So Keisha, the sole remaining original member of the Sugababes was pushed out in a blaze of tweets. The powers that be felt she no longer met the requirements to be in one of Britain’s premier girl groups… and replace her with Jade ‘Eurovision’ Ewen.
Watching the fiasco unfold made me realise that musicians are actually no more than brands; they act in the same way and employ age old business strategies. The Sugababes are just a band using a brand extension strategy to try and prolong their product life cycle.
Music emotionally connects with you. It touches places you never knew existed and retrieves lost memories. Brands work in exactly the same way; be it Coca-Cola, Adidas or M&S we don’t just think of the product when their name is mentioned, we think of things associated with them – the stories, the times we have used them and our experiences. Brands, like music, connect with you on a personal level.
Brands (and bands) go through life cycles (as the Sugababes have shown). The time before the 1st album is the development phase. Then launch is the 1st album, swiftly followed by the growth stage as record sales increase and the royalties start to trickle (or flow) in. Then as the artist reaches maturity they invest in extension strategies to prolong their time at the top; new albums, new genres, new line-ups, collaborations.
What makes the Sugababes example so pertinent is the grotesque blatantness of it all. Siobhan left to create Sugababes 2.0, followed by Mutya leaving to create Sugababes 3.0 (with Heidi and Amelle being brought in respectively). The brand kept on changing while the product remained the more or less the same. However the latest incarnation, Sugababes 4.0, booting out Keisha for Jade, is perhaps the most extreme action because brand ‘Sugababes’ is now more important than the people in the group (the ingredients).
With strong brands sometimes the ingredients are very important as Coke learnt upon the release of ‘New Coke.’ In 1985, Coca-Cola under increasing pressure from Pepsi released ‘New Coke,’ which used an entirely new recipe. The result? Catastrophic FAIL. The response was so bad they had to apologise and re-launch the original flavour as ‘the real thing.’ Will the same happen to the Sugababes with a whole new line-up as they try to stave off competition from The Pussycat Dolls, Electric Red and other sexy, sassy US R&B girl groups?
The answer no one knows for sure, all we do know is that the Sugababe brand will live on unless the latest re-brand goes the way of New Coke. One major problem however, unlike Coca-Cola, it will be extremely difficult for the Sugababes to return to the ‘real thing.’
Another thing brands have a tendency to do is race after the most popular thing of the moment which may be the reason for brining in Jade because she is ‘friends’ with the little one from JLS. Jade, be careful because if JLS lose their halo and you don’t develop yourself beyond My Man you will be following Keisha out the door and Sugababes 5.0 created…now who remembers Tab Clear!