Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

 

You know the songs.

You sing them in the shower. And in the car. And when you're clutching your third glass of rosé and cursing the world, the fates and that putrid individual you met on a very weak Wednesday in June.

But have you ever wondered how Adele became so famous and so popular that she can decide not to allow her music to be streamed, instead actually getting millions of people to pay for it?

Here are six vital business lessons Adele would teach you if she could be bothered.

1. She Never Tries To Be Anyone But Herself.

Even when she's asked to impersonate someone in a BBC special, it's actually herself she impersonates. Or, rather she impersonates someone impersonating herself. (Still with me?) And with hilarious results. It takes enormous courage to just be you. In Adele's case, social pressures would change her speaking voice, her figure, even her material in order to be a predictably packaged "star." Adele just sings. It's quaint in its honesty.

2. She Doesn't Tailor Her Product To Reflect Trends.

Whisper it quietly, but Adele's songs would have been hits 10 years ago, 20 years ago, goodness, 50 years ago. A cliché would be to call them timeless. Perhaps, though, the truth is that they're merely personal. You think what she's singing actually comes from her and her own experience. She acts authentic, then she sings authentically. This is a potent product mix.

3. She Doesn't Sell To A Specific Market.

Give most marketing managers a large, stiff drink and they'll offer you frantically complex explanations about the psychographics of their brand's target audience. Adele would likely as not tell you that she's writing for anyone who's every felt a real  emotion and enjoys a very good song. It's almost naive in its conception. But because she panders to no one, her songs remain genuine. Grannies can appreciate them, so can teenagers. CEOs cry too, you know. There are very few brands that can span such a diverse market spectrum. She doesn't try to be all things to all people. She also doesn't try to a specific thing to a narrow target.

4. She Understands Social Media.

It's not such a well-known item, but Adele got her start because she put her work on MySpace. You remember MySpace, surely. It was like Facebook, but even worse. At the time, she explained: "I'd much rather 5 million people heard my music than I earned £5 million. I write bulletins and blogs, and I listen to what people say, maybe too much sometimes." Perhaps, though, the listening is precisely what helped her have a feel for what worked and what didn't. So many CEOs just don't know how to listen because they're too busy listening to the sound of their own voices. Adele has such a strong sense of her own ego that she's learned drunk-tweeting might not be a good thing. So there are now several people who have to approve her tweets, just in case.

5. She Doesn't Work All The Time.

Adele doesn't keep producing songs, albums and videos. She isn't in constant need of pumping up her social media presence and making "news" for constant consumption. Instead, she disappears to do strange things such as living and breathing and returns when she has something she hopes people will like. It's tempting in a world that never stops to feel the need to keep on satisfying it. Adele prefers to stay true to her own being.

6. She Has A Respect For The Past.

Occasionally, it's worth looking back to witness other people's joys and errors. In Adele's case: "I was so inspired that as a 15-year-old I was listening to music that had been made in the Forties. The idea that people might look back to my music in 50 years' time was a real spur to doing this." So perhaps she had a strategy. Perhaps it was merely a hope. But it clearly wasn't a need to "disrupt," as so many modern companies would have it. She just wants people to feel something lasting. That's what the best brands do.

Published on: Nov 23, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.