Brandy, Pick It Up: Old Content Strategies Don’t Cut It Anymore

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Watching Brandy unveil her video for “Put It Down” on 106 & Park this week, it’s easy to see why the world fell in love with her in the first place.  In her early thirties, she still has the sweet likeability of an innocent 15 year old that makes you want to smile with her.

That makes this that much harder.

She looks gorgeous in the video. Her close-ups are undeniable proof the woman hasn’t aged since Never Say Never  in 1998. But, it wasn’t “Thriller.” And to warrant three months of hype – the song hit the blogosphere in April – it needed to be “Thriller.”

“Put It Down” is the lead single for Two Eleven, the singer’s comeback album slated for release in October. I want Brandy to win. When I heard the single, in April, I was fully on board. But, she’s not going anywhere if she doesn’t pick up the pace. By the looks of things, she and her team are living in 2001.

“Put It Down” dropped on April 26 , but was not available on iTunes until May 8. For twelve days people downloaded her song illegally. Hardcore fans may have gone back to buy the single, but the rest of us kept it moving as illustrated by the song entering Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart at number 98.

Filming for the video started on July 10th. What was Brandy doing for three months? She received a lot of attention for her July performance at the BET Awards. Brandy’s tribute to Whitney Houston was arguably one of the best performances we’ve ever seen her do. This would have been a good time to release a video. The purpose of content is to extend the conversation around your brand. It’s a great tool for prolonging buzz. But, it would be another month before we saw a glimpse of the clip.

For two weeks the four-minute clip was parceled out. Video stills on August 1, a trailer five days later, and a preview the week after online and on 106 & Park. It was a valiant effort to sustain interest in the song. But keep in mind a whole summer has taken place, countless dramas have unfolded, and Brandy is still talking about “Put It Down” repeatedly. It was the equivalent of someone who keeps interrupting your conversation talking about the same thing. If you’re not bringing anything new to the table, your content is worthless. Audiences can see through repackaging.

When a brand struggles in an area, it is a smart business move to look at what other brands dominating that area of the industry are doing and learn from their success. I want Brandy to learn from Rihanna. Rihanna has mastered the changing nature of the music industry and content in general. She doesn’t have a number one album, the classic measurement of an artist’s success, but she is the best-selling digital artist of all time. Rihanna’s last single, “We Found Love,” premiered on September 22, 2011 and was available for digital download on the same day. The music video was shot in late September, and premiered shortly after on October 19.

I don’t know what the personal issue is for Brandy, but the handling of this single reflects a strategic problem many brands, especially older ones, struggle with. Old models don’t work. The news cycle is too quick and our attention spans are too short.

The level of success Brandy once had now requires that she provide more new content, more often. When done correctly it will extend the work she puts into her music and performances. For her second single, let’s hope she gets it right.

Cortney Cleveland is a freelance writer and content strategist in New York City. You can follow her on Twitter @CleveInTheCity and visit her personal column The Red Read.

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