A social media post from a friend got me thinking. Do brands have to be consistent to enjoy a high degree of equity? Do brands even have to be so fixated on doing the right things all the time to engineer loyalty? Must brands conform to the ideals of society to be successful?
I have also always been fixated with the Shatta Wale brand. This is a guy who ticks many wrong boxes in my mind but has a massive following. I was at an event about 2 years ago and when he mounted the stage to perform, a grown man threw himself to the floor and started crying. It was unbelievable!
As a marketing practitioner and a brand’s enthusiast I set out to explore the Shatta Wale brand and how I can juxtapose it with literature on branding, with special focus on brand equity.
Brands & Brand Equity
In order to proceed with this article, it would be important to define what a brand is but my preferred definition is that of de Chernatony (1997), who defines a brand as an identifiable product, service, person or place augmented in such a way that the buyer or user perceives relevant unique added values which match their needs most closely.
Keller (1998), also argues that the ultimate aim of a brand is to achieve high equity and brand equity exists when customers react more favourable to a product if the brand name can be identified, or if the customers consider themselves to have a relationship with the brand.
From these definitions, two key phrases stand out;
- buyer or user perceives relevant unique added values which match their needs most closely.
- customers consider themselves to have a relationship with the brand
Therefore, for a brand to be strongly positioned; the brand must have unique values that match the target audience’s need and the target audience must also consider themselves to have a relationship with the brand.
This feeds into Keller’s brand equity model.
The model argues that for a brand to have a high level of equity, customers must have a deep, psychological bond with the brand (Resonance).
Keller breaks resonance down into four categories:
- Behavioral loyalty: This includes regular, repeat purchases.
- Attitudinal attachment: Customers love the brand or your product, and they see it as a special purchase.
- Sense of community: Your customers feel a sense of community with people associated with the brand, including other consumers and company representatives.
- Active engagement: This is the strongest example of brand loyalty. Customers are actively engaged with your brand, even when they are not purchasing it or consuming it. This could include joining a club related to the brand; participating in online chats, marketing rallies, or events; following your brand on social media; or taking part in other, outside activities.
From the context of the definitions provided, Shatta Wale can be deemed a very formidable brand with high brand equity.
Understanding the Shatta Wale Brand
In my opinion, Shatta Wale ticks many wrong boxes in terms of his behavior; use of vulgar insulting language, glorifies smoking, quick tempered, overly aggressive, bad mouths other artistes openly, exhibits lewd behavior etc.
However, he engenders strong loyalty (equity).
This brings me to what I term a “Rogue Brand” which can be defined as; a brand that engineers a high degree of loyalty without necessarily conforming to the norms of an idealistic society.
To understand how the Shatta brand has cracked the brand equity code while ticking some wrong boxes with impunity, I set out to speak to a range of brand loyalists in my circle who are all highly educated.
My question was simple; give me insights from a personal perspective as to why you are a brand advocate and a loyalist of Shatta Wale?
Interestingly, all the individuals I spoke to practically said the same things with one key theme and various interrelated sub-themes.
Figure 2: Key Attributes of the Shatta Wale Brand
Source: Author’s own creation
Key theme – Resonation with their personal stories
The key theme from all the interactions is that the Shatta Wale brand resonates with their personal stories and their daily struggles. As per the models discussed, to achieve high equity there must be a high level of resonance between what you stand for and that of your target audience.
One said that; “Shatta and his hustle appeals to me. He makes me feel that talent can be beaten by hard work; that grafting hard and having a work ethic can take you places. The bad boy image also resonates with me. Because in reality it’s just a facade for the big goal. He is assertive, bold, and a bit arrogant. All qualities I see in myself. He is against the establishment which is also how I see myself. Basically, a lot of his attributes represent the way I see my hustle.”
One of the respondents also stated that; “He has a target audience, some who will willingly risk their lives for him, he is fueled by pain, there are many that identify with this posture in society, they have been looked down upon, they have hustled and suffered rejection of the masses.”
Another also stated that; “years ago i shared my dreams and ambitions to many people. Most of them just laughed at me. I lost motivation but was able to gather myself up and just kept trying. I think Shatta Wale and I share the same strengths and beliefs. We never give up. ……. let’s not forget how he managed to pull up a brand so strong when everyone thought he couldn’t.
“I just love the fact that he never gives up and always remains hopeful.”
He’s deemed as unpretentious (real).
“For me personally, for a society like ours, people that appear to exude humility are accepted easily, and those who are seen not to be humble because they challenged the status quo are often rejected. For this, many artistes and public figures for that matter in a desperate attempt to be accepted by society feign humility, they hide their true selves and only show to us that part which they want us to see so we accept them. That is where Shatta Wale is different…… I believe those who seek to force their humility on us are setting us for a grand deception.”
Fundamental understanding of his core target audience
“He knows where he comes from and has always established and sustained that connection with the ghettos. He inspires them, he understands their struggles, he speaks for them and they love him for that.”
Talented and cross-generational appeal
Shatta Wale is also genuinely talented so at the functional level, he’s very formidable.
“For those of us who grew up on the Shabba Ranks, Buju Bantons, Adidja Palmer, etc, Shatta Wale makes songs that can compete with these greats, and being aware of the Ghanaian and West African markets, he makes songs, which we refer to us the commercial songs, that have cross-generational cross-genre appeal and you often wonder whether he’s a dancehall act or an afrobeat act.”
Confident and Hardworking
He’s regarded as confident and hardworking.
“He’s real, inspirational, nothing breaks his confidence…..focused and a lovely guy to be around with plus God fearing”
From my perspective, the overt lewdness he exhibits and the idealist society we find ourselves in, God fearing is not an attribute I’ll use to describe him but, this respondent who is a UK-based DJ has a personal relationship with him and probably knows him much better.
Another recurring sub-theme is the issue of anti-establishment. The basic argument is that he is fearless and bold and has waged war against the establishment and any artiste he considers a competitor.
“Shatta Wale ceases to follow orders and the norms of society “Entertainment” industry. He acts on his own interests. It is usually against expectation or instruction”. He goes against the odds and rises every time. He is very high spirited and determined.”
Another stated that “he has a different personality and wouldn’t even hesitate to defy the status, challenge norms and stand up to authority.”
In my opinion, for a Rogue Brand to be successful, there must be deeper emotional bonds that identifies with the dreams, aspirations, pain, fears and personality of the target audience. In conclusion, it seems that Shatta Wale speaks to the soul of his target audience!
The deeper questions are; are there corporate brands that can be considered “Rogue Brands” i.e are there corporate brands that can tick many wrong boxes and still enjoy high equity? Is the concept of “Rogue Brands” limited to specific industries such as entertainment (Shatta Wale) or politics (Donald Trump?, Kennedy Agyapong? etc)? Or is it related to just personal/individual brands irrespective of the industry?
These are questions for academics to explore but so far, the Shatta Wale brand seems to have turned some of the traditional branding ideals on its head and by proving that you can connect at the emotional level in an unconventional manner, and when you do, the bonds are even deeper.