Almost a decade into her career, musician, actress, and model Janelle Monáe released her latest album, Dirty Computer, in late April. As a dedicated fandroid, I absorbed nearly everything I could about the album prior to and following its release, basking in the glow of Janelle’s brilliance and the strength of her team.
Since the album came out several years after her last LP, The Electric Lady—while launching a successful acting career in the meantime—I realized Janelle and Dirty Computer serve as a perfect case study for how brands can prepare to reintroduce themselves to their audiences.
Pynk, like the secrets you hide… maybe
In Dirty Computer, Janelle extends the dystopian world created in her previous albums, where androids and humans live at odds with one another. Even though she threads familiar themes throughout the album, she also makes it clear she’s telling a new story: her own.
As buzz surrounding the album grew—bolstered by the music video for “Make Me Feel” and the lyrics to “Django Jane”—Janelle’s secrets were pulled into the spotlight. She came out as pansexual in a Rolling Stone article published the day before the album’s release, confirming her identity after years of pushing back against speculation. In “Don’t Judge Me,” she even goes as far as saying “Let’s reintroduce ourselves from a free point of view… Tattoo your love on my heart, let the rumors be true.”
Beyond anything else, when you’re launching or re-launching your brand, every single thing you do needs to be flooded with authenticity. “I know you are, but what am I” started as a schoolyard refrain… but with some reframing, it opens up an opportunity to honestly assess what your company really is. We always start our client engagements by conducting a SWOT assessment of their brand and communications processes so we can establish a baseline and track progress as we work together. Know exactly what you’re about, what you value, and how you plan to communicate with your audience moving forward, and then follow through on it confidently and consistently.
You’ve got the answers to my confessions
It took Janelle a long time to be comfortable enough to reveal her true self to the world; it’s part of why it took so long to release Dirty Computer. But in the album itself, the accompanying “emotion picture,” and Janelle’s many, many press engagements, she asserts her strengths, her identity, and her intentions as she sheds the black-and-white “camo” she’s always hid behind.
Has your brand evolved while you were gone? Be upfront about what’s different. Acknowledge that you’ve been under the radar, heads down, or straight-up out of commission, and then establish who you are now, clearly and thoughtfully. When we work with clients, we help them discover and define their brand’s voice and visual style, and we teach them how to stay consistent even while integrating their communications, delivering different messages to different audiences.
Made a fandroid outta yo’ girlfriend
In “Django Jane,” Janelle references her acting roles in Hidden Figures and Moonlight, welcoming in people who might have known her from her acting, but not her music. (In fact, I have a friend who was a huge fan of Janelle as an actress but had no idea she also had this entire musical career!) Much of Dirty Computer references Janelle’s past, both literally and in her fictional world. And through other broad, familiar references (like the well-documented influence of her mentor Prince, Michael Jackson, and even the Black Mirror episode “San Junipero”), she’s also creating a sense of familiarity that makes it easier to welcome new people into her community of fandroids.
As you develop your content strategy, consider what people already know about you, and what you want them to know about you. Thread content that honors your past throughout new content that recognizes the present and your establishes your hopes for the future. Creating an editorial calendar will help you gain a holistic view of the messages you want to put out, and where they overlap across platforms.
We know it’s tough to figure out who you are after a hiatus. That’s why our team of content strategy consultants now offers a six-week program to assess the health of your online presence, to measure how your prospective customers see your brand, and to establish sustainable processes so you don’t get overwhelmed by your messaging.
We only get to work with a few new clients every month, so schedule a complimentary discovery session now to get real-time feedback on how you can prepare to reintroduce your brand to the marketplace.