Critical Reflection Essay

Isabel Pontin

  • 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?

Branding is a key aspect of an artist, it is a lifestyle illustrating a set of values, attitudes and beliefs. Their brand becomes a recognisable name, symbol or design and the aim is for that to stick in the audience’s mind. My artist is described as an angry and passionate feminist. She feels very strongly about gender politics and feels comfortable expressing this. She is a juxtaposition, this external woman with all the glitz and glamour with her desirable lifestyle yet there is the internal woman who is a tragic, broken girl who is suffering. Part of her imagined metanarrative involves the sense that she has been in an abusive relationship which became a central message and a part of the branding. All of these products work with one another coherently to portray my artist as my brand. From my work I want the audience to be able to decode the text from the ideology I have encoded into it, which was explained by Hall as part of the Reception Theory.

An example of where I have portrayed my star’s branding is through how I framed / shot her and the mise-en-scene especially in my music video which can be described as cathartic. She was placed in the center of the shot with a close up so you could focus on her facial expressions. The use of the black studio created a sense of vulnerability and a feeling of isolation from my artist.The low key and desaturated feel of all elements of the narrative in the music video communicates a sense of bleakness and desolation. By using low key lighting it emphasises this feeling of vulnerability and, in a sense, the video is confessional and an admission that she is alone in this dark world with trauma and hurt which is portrayed through her music and therefore conveysher brandas an artist.

As the producer, I encoded the issue of domestic abuse by keeping the consistency of the colour palette the audience will recognise the colour and this creates a new brand for my artist. I used the colour purple throughout my package, most noticeable  in the digipak and social media page. This colour can be decoded by the audienceto reference domestic abuse which is an issue close to my artists heart, the use of the colour highlights the importance of it and spreads awareness which in turn demonstrates how this helps to create a sense of branding.


When researching pop/RnB music videos it was obvious that the key narratives and themes were love and heartbreak – the typical love story and distress being portrayed. I broke the conventions and changed the repertoire of elements. These refer to the structure by which media texts may be compared in terms of similarity and differences in the narrative, star image/ performance, iconography and camera/editing (Lacey). These are the ‘ingredients’ that make it generic and conventional to the genre which I used in order to define the generic blueprint, some I chose to follow but others I subverted. The typical iconography for this genre includes natural, glamorous makeup with bold and statement jewellery. The costumes are dependent on the tone of the song but they are often true to the artist and used to express their personalities. The costume can be referred to as a label for the audience, they are used to predict whether the audience will get pleasure from the product.

The shot of my star laying in rubble  is an example of a highly unconventional feature using aspects of thriller film  iconography to convey the reality of domestic abuse. Conventionally the themes for a pop/RnB are love and lust however I have approached it differently showing the other type of love people experience. I have used a visual metaphor to convey the idea of a broken relationship and home. The greyness of the background is bleak and depressing, contrasting with a glammed up star who is expected to convey a desirable lifestyle. The broken building is portraying the wreck that is her life; it is a suggestive of a broken home from violence, representing many people’s realities.

An example of my research using the conventions to inform my music video was in the black studio shots. My aim was to focus on the star and encode her hurt and distress solely through the facial expressions and MES. Her body is bare portraying her wanting to be stripped down & vulnerable to her reality and people seeing the truth behind the glamour. I used a bare, dark background so my star stood out and all the attention was on her and the lyrics. 


To be able to connect with my audience I wanted to focus on a social issue, I chose to address domestic violence and the impact this has on an individual throughout my products. I used a semic code in my digipak to represent this. These refer to the narrative codes explained by theorist Barthes ; the symbolic code which is that of representing an object, the semic code referring to the use of connotations to give insight. Another important aspect of the product is how you represent the star image and the metanarrative. This was supported by Dyer’s theory where he suggested a star image is represented as both ordinary and extraordinary which I was able to illustrate through the inside covers of my digipak.

An example of representing a social issue in my product was in my digipak where I continued my design coherence including the colour purple. This colour being a semic code was used as it is the associated colour with domestic abuse. It is an issue I wanted to be recognised and acknowledged more publicly so by using subtle design aspects the audience will become aware of it and hopefully appreciate and learn about it. Her looking directly into the camera creates a feeling of solemness and this is intensified through the use of black and white contrasting with the bold purple.

Linking back to Dyer it is suggested we represent our star simultaneously as just like us but also at the same time special and different. I did this through the polaroid images used, which are signifiers of informality and immediacy. Some of them are of the star filming her music video looking all glammed up yet others are of her personal life, doing normal activities such as going on dog walks and wearing subtle and personal jewellery. They are also an example of a cultural code of youth and playfulness which is contrasted with the serious and distressing themes.


The most significant way to increase engagement with your audience is through marketing. There are two distinctive ways to approach this ; AIDA refers to a design tool and the marketing campaign relating to their audience and how the audience uses / seeks pleasure from the media. This is explained by Blumler and Katz theory of the active audience where they describe how the product endorses entertainment, information, social interaction and personal identity for the audience. Using my social media page as the core of my  marketing campaign I tried to focus on the idea of AIDA, my goals including to attract, interest, desire and ensure there was a call to action.

I wanted to create a buzz which is what marketing is all about. By posting a behind the scenes clip of the music video the audience are feeling they are getting an exclusive and an insight into my artist’s life. This helped to generate excitement around the release date, it felt closer for the audience and they were able to countdown. In addition to this it is also an opportunity for the audience to interact with the star, they feel they have been let in to part of her music life and can comment, like and share. This becomes part of their lives, they talk with their friends about it and therefore spread ‘exclusive’ news, they want to be the first to talk about it or share some of it which links back to Blumler & Katz social interaction theory. 

Women’s aid is a recognisable charity and reposting one of their posts meant my artist was giving the audience valuable and important information. It demonstrates how this charity and issue is personal to the artist consequently breaking the stigma surrounding domestic abuse and people who choose to reveal they are survivors of this. Even artists go through abuse, trauma and all sorts of issues similar to their audience but it’s okay to talk about. People see representations of the issue and charity, they realise the effect of it and like the artist want to make a change. This results in them sharing the post and awareness of the cause, making it viral, echoes the central message of the brand. This reflects well on my star for promoting this difficult issue faced by too many people in their daily lives. 


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