronavirus Research fund, as they continue the fight against the deadly virus.

Popular Nigerian saxophonist, BEEJAY SAX began an online praise streaming live to uplift people’s spirit and ease mental health challenges. BEEJAY also played at the COVID-19 center in Lagos, Nigeria in conjunction with the Lagos State government. This underscores the fact that personality brands like other brands will thrive if they support corporate responsibility projects and support the business of doing good.

Musicians have also played their part working in the trenches of COVID-19 through supporting awareness and driving motivation for Healthcare workers. This also helps them to strengthen their brand.

The US Christian Science Monitor reported that Bobi Wine of Uganda, the Musician turned politician, was working with UNESCO and i4policy tackled the growing misinformation on COVID-19 during the early stages. Bobi Wine, the magazine reported, provided appropriate information through Afro beats for the masses to sanitize, keep social distance and quarantine. The song became an instant hit within few days of its release. This underscores the fact that personality brands like other brands will thrive if they support corporate responsibility projects and support the business of doing good.

According to Billboard, Outside Africa, French DJ, David Guetta a renowned artist raised a huge sum of money for COVID-19 relief for his outstanding two-hour performance on a Miami Rooftop. The event drew over 9 million views on Facebook and about 2 million on YouTube. David raised 700,000 dollars with plan at that time to support the work of four organizations. These underscores the fact that the social media remains a great platform for sustaining visibility of these brands and the added philanthropy efforts further help to grow this.

Other artists such as John Legend participated in the Global Citizen virtual concert, which gave him and other International Artists a chance to speak out against the deadly virus using social media.

In March 2020, Global Citizen launched the “Together at Home” virtual concert and it featured artists such as John Legend, Charlie Puth and Chris Martin. This initiative from Global Citizen was in partnership with the World Health Organization and it gave artists like Legend the opportunity to give an unrehearsed performance through Instagram live. Legend took song request from viewers on his live feed as he sat with his wife, Chrissy Teigen, playing the piano.

The concert in itself was very successful and it gained over 700,000 views. Following the performance, Legend, used the platform to spread motivational messages to people struggling in the pandemic. He also advised people to stay in doors to avoid the spread of the virus.

The pandemic also brought a new initiative from two renowned producers, which gave artists the opportunity to virtually battle each other out based on their music catalogue. The platform, Verzuz, was an idea crafted by American producers Swizz Beatz & Timbaland. The idea for the show was conceived a couple of years ago, but the rollout for the show began in March 2020 and each episode featured two artists from a specific genre.

Most recently, Swizz Beatz and Timbaland were able to bring R&B icons, Brandy and Monica together on their platform as they broke a record of 6 million views across the Instagram live, Apple Music and the Tidal platform, according to Entertainment Weekly. Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s “Verzuz” virtual show was inclusive of all genres.

In fact, there was a special Dancehall episode with Jamaican artists, Beenie Man and Bounty Killa. For the viewers, it was yet another way to enjoy a virtual performance because it brought back the nostalgia from yesteryears with the classic and timeless hits. For artists, it was an opportunity to be active again in a pandemic that had stopped live performances and tours. The platform also gave the artists an opportunity to promote projects for 2020 and beyond.

In and outside of Africa, the year 2020 was indeed challenging and it brought the reality of the new normal, which has put everyone at a distance even as we rolled into 2021. Despite these challenges, the internet has helped to keep the entertainers connected with their fans. It has given these brands to think outside the box and collaborate across regions and continents strengthening their brands regardless of the physical distance. It has also given them an opportunity to look for new initiatives to further their branding during the pandemic.

>>>Paul is a freelance journalist, a graduate of George Washington University. He is currently a graduate student studying journalism in Georgetown University DC, manages social media account for a number of personalities and consults for Corporate Council on Africa. he can be reached on [email protected]

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