Saying Adele isn't your average pop star is something of an understatement.
It's not because her most recent album, 25, is the first in Nielsen history to sell more than three million copies in a week. Nor because her previous album, 21, racked up 24 non-consecutive weeks atop the Billboard 200 chart – the longest run at No. 1 for a woman in the chart's history. It also isn't because she has 10, yes 10, Grammys.
It's because Adele oozes authenticity. She's a pop star people want to hear about, and hear from. In fact, she might just be the most authentic female musician we've seen in a long time.
The Adele Live 2016 Tour sold out in minutes across North America. This week, Adele is playing four back-to-back concerts at Toronto's Air Canada Centre where she's sure to bring fans onstage, further cementing her reputation for delivering an up-close-and-personal feel at her shows.
But what works for Adele isn't necessarily the same as what works for some of the world's other biggest pop stars. Which got me thinking, how do the top female artists today – Adele, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift – each execute their unique brand strategies?
While Adele's outspokenness and her reputation for authenticity is what endears her to her fans, it is the mystery and unattainableness of Beyoncé that makes her so captivating (she hardly ever gives interviews). Then there's Taylor Swift, who is as omnipresent as Coca-Cola. All three could arguably be considered the biggest pop stars on the planet, and yet they all have vastly different approaches to their brands.
Adele is charmingly self-deprecating and gives off the vibe that she is still in awe of her own stardom. She's relatable. While other celebrities only photograph themselves in optimal lighting with full makeup, Adele snaps photos struggling at the gym and posted a video, whilst sick, to apologize to fans about rescheduling a show.
But make no mistake, Adele is a brilliant strategist. Although we may not realize, she's strategically built her personal brand around this idea of authenticity. She speaks her mind, in a vernacular that is true to her gritty British roots. When she's in the spotlight, she gives her fans a window into her personality.
Some may say that Adele's authentic persona is just the artist being herself. I disagree; I think Adele's authenticity is a well thought-out brand strategy that has ensured she creates maximum impact.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is Beyoncé. Whereas Adele's presence seems off-the-cuff, Beyoncé's is outwardly intentional. She is an artist shrouded in mystery, always keeping her fans wanting more. She is the opposite of relatable, and in many ways, the opposite of Adele.
Beyoncé's strategy is rooted in a divide between her public and private life. This divide has had ebbs and flows as her brand has evolved from innocent girl power champion to political powerhouse, though one constant remains – Beyoncé writes her story on her own terms. She exerts total control over her image. We get a small window into her personal life through social media, but that too is a carefully crafted narrative, one where we see only what she has allowed us to see.
Though she is rarely interviewed, Beyoncé doesn't need to worry about vanishing from the spotlight. We know little about Beyoncé's personality: She has built a brand around the importance of her artistry, one where she will always give us little and keep us pining.
Then there are artists who overshare – TMI anyone? Taylor Swift is case in point.
She has a unique relationship with her fans, otherwise known as "Swifties" inviting them into her home, sending them care packages and even inviting a fan to star in her music video Shake It Off. She has built an engaged and incredibly loyal following, with enthusiasts coming to her defence without question.
Swift is also outspoken about her failed relationships and feuds with other celebrities. She famously took to Twitter to argue with Nicky Minaj and her hit Bad Blood is rumoured to be about Katy Perry. Her breakups are widely discussed by not only the media but also in her music.
This strategy has helped keep Swift in the headlines. But following her most recent 1989 tour, Swift was one of the first to admit she was overexposed: Her strategy had started to backfire.
Since then, Taylor has been restrategizing and has taken a step back, and perhaps a lesson from Beyoncé, to let her audience miss her.
Adele, Beyoncé and Taylor Swift are a seemingly unstoppable trifecta of female pop stardom. Each has risen to fame with entirely different strategies, showing us that there's no single right way to build your brand.
What's important is having a well thought out and executed strategy. There is no "one size fits all" female pop music strategy, the same way there is no turnkey strategy that is right for your brand.