What can we learn about brand building from Harry Styles?

In this article, Frankie Docker, CMO at Hey! Food is Ready, discusses inspiration in effective brand building from Harry Styles following the release of his much trailed new album ‘Harry’s House’.

As we shall see, it came with a well planned campaign executed with style and panache befitting of the product itself.

In May 2022, Harry Styles released his second solo album: ‘Harry’s House’. In the minds of his listeners, Harry became a home, a sanctuary for those in need of musical escapism and comfort.

It expressed that feeling of community and connection, which is so often needed in fan bases as multitudinous as Harry’s. Even more so, given the COVID-19 pandemic, what was for most of us a uniquely isolating period.

All this seems far removed from the ‘One Direction Harry’, the Harry plucked by Simon Cowell’s team from the X Factor stage into the boy-band crew, who would go on to release four Number 1 albums and win hundreds of awards. Now, seven years on from the group’s split, his time as a solo artist has seen him rise to fame once again.

The previous release of ‘Sign of the Times’ saw the singer turn down a new avenue in his career. No longer held back by the band’s uniformity, Harry found his own place in the pop-culture landscape, experimenting with fashion in Vogue, as an actor starring in gritty World War II movie ‘Dunkirk’, and the superhero Eros in Marvel’s ‘Eternals’. All this while releasing songs, interviews, and press releases for his rapidly growing fan base.

There is something particularly exciting about this epoch in Harry’s career. It began with the launch of the website and social media accounts ‘You Are Home’, where an anonymous user, run by Harry HQ, posted pictures of doors, each of which revealed a glimpse of a new image every day until the album’s release. Theories began to spread across the internet. Fans tried to locate the collection of books and artworks in the pictures to decode these mysterious posts. The reason for the image behind the doors was irrelevant. The more cryptic, the better. The more it could be talked about, the better. From March, the team primed Harry’s listeners, who loyally followed their pied piper in time for the release of the album on May 15th.

Did the product match the hype?

His new major hit ‘As It Was’ is the first music video to introduce us to Harry. Colourful and enigmatic, it quickly garnered positive reviews. Donning a bold cherry coat, Harry launched into his set, with the touching voicemail from his goddaughter, ‘come on Harry, we want to say goodnight to you’, opening the sequence and establishing the feeling of home and nostalgia, which permeates the album.

The video still claims a spot in the YouTube music video charts just over two months after its release.

The aesthetic continuity between Harry’s solo releases is perhaps most impressive about the branding for his recent campaign. His Instagram continues the retro feel of the ‘Fine Line’ era, the candid shots of Harry in the studio or onstage, as he prances, bounds, and dances from platform to pedestal, while attempting not to tangle the microphone, in arenas across the world. The circular theme within his fashion, seen in the cricket ball in ‘Fine Line’ or his collection of pearl necklaces, is reimagined in the polka-dot jumpsuits and the rotational wheel in the ‘As It Was’ music video. Maintaining a solid visual branding style in the solo career is a fundamental aspect of his marketing. Stray too far from the original, and you risk losing brand personality.

It is important to remember that it is exactly that; brand personality. Harry Styles was never One Direction. Harry Styles was never Harry’s House. Harry Styles is… Harry Styles. His personal identity should not be conflated with how he is constructed in the media. It is not altogether Harry that his fans are supporting, but is partly the marketing structures surrounding the cultural icon.

Did it work?

Well, a million followers on an Instagram account that only posts pictures of doors seems impressive by any standards. It built up anticipation that enabled the launch. The album is now the fastest selling album of 2022 in the world, performing better than his previous solo albums in the first two weeks of sales.

While such adulation may benefit his brand, idolising or glorifying him to the extremes, with this hyped by branding and marketing, would of course be problematic.

Previous ArticleNext Article