It’s your girl, Branding Spice, AKA Liz, and today we’re talking Spice Girls in this new series, Badass Brand Breakdown. I’m going to show you some of my favorite personal branding examples and what makes them so cool to better understand everything that goes into it. And maybe you can learn a little something for your own brand!
The Spice Girls were a phenomenon
We’re taking it back to like 1998. I was about ten years old, and I was OBSESSED with the Spice Girls, as were millions and millions of people around the world. I mean, even Nelson Mandela was a fan. Like that’s a pretty good endorsement.
One New Year’s Eve, my best friend and I were going to dress up as the Spice Girls, obviously, and Scary was my favorite. For whatever ill-advised reason, I didn’t have a lot of animal prints and loud colors; I didn’t have platform shoes and have all of the makings of a Scary Spice costume, nor did my mom ( I have since remedied that 😉). So, I had to settle for Sporty Spice, my second favorite, and I will never forgive myself. I’ve never gotten over it. Scary, Mel B, you’re my girl.
Anyway, clearly, I had a major Spice Girls phase. I didn’t realize at the time, but they were actually super badass at branding! That was what really drove their phenomenon: the five women as well as the people behind their brand. There’s a lot we can learn from them and apply to our own brands today!
Let’s get into it.
Badass Brand Breakdown: Spice Girls
Core Message: GIRL POWER
Your core message is pretty much the most crucial part of your brand strategy, and often it’s the same as your tagline. It’s basically the single idea you want people to know about your brand and what you stand for.
The Spice Girls were all about girl power; they said it all the time. They really ushered in and led this new wave of mainstream feminism in pop culture around girl power.
As a young girl, that was super influential for me, without even realizing it at the time. I didn’t know that that was a new thing until I had many years of hindsight to look back.
It’s important to note that that kind of commercialized feminism maybe was a precursor to some of the more icky things we see today, like “girl boss feminism” or the fake, contrived “feminism” that doesn’t actually move the needle in reality for anyone other than cis, white, straight, wealthy women.
However, for its time and place and what it did for a lot of young girls, it was a huge moment, and it led the charge for many, many things to come and got people comfortable with this idea of girl power.
Brand Personality: Poptastic
Your brand personality is the set of human characteristics that bring your brand to life and make it unique.
The Spice Girls had such a distinctive personality. It was shamelessly poptastic. They were fun, playful, in-your-face, unapologetic, and they just didn’t care. They were very free and inclusive and really had this huge spirit about them. That is what really caught the love and attention of people around the world. And they carried that out, not just in their music, but in all of their many, many ventures. It was this infectious spirit that a lot of people wanted to embody themselves.
Brand Architecture: Are you a Baby or a Posh?
Brand architecture is when you have a series of brands within a family that are interrelated.
One of the most distinctive parts about the Spice Girls brand is their brand architecture. Each of the individual members had its own sub-brand. So, Spice Girls is the parent brand and then Ginger Spice, Scary Spice, Baby Spice, Sporty Spice, and Posh Spice are the sub-brands that have their own distinctive personalities.
This was one of the most iconic parts about the Spice Girls. It made them who they are in terms of being memorable and unique; the relate-ability because there was kind of somebody for everyone and you got to choose your favorite, identify with them, and have that bond. This aligned with that message of inclusivity and individuality.
Brand Values: “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends!”
You usually don’t think of pop stars having brand values, and while I don’t think they ever got together and wrote them down, there were solid values in everything that Spice Girls promoted.
They were all about their girls, putting their friends first. That’s the premise of many of their songs: celebrating female friendships as an important component of your life.
Inclusivity & Empowerment
The fundamental premise of their group was a spirit of inclusivity and empowerment for all different types of women.
Individuality & Acceptance
They encouraged you to express your individuality and be yourself. Whether that was your behavior, how you dressed, or how you acted — there was something for everyone who related to them. They were all about fun and acceptance.
Lastly, they were open about sexuality in a time when that wasn’t super common for women
Not only did the Spice Girls have a very distinct logo, but they also had a logo system. (For more on why that matters, read this!)
They had their Spice Girls logo and standard lettering that they used on all their albums. But they also had versions that had each of them in the different letters that they use on a lot of packaging and merchandise. When they released their movie, Spice World, they extended it into a Spice World logo as well.
They had this idea down of an extensible, flexible system that worked for a lot of different use cases based on the same original logo. That’s something a lot of us could learn from in our own logo systems.
The Spice Girls used a ton of iconography. They were really known for the Union Jack; Ginger Spice had that iconic dress, and their double-decker bus donned the characteristic flag that became a super popular flag/image/graphic at the time largely because of them.
The Spice Girls popularized platform shoes and so many different outfits. Like the leopard print, I mentioned earlier and those teeny black dresses — all of these really over-the-top clothes that were super influential from a fashion perspective.
Even little things like throwing up the peace sign became symbols that they repeatedly used over and over again. Some of them they became known for and associated with their brand.
Color: Spice Up Your Life!
In terms of colors, they were all over the map, mirroring that variety is the spice of life and having all this different individuality. They use lots of vibrant, saturated, bright colors, like lime greens, oranges, and pinks. They didn’t have a set color palette because they used lots of different imagery and styles, and bold, bold fashion.
Now that we’ve covered those A+ visuals, let’s move onto brand activation, AKA putting it into practice.
Brand Activation: Who else had a Spice Girls Barbie?
Brand activation is where we can learn the most from the Spice Girls. They completely changed the game for the industry in terms of building their brand and selling it. So, of course, they made lots of music, sold tons of records, and toured, but they didn’t stop there. There was an absolute frenzy of merchandise and brand partnerships. It was insane… they must be worth so much money. They had partnerships with Pepsi, Polaroid, Cadbury, tons of media companies – was, they were everywhere!
The merch was crazy! Oh my God, the Spice Girl dolls, the Chupa Chub lollipops. I remember walking up to the gas station by our house just to get a Spice Girls lollipop that came with your choice of sticker or tattoo inside. It was crazy for little girls like me at the time. They truly keyed in on us and learned how to cash out.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to exploit your brand message, but at the end of the day, every brand is trying to make money. So, there are many lessons we can learn from using our messaging to promote positive ideals and sell products or our services or make us some money.
Hopefully, this little breakdown gave you a whole new appreciation for my beloved Spice Girls and a little bit of insight into some of the different components that go into a brand because I know how confusing it can be without examples.
If you really, really, really, wanna zigg zigg ahhh, you might like my Brand Archetypes Guide to find out your own personality. Think of it like a “Which Spice Girl Are You?” guide where you can learn more about brand personality, the characteristics that fit your brand, and how to put it into action in your branding.