Lessons from Adele: How to Take Your Customers Along with You to the Other Side

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By: Michael Powers

Posted: November 20, 2015 | Modern Marketing

Ladies and gentlemen—stop everything you are doing. She. Is. Back. Today is the day we’ve all been waiting for (or at least I have). After three long years since her last musical masterpiece—the James Bond theme song for Skyfall—Adele is back.

If you’re like me, you’ve been waiting in anticipation for the release of her new album, 25, which dropped worldwide today. While Adele has awed us with her consistent success—producing hit after hit—I was curious to see if her new album would rest on the same themes, ideas, and messages of her last successful album, 21.

After years and years everyone (in my opinion) has been waiting for a teaser, which happened when “Hello” debuted as a television ad in early October. But some fans may have been slightly disappointed when watching the video for “Hello,” thinking…”Really? Another album about a break up or a man from her past?”

But this thinking was shattered by a recent Rolling Stone interview with Adele:

The lyrics sound like she’s addressing some long-lost ex, but she says it isn’t about any one person—and that she’s moved on from the heartbreaker who inspired 21. “If I were still writing about him, that’d be terrible,” she says. “‘Hello’ is as much about regrouping with myself, reconnecting with myself.” As for the line “hello from the other side”: “It sounds a bit morbid, like I’m dead,” she says. “But it’s actually just from the other side of becoming an adult, making it out alive from your late teens, early twenties.”

Mind blown, right? Once again, Adele’s done it—blown the socks off of her audience. A reinvention, a whole new message, and not to mention a whole new (fantastic) look (in case you’re reading this, Adele).

Alright I know what you’re thinking, how does this tie into marketing? My point is that we have seen Adele go through the rapid-growth, fast-success, early stages of her life, but we’re witnessing and participating in her transition into adulthood—a shift that has been expertly managed by Adele and her team, making her fans feel like a part of the change without alienating them. We get to see a whole new side of her, while still enjoying her power ballads.

This translates directly into how companies manage growth and change. At a certain point in your company’s growth, there comes a time to reinvent your brand and bring your company to the next level. But to do this, it takes very careful and strategic planning to make sure that there isn’t a negative impact for your customers and that there aren’t negative connotations for your brand. So, to create a smooth, successful transition from a high-growth adolescent stage to mature adulthood like Adele, here are 3 things to consider:

1. Don’t Totally Reinvent the Wheel

If you’ve noticed it’s time for a transformation, it means you’re paying attention to the perception of your brand in the industry. However, fight the urge to totally overhaul your brand. You have customers and fans who like you for who you are now, so start by determining which aspects of your product/service offering are the most successful. Then figure out what you need to take it to the next level. The smallest tweak or alteration could do it.

Once you’ve made this change, now it’s time to work on your messaging—how are you effectively communicating this change? For Adele, this meant definitively stating in a Rolling Stone interview that her album is about growing up versus breaking up, and offering insight into her life. For you though, Rolling Stone might not be the best place. Determine the medium based on where you will best reach your audience and communicate your change there.

When Yahoo revealed their new logo after a month-long marketing campaign, they first shared their news on Tumblr and gained a ton of organic traction from likes and reblogs. In a Tumblr post that followed, CEO Marissa Mayer stated, “We knew we wanted a logo that reflected Yahoo – whimsical, yet sophisticated. Modern and fresh, with a nod to our history. Having a human touch, personal. Proud.” Given Tumblr’s user demographics and the fact that Yahoo had just bought the social network earlier that year, Tumblr was the perfect channel for them to first announce the news because it aligned well with their vision.


2. Challenge Yourself

As your brand transitions into the new phase you want to just continue to build on the success you’ve had in the past. However, your main goal here should really be to establish a higher credibility with your audience. This is going to take some fresh eyes, so bring in someone new to help with this. Whether that’s a new executive to work with the group, a consultant for a special project, or, in Adele’s case, adding a percussionist to her already fantastic band to keep 25 sounding fresh. You need someone in the group to identify and bring your mistakes to the surface; this will make you more successful with the transition.

3. Take Your Time

The last thing you want to do is make this big change and have it be a huge flop. Develop a strategic plan for how you’re going to build this new brand, or elements of the brand, and test it. Use a consultant or test groups to test your messaging with your different personas. Once you’ve received feedback and made the proper alterations, build your roll-out strategy. Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Even our lady Adele slowly released her new album one song at a time. (Wait, that seems familiar…do I sense a drip campaign?)

Last year, Airbnb re-branded around the feeling of “belonging”. As reported by Bloomberg Business, Airbnb co-founder Joe Gebbia explained that they had grown so quickly since their founding that formal branding had initially been sidelined, so they collaborated with design firm DesignStudio to help them build a better brand. DesignStudio conducted in-field research, interviewing staff members and even dispatching a few of their own team members to stay with hosts in 13 cities across 4 continents, resulting in insightful stories and hours of video footage that all yielded the same message about the brand: No matter where you were on Airbnb globally, the one thing that’s consistent is belonging. From that, they reshaped their messaging around what they dubbed the Bélo: the universal symbol of belonging.


Your dedication to the transformation and maturity of your brand will show the industry that you are here to stay—and this is true for both musicians and companies. This will be what sets you up for your next round of funding or your IPO, can help you break into new segments or, in Adele’s case, simply grow up in the public eye (easier said than done for celebrities). The important thing to remember is that as you break into new audiences, never forget where you came from. If it fits into your new business plan, you always want to make sure you’re still expanding on your original buyers or personas. To do this successfully, you need to hold on to your die-hard fans, as well as reinvigorate them with something fresh. Take me for instance, today I’ll be revisiting the #duchessadele hashtag I created around the time 21 was released. A poor attempt to have Adele be recognized by the royal family, but hey there’s still be hope!

So as you take short breaks throughout the day today, spending 5 minutes each time to really absorb the message and experience of Adele’s new album, think to yourself: What were the stages of your company’s brand? Can you look back on the time when you were a young star on the rise or the time when you were singularly focused and it didn’t work? If that’s the case, ask yourself what you’re going to do to make the transition into your new adult brand.