We’ve all seen popstar Rihanna pop up on stages around the world over the past few weeks, performing hits from her new album ‘Rated R’. But there is more than to her reappearance than just a bunch of new songs.
The singer’s comeback is designed to revitalise her brand as well as her career after a very public episode of domestic violence against Rihanna by her ex-boyfriend, fellow singer Chris Brown earlier this year. Her return to the spotlight has been managed carefully by a marketing agency.
According to AdAge, Rihanna got in touch during the summer with Steve Stoute, founder of marketing agency Transition and asked him to handle her comeback. Stoute says that his work with the singer is more about building her brand than standard record-company marketing.
“With brand work you gotta run a marathon. You can’t just put out a single, sweep an issue under the rug and get out of it through popularity,” says Stoute.
Pre-assault, Rihanna’s brand was largely that of a young, lithe popstar. She appeared for Procter & Gamble’s youth-focused beauty line Cover Girl (a deal which apparently continues) as well as signing a deal with Totes-Isotoner for a range of branded umbrellas, referencing her smash hit “Umbrella”.
Part of the issue for Transition and Stoute was not that Rihanna had been assaulted – clearly not her fault at all – but that she had not spoken out about the attack. Questions were still being asked about her relationship with Brown since she had not given interviews about the assault.
As a result, the singer was booked with well-known interviewer Diane Sawyer’s show 20/20 for a tell-all piece, which drew 8.18 million viewers. According to AdAge, calls to domestic violence centres in the days following the interview among women were up 59%, with a 72% increase among teen girls, Rihanna’s core fan base. Going into the interview, Mr. Stoute and his team divided Rihanna’s audience into three camps — advocates, indifferent and antagonists. He claims that all three showed positive response to the interview.
So what now for Brand Rihanna? Can she move away from being associated with domestic violence and move back to being a desirable starlet? Or is that not the best move at all – should she sign up to promote anti-domestic violence marketing campaigns?
Let me know your thoughts.