Powerful Brand Comeback Lessons From Adele’s ‘25’

When your brand is set and solid; your instincts and choices so far seem impeccable. The only suspense about your comeback is over just how big it will...

Photo: Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine; Source: Jhnea Turner, Photographer
Photo: Erica Nicole, Founder and CEO of YFS Magazine; Source: Jhnea Turner, Photographer


“With a simple, one-word greeting, British pop sensation Adele announced her return to music following an improbable three-year hiatus (MSNBC).”

Her new single came out Friday morning, “broke one-day streaming records on Spotify and Vevo, and appears on track to set a benchmark in the category of one-week U.S. digital song sales,” according to The Atlantic.

Set to release on November 20th, “25 will be Adele’s first album since 2011, when 21 became the year’s best seller, a feat it repeated in 2012. It won six Grammys and became the first album to go double platinum on iTunes in the United States (Mashable).”

Adele’s hiatus, following a notable and award-winning streak of success, left fans waiting with bated breath. Her successful return begs the question: “How can artists, creatives and entrepreneurs, alike, stage a phenomenal brand comeback?” Thankfully, like many successful brands that have come before her, Adele’s record-setting re-emergence leaves clues.



Continuity Requires Clarity

For the most part, entrepreneurs revel in the continuity required of them to do business in a digital age. Yet, continuity without a clear, compelling and thoughtful brand path easily turns into “busy work”. You’ll find yourself going through the motions, if you’re not careful.

This is why a brand hiatus is fundamental to growth. Taking the time to huddle and regroup is a luxury earned by brands that have put in the work (i.e., growth stage brands that have proven their mettle).

When it comes to romance, I’m sure you’ve heard the adage: “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” But what about brand intimacy? Can your “brand absence” make customers’ hearts grow fonder? Can your brand withstand the test of time apart?


Hello and Goodbye

Brands take a hiatus for various reasons. Whether it is due to lackluster results from current branding initiatives, a rebrand on the horizon, stagnant communications or growth priorities.

Brands that have invested time, effort and resources in establishing themselves can easily rely on the cumulative brand equity they’ve built.

If you’re still in your formative “seed stage” years, however, you have fewer legitimate reasons to stand still. But for those that do, it’s perfectly okay to take a “brand break” and step away from creating.

You may be wondering, “If it’s okay to take a hiatus, then why don’t most entrepreneurs talk about it or do it?”

The usual suspect, among others, is FOMO, or “fear of missing out.”

Often entrepreneurs feel pressure, both internally and externally, to always be “on”.  In a way, startup culture celebrates this “perfect” imperative. But, you see, successful entrepreneurs understand how FOMO can hold you back.

Misplaced and unwarranted fear easily stands in the way of your brand evolution. But the most powerful discoveries and pivots can happen when you (figuratively) get up, walk to the door, reach for the lights, and turn them off for a short while.



The Brand Comeback

If you’ve built a solid foothold in market with associated brand equity, and established a customer base and market presence you can take a purposeful hiatus. And when you do, here’s a look at 3 key ways to comeback strong.


  1. Think raw, unadulterated truth.

    Can you commit to tell the complete and absolute truth? “In an open letter to fans published Wednesday on social media, Adele apologized for her slow return to publishing music. ‘I’m sorry it took so long, but you know, life happened,’ she said.”

    When you take a brand hiatus, dare to be thoughtful in your dialogue. Let your nearest and dearest fans know where you’ve been. Not only does this approach evoke solidarity, it resonates with our deepest human need to feel connected.

    To benefit from a brand hiatus, when you’ve ceased or scaled back communications, commit to three trust basics shared by leadership expert and author Nan Russell : give trust first, effectively communicate, and authentically show up (Psychology Today).”

  2. Acknowledge your brand evolution.

    Adele noted in her open letter that it “is about getting to know who I’ve become without realizing …”What has your business become without even realizing it?

    Adele’s new album entitled “25,” is said to be focused on the singers’ newfound maturity and coming of age. Similarly, your brand will come of age and mature, which will undoubtedly impact your communications.

    Branding at its most simplistic form (forgoing the exhaustive, complicated jargon and high-level platitudes) is this: what you say, when you say it, where you say it and how. If you’re growing in business, your brand will inevitably evolve. A hiatus is often necessary to take stock of where you’re at in this journey; to be present. Most importantly, a hiatus will help you answer a lingering question: “Where do we go from here?”

  3. Let consumers drive brand communications.

    A successful brand comeback is accompanied by strong dialogue. And you can’t go at it alone. While the backstory and narrative rests upon your shoulders (i.e. brands leading communication), your biggest fans want in on the action too (i.e., consumers taking the wheel). Let’s face it, you don’t really have a choice.

    “Consumers behavior now is driven by the digital age and we see that this has changed a consumers relationships with brands where they desire/demand a level of communication which is participation and invitation driven rather than being talked at [sic]. Customers have the ability to own and drive the brand communication (Brand On Shelf).”

    Create dialogue that is so clear, it empowers others to carry on the narrative and tell your story. Whether you’re telling a visual backstory through imagery on social media or sharing open letters and a behind the scenes look at your journey; give your brand narrative room to be fueled by the crowd.

Ultimately, the luxury of a brand hiatus is not available to every startup or small business. But when your brand is set and solid; your “instincts and choices so far seem impeccable.” The only suspense about your comeback is over just how big it will be.


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