Critical Reflection Essay

Component 3 Critical Reflection

Dalehna Maubec

 

  • How do the elements of your production work together to create a sense of ‘branding’?
  • How did your research inform your products and the way they use or challenge conventions?
  • How do your products represent social groups or issues?
  • How do your products engage with the audience?

 

A brand needs to have a unified and cohesive design that makes for a recognisable star image which aligns with a set of values, attitudes and beliefs. The mission statement of our artist included key descriptions such as ‘unique, relaxed and alternative’.  Throughout our multimedia package, we have used various elements to represent this star image across the text – de Saussure would describe this as a combination of signs that build up layers of connoted meaning – the signifier (physical sign) and signified (implied meaning) – to encourage a preferred reading and convey the overarching meaning. In our multimedia package we were able to communicate a consistent sense of branding by representing the star through a range of elements from the colour scheme, the costumes and even the typeface used on the digipak. 

For example, Indie Pop creates expectations for an overarching idea of a relaxed, creative and nostalgic star image. These ideas were evident in all of our products – old technology, VHS filters and fisheye lens effects in the music video all communicated nostalgia through the 90’s and 2000’s roots it captured. This historic representation of the star was continued to the back of the digipak, where cassette tapes were used to present the album’s titles. These are all semic, cultural and symbolic codes that Barthes would argue represent his ideologies. Meanwhile, the surreal visuals used in the digipak juxtapose this nostalgic representation of Ronan Blu by instead creating a psychedelic image. Our mission statement outlined that Ronan Blu is presented as both ordinary and extraordinary, this paradox of the star is clear to our brand. Our audience should be able to decode that whilst he is an extraordinary character, absent and out of reach, he is also a relaxed, ordinary soul that offers a chill perspective to the music industry. This was clearly presented on our social media page where we teased and promoted the multimedia package but we also presented Ronan Blu as an ordinary star by posting casual, non promoted posts and connecting with his fan base to create a fulfilling consumer experience. Having a mission statement that stated Ronan Blu was unique and alternative really helped us design the overall brand which was represented with a conventional indie palette, signifying a conventional metanarrative of an Indie Pop artist.

 

We researched indie pop music videos and found that this genre of music typically consists of overly saturated and textured footage with an unconventional narrative plot and also uses conventional Mise En Scene such as alternative and colourful costumes that suggest these stars are unique and different from mainstream pop. A particular music video that stood out was ‘OK’ by the Wallows. We liked their use of generic conventions such as unique sense of style, grain filters and vintage props like CD players, which aligns with the values of the target audience. Their narrative involved an interruption of the song halfway through with the band casually stopping at a drive-thru for food. This action makes the video appear relaxed, cheeky and suggests that the band is ordinary. This is what Lacey would call a repertoire of elements – the ingredients for a successful music video as they are conventional ideas that our audience expect to see. 

Whilst a conventional blueprint for an indie pop music video often has a certain repertoire of elements (a casual laidback narrative, unique sense of style and retro elements) which are ideas put forward by Altman, we hoped to make the expected ingredients for our music video appropriate for our genre but also different so our audience wouldn’t reject the ideas but instead be intrigued and excited. Therefore, one conventional design feature in our music video was the Mise En Scene. The star’s costume met the conventions of the genre through his painted nails, unique garments (such as the 80s inspired jumper) and the jewellery which he wore, all of these ideas suggest he is not like the ‘average guy’ and he doesn’t fear crossing gender norms. Todorov suggested that the traditional narrative arc consists of a disruption called a disequilibrium, with the equilibrium eventually being restored. However,  we decided to challenge the traditional narrative. For example, we decided not to go for a more relaxed narrative and instead, according to Levi Strauss, applied a deeper route by exploring a binary opposition, where two themes, loneliness and happiness, contrasted each other to further the narrative. We achieved this through the props we used. For example, we used VHS TV’s and dial up phones to portray the idea that the star was stuck in the past, while the masked people were surrounding him with modern technology, unaware of his presence. 

 

We wanted to represent our star in an authentic way and show he’s different to mainstream society in order to create a successful package. Our star is known for his multifaceted personality, like a chameleon. This symbolic code, as Barthes would say, represents our stars ability to shock and surprise the audience. This meets Dyer’s paradox of the star as our star is displayed with many extreme personalities – he is ordinary yet extraordinary. Another example of this is found in the ghosting effect used on the front of our digipak, which acts as a semic code for how the audience view him as slightly enigmatic, strange, and ethereal.

Stuart Hall argues that the producers should encode symbols within the text that the audience can then decode to get their ‘preferred reading’. This idea is where the ideologies of the producer and audience meet to produce an intriguing product. We were able to encode Ronan Blu’s unforgettable character on the inside panes through the bold and psychedelic image of his eyes. The colours within this image conveys the current aesthetic on digital platform TikTok called ‘indie kid’, a trend focused around oversaturated photos, bright colours and 2000’s style fashion. As an indie pop artist, Ronan Blu meeting the visual interest of this social group therefore suggests the audience will accept the values encoded in this text, creating a ‘preferred reading’. Our digipak also represents the beliefs and values of our target audience through the cassette tapes on the back panel – this association with the 90’s era corresponds with the ideologies of our audience. 

 

Engaging with the audience is key to any effective marketing strategy. Marketing campaigns are important as they generate attention, buzz, and paying customers. Our social media page is successful as it reaches these opportunities to engage with the fans. 

Therefore, we ensured that our SMP had plenty of ‘essential elements’, details that Blumler and Katz argue would make our audience engage with our media. One way in which our audience interacted with social media posts was through comment sections. For example, one follower commented on our charity post inviting us to their animal rescue centre. This form of participation may make them feel more included and part of a community, particularly when the star replies to them. Our social media page also included relevant information such as release dates, tour dates and links to merch, along with forms of entertainment like teasers, behind the scenes photos and casual posts, which includes selfies, what he’s been doing, and things that interest him. These posts are all ways to make the audience feel more engaged and can leave them feeling included and intrigued. We also did a charity post with the RSPCA, this call to action makes the audience want to get more involved and also catches their attention as they are able to see Ronan Blu in an ordinary and authentic light. 

 

 

 

 

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