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Artist Rebrand

Prior Research and Branding:

For this project, I was tasked with rebranding an artist of my choice. I chose the R&B/Pop singer Tori Kelly as I have always admired her voice but felt her branding/albums did not live up to her potential. What was immediately apparent when looking at her past marketing materials is how important her curly hair is to her image. This was important for me to keep in mind to keep some sense of cohesion between her past imagery and what I would create.

I also knew the importance of her Christian faith to her music, especially given her previous gospel record, Hiding Place. Additionally, according to her AllMusic biography, she has cited “Jeff Buckley, Lauryn Hill, and Jill Scott” as her influences and has a personal friendship with fellow R&B singer Jojo.

Unfortunately, she has not had much sales success beyond her debut album. This is no doubt partially influenced by her lackluster cover designs, muddled songwriting which tries to ride the line between her influences and a mainstream sound, and overall weak branding. I, then, have proposed a plan to boost her success by shifting her sound based on trends and a stronger visual aesthetic.

Proposed Branding:

Due to her inconsistent and confusing branding, Tori Kelly’s next album era should be self-titled and focused on self-discovery, indicating to her fans a stronger sense of identity in both concept and actual design. Nostalgic sounds have always been popular to a certain extent but the recent hit releases from popstars Dua Lipa and The Weeknd have ushered in a new 80s revival and there has also recently been a growing and renewed interest in pop-punk. Additionally, the resurgence of vinyl records has shown that there is a market for nostalgia-based products. It would then be a smart idea for Tori to draw from older sonic and visual aesthetics that have inspired her sound and lend themselves nicely to her shocking vocal range and abilities. This would mostly be 60s-90s retro-soul and R&B. These decades all capture a nice balance between gospel and secular sounds, two genres which Tori has worked in but has never successfully merged. The sounds from these decades also heavily prioritize vocal ability which works well as she is extremely talented and has failed to truly capitalize on this in her music thus far. Specifically, writing introspective or melancholic songs is desired by younger generations as they value vulnerability and authenticity according to a 2019 Spotify study.

Up until this point, Tori’s curly hair has been her defining feature. This should continue to be heavily promoted as it will help her fans and followers better transition from her previous branding to this new iteration while giving them some common ground. I have proposed that her face be obscured throughout all album promo and packaging to visually communicate the idea that she is trying to “find herself”.

Some of album covers that would serve as inspiration can be seen below. As one can observe, many of these covers utilize a colour scheme that prioritizes neutral colours like green, brown, yellow, etc.

Maggot Brain album cover showing woman's head in ground screaming

Photo taken from Genius

What's Going On album cover showing Marvin Gaye looking off into the distance with the album name

Photo taken from Genius

Mama's Gun album cover showing album title as the border and Erykah Badu showing a neutral face in the center

Photo taken from Genius

Aretha's Gold album cover showing Aretha Franklin, album title, and song names

Photo taken from Genius

Super Fly album cover showing album title, Curtis Mayfield's face, song names, and film characters

Photo taken from Genius

One In A Million album cover showing Aaliyah in sunglasses with album title

Photo taken from Genius

These obvious callbacks are incorporated into the designs of Tori’s next era.

Tori Kelly vinyl front mockup Tori Kelly album mockup vinyl interior Tori Kelly album mockup vinyl back Tori Kelly album mockup for CD Tori Kelly album mockup for cassette Tori Kelly merch designs for an olive long sleeve, hat, and bag Tori Kelly merch designs for a bright orange t-shirt and purple hoodie

While Tori has produced some of her own music in the past, it would be a beneficial idea to work with other producers who have previous experience with similar sonic aesthetics to the ones proposed for this rebrand in the past. Artists like Leon Bridges, Adele, Chloe x Halle, and/or Cleo Sol have crafted album experiences like what I envision for Tori. Therefore, the inclusion of some of their producers would help to better encapsulate a retro-soul and/or R&B sound while still including contemporary elements to create a sense of new-ness. Working or collaborating with the artists that inhabit these spaces such as Chloe x Halle, Cleo Sol, and Jojo would also further immerse the audience in the desired soundscape.

As mentioned previously, Tori’s greatest strength as an artist is her vocal ability which mirrors that of heavyweights Ariana Grande, Mariah Carey, and Whitney Houston. There is, therefore, an opportunity for Tori to cover a song from the period discussed throughout this proposal weekly on her TikTok account and invite fans to duet with her in order to drum up more engagement on her social media platform while shifting public perception of her sound and image. Additionally, she could share her favourites on social media to further incentivize users to participate.

This album rollout would also incorporate social media outside of TikTok and, ideally, her website would also be branded in a similar manner to the above. In addition to these, promoted posts would be run across social media and on Google ads which can be tailored to fit a diverse range of prices depending on the record label’s budget for this album cycle (since her contract and sales numbers from her last album are not public).

ROI Indicators:

Social media will play a major part in the rollout of this album cycle as Gen Z listeners specifically often discover their music from social media and human/algorithm recommendations (see this post from Rebecca Clements for more!). In order to demonstrate return on investment, active social interactions (shares, duets, comments, etc.) will be measured across all social media platforms. In addition to this, click throughs to Tori’s website from the aforementioned social media and Google ads will be measured. In the copy for each social post and ad, viewers will be invited to sign up to Tori’s mailing list for updates on her website. The increase in subscribers will also be measured to gauge success. Additionally, album purchases will be the ultimate ROI indicator alongside a placement on a Billboard chart, preferably within the top ten. Lastly, tour ticket purchases will be another measurement used to demonstrate return on investment.