Johnny Drille: A lesson in building cohesive brands


Johnny Drille: A lesson in building cohesive brands

Sometime in March 2016, a year before the official announcement of Johnny Drille as the new act of the Mavins record, I was sitting in the front seat of my friends car and ”wait for me” was playing from the radio stereo. The sincerity in the voice and the conviction in the words of the song made me to instantly fall in love with the Johhny Drille Sound, even before I knew him.

I dug up all I could find about Johnny Drille, and have followed him since then; not just as a fan, but as a student of his brand. I have paid attention to every action and words associated with that name and it has being my greatest lesson on building a cohesive brand.

Brand building that will deliver results over time is expected to be cohesive and consistent. While many brand managers have focused on and succeeded in the element of consistency using tools like the brand guide, many are yet to make sense of what brand cohesion really means.

According to Amir Kassei, nine years global Chief Creative Officer of DDB Worldwide, ”a brand is not a product or a promise or a feeling. It is the sum of the experiences you have with a company”. The big question from that statement on brand cohesion becomes, “When all the cards are laid on the table, what does the experience ”sum” up to?”

That presupposes that every action, inaction, words and silence a business or person is engaged in as part of brand building must reflect a unified perspective.  Cohesion is the practice of bringing together all components of the brand building process into a single narrative. That narrative must be experienced, not just told.

So, the journey to building a cohesive brand starts from identifying the narrative you want to link the brand actions to. Some people call it key message; others, core narrative or brand story platform. Then, the message permeates all the brand touch points and forms a guide for brand actions like collaboration and co-creation. We will assess the Johnny Drille brand by the fundamental considerations for building cohesive brands.

  1. Core Narrative

From an observatory point, the sum of Johnny’s experience speaks to ”love against all odds”. Johnny Drille through his music and interviews have opined that sincere, indestructible, compelled and enduring love is possible. He sings to the heartbroken to try again, and to the scared, to defy all odds to embrace love. With a target audience of between 18 – 50 years, this message isn’t just relevant but also a conscious social engineering activity. As a Brand manager who is interested in building cohesive brands, you must first, clearly articulate what the core message is. It must be simple and precise. It must mean something to you and must contribute to making a dent in the universe.

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  1. Touch Point Alignment

“Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.” – Jonah Sachs

No matter how deep your brand message is, until it transcends words into actions, it won’t make sense to the audience. For Johnny Drille, his touch points have strongly backed his key message.

  1. The first and most compelling touch point of every artiste is their music. You will know the heart of every artiste by looking at their discography. All 14 Johnny Drille’s singles captured on Wikipedia are songs on deeply committed love, reassuring love, as well as repentant love. If you dig deeper into the lyrics of the music, you will uncover stories of one who is ready to throw in everything to make love happen.
  2. The second key touch point for music artistes and personal brands are the brand environments, both offline and online environments. For Johnny Drille, he has succeeded in allowing his key message take over his environment. Through his social media platforms, Johnny has been known to have honest, heartfelt conversations with his followers. He has shown vulnerability at heart, which supports his narrative. Let’s take a look at few of his IG captions:

”I love that I can share a piece of my introverted self with a lot of you folks that I’ve never met in real life. And be part of your life in some way, that’s beautiful to me.”

6th August, 2019

”If you see me in person and my face looks super serious, I’m actually not that serious. Just come and say hi, I won’t bite you… Would you just stare at me or would you come over?…”

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1st November 2019

These heartfelt comments are backed up with strong sincere images to reinforce the message; little or no filter for authenticity. After all, love is true. On one occasion, he explained his first trip abroad and also his parents’ first trip on an airplane. Love flourishes where truth lives.

Also, Johnny has stayed off controversial issues on social media, and consciously avoided commenting on even popular social issues. I am sure it doesn’t mean he has no clue what is going on in the world, it only points to achieving cohesive narrative.

For Johnny’s physical environment, he has made his concerts a safe space to love and be loved. In fact, in his last Johnny’s Room Live in Abuja, a young man went on stage to propose to his girlfriend and Johnny reposted it. Almost all his concerts are outdoor-floor-sitting events. That gesture can only happen in an environment where love is cherished, encouraged and projected against all odds.

iii.        The third touch point for an artiste to express his ethos is in his fashion. Johnny’s simple and common-placed fashion further complements his brand key message. He has never been spotted with multiple bogus jewelries as most rap and afro musicians in the country, and it’s not because he can’t afford them, but every experience has to add up. There has to be a sum of experiences.

  1. The fourth and last touch point I will discuss is the Identity. The verbal identity of his brand which includes brand names like ‘Johhny Drille Live Room’ points to an invitation to a deeper understanding. The name speaks to a deep longing to connect. It’s called a room though, it’s outdoor. It suggests a desire to bond, enjoy pillow talks and experience love that wins.

As much as the core message permeates all touch points, brands that are interested in becoming more cohesive must allow the key message guide their behaviour with other brands in terms of co-creation, partnership and sponsorships.

In 2019, when ”Count on You” was released as the official wedding anthem of former Big Brother Naija house mates, Bam Bam and Teddy A, people celebrated the musical genius of Johnny Drille, but I saw brand partnership done right. The love story of the couple is a simply longer summary of Johhny Drille’s core brand message. Against all odds, they were finally getting married. This was an opportunity to plug into the narrative to strengthen his brand story and Johnny didn’t disappoint. Looking at the first four lines of the song, (Baby, this is day one of forever, we made it through. Nobody thought we’d ever come this far. I know I can count on you), you will see the brand’s core message bold and clear, ”love against all odds.”

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Brand managers who want to really build cohesive brands, must take lessons from Johnny Drille. Identify your brand’s big idea, let it permeate all touch points, and form the guiding light for brand external engagements and overtime, just as Johnny is now the poster boy for genuine love, your brand will become a poster boy for the story you represent.

Great brand equity is built when followers and customers can say back to you the things you say about your business or life in your closet or board room. To achieve that alignment between perception and reality, brand cohesion is very important.

Gidyon Thompson is a brilliant dream interpreter and a brand story teller. With a decade involvement in clarifying, developing, and activating brands across Africa. Regarded as Africa’s fastest rising Brand solutionist, Gidyon Thompson commits his day to running Eikon Grae, a brand development and communications consultancy with presence in 3 countries and with operations in 14 industries. As a full time brand consultant for ABiT Mobile Applications, Gidyon Thompson developed and deployed the first ever Bitcoin conference in Dubai.

As a frequent conference speaker and trainer, he has trained over 2,000 African startup founders on strategic brand management to help enhance their visibility and drive exponential profit for their businesses.

He is the author of a fantastic guide to brand naming titled ”put some respek on my name” as well as the author of ”Zero Budget Branding” and developer of  ”Simple Flow” a brand development project management guide.


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