Branding lessons from the Aussies, part two

MaryLou Costa is a key member of the Marketing Week features team and her blog brings her unique Australian perspective to brands. She also oversees the Market Research Focus weekly bulletin.

Remember little Nina Tucker from Neighbours circa 2003? Treading slowly into the footsteps of Kylie before her, she has grown up into the golden haired songstress that is Delta Goodrem. Looking for more from her career than just being Australia’s sweetheart, she has made the strategic decision to try and crack the US with her next album and a parade of TV appearances.

But despite her beauty, charm, belting voice, and string of celebrity boyfriends, I fear that this is someone in need of some marketing advice.

Sure her flowing locks and porcelain skin are blinding, and there’s no doubt her voice can command the admiration of millions, but the songs and image she has chosen to put out thus far do not give me a strong sense of what she is about. She goes from squeaky clean to sassy and back in a not so seamless move. She chose to launch a lingerie line without actually posing in the stuff herself, for god’s sake.

Delta Goodrem
Delta Goodrem

Some of her songs give her Leona Lewis status, and others put her in the Celine Dion category. Dion does deliver for her target audience, and she has found a home in Vegas crooning in front of middle aged mums and gay men, but I’m sure Delta is looking to go down the Leona Lewis path of global superstardom.

So what might stop her? As our controversial columnist Mark Ritson said this week, you need to sum up your brand in three words and the same goes for singers who are, ultimately, marketing a product.

There is no shortage of identikit blonde bombshells in showbiz, but the successful ones have differentiated themselves. In the US, Delta’s blonde counterparts, Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood, have both their ends of the country market nailed: using the three word rule, Underwood is “traditional country refreshed” and Swift is “country gone pop”. Britney Spears is “guilty pleasure pop”, and venturing into brunettes, Katy Perry is “loud edgy pop” and Mariah Carey “self gratifying warbler”. From the UK, Adele’s work centres on “quirky life observations” and Estelle’s on “frank urban harmonies”.

On a global scale, the likes of Kylie, Lady Gaga and Madonna and even Beyonce have established their brands so well that the three word description becomes redundant.

I could play this game forever. But I really struggle to apply the three word rule to Delta Goodrem. Some of her tunes fall into the “banging piano number” category while others are “coming of age” anthems and some are “eulogies of romance”. The tracks that make the most impact are lost amongst those with wishy washy lyrics and meanings.

Some would argue that such versatility is key, but I would argue back that she has been famous in Australia for over eight years, yet is only now scratching the surface of global impact. (Of course, the period she spent in cancer treatment did set her back time-wise.)

What Delta has done well is get herself on the celebrity radar by breaking up with former Westlife singer Brian McFadden and being papped hanging out with 18-year-old Nick Jonas from the Jonas Brothers and Benji Madden from the band Good Charlotte.

Her new friends have earned her some much needed column inches and will probably help guide her musical direction. But before those inches tip the trashy scales, Delta should take some marketing advice to steer clear of the fate of many who arrive in LA with their eyes of full of hope.

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