Just over a year ago, it looked like his career was over almost as fast as it began.
In 2014 alone, the teen star was accused and/or charged with driving under the influence, possession of drugs, vandalism, dangerous driving, assault, and resisting arrest.
His songs, once guaranteed chart toppers, were met with relative indifference from everyone aside from his hard core fans.
After a five year rocket to fame, Justin Bieber was crashing to earth.
Today, his new song “What Do You Mean?” is the most played song at American Top 40 radio. In fact, it the de facto #1 song in the world, topping the Spotify Global Top 50 chart. And as much as many elitist music snobs would hate to admit it, “What Do You Mean?” is a finely crafted piece of pop music that deserves the status it has achieved.
How did Justin Bieber save his career?
It was a simple five-step process, no doubt engineered by his manager Scooter Braun.
1. He went away. For many months, we saw very little of Bieber. He wasn’t on TMZ and Perez Hilton wasn’t talking about him. After years of over-exposure, we got a well-deserved break from Bieber.
2. He grew up. When he did emerge, he did it in the most mature of ways. He subjected himself to relentless mocking as the subject of Comedy Central’s Roast of Justin Bieber. The roast was hilarious, and Bieber took it like a man.
3. He took responsibility. At the end of the roast, and many times since, he has publicly stated his regrets at his childish past and acknowledged that so much money and fame can have a detrimental impact on a teenage kid’s behavior.
4. He quietly came back with some credible friends. Bieber’s musical return wasn’t on his own song, but rather doing vocals on the song “Where Are U Now” by Jack U, a duo featuring DJ’s Skrillex and Diplo. Under the cloak of their credibility, Justin Bieber quietly reappeared.
5. He created something amazing. The song “What Do You Mean?” is a perfect pop song for 2015. It combines the tropical feel of OMI’s hit “Cheerleader” with light EDM production and an irresistible hook. You can hate Justin Bieber, but if you like pop music in 2015, you can’t hate “What Do You Mean?”.
Even his recent most controversy (those naked pictures taken in Bora Bora) were deftly handled by Bieber and his team. His privacy was grossly violated, yet he handled it very well. And having your goods exposed to the world is very adult problem to deal with!
The brilliant rebuilding of Bieber’s career is a great template for brands and businesses. When you need to rebuild a brand, you can use the same five step process.
1. Go off the radar for a while.
2. Regroup/evolve/grow up.
3. Publicly account for your past and declare your future.
4. Reappear alongside credible friends.
5. Give your fans something amazing.
Think of great brand comebacks…
Apple, from the return of Steve Jobs in 1997 to today.
General Motors, from their government bailout and bankruptcy to today.
Old Spice, from their days as Grandpa’s cologne to “the man your man could smell like”.
All of them required the brand to disappear, regroup, publicly come out, gain credibility slowly, and then give us their very best.
Almost every time, rebuilding the brand requires the same process… whether it is a punk-ass teen idol or an after-shave that your Grandfather used to use.