Tiwa Savage, Identity Crisis or PR Done Right? My Answer . . . + Music Branding for Artists

Last week I introduced a feature that asked” Identity Crisis or PR Done Right” of some of  our controversial artists in the limelight. First up was Tiwa Savage. There were lots of lurkers on this article i.e. the article got a lot of hits. I appreciate the comments I received both on the website and others who contacted me via email as well as a few friends of mine who read the article and had something to say about the question.

Now My Answer . . .

I think Tiwa Savage suffers from an identity crisis. I also think she is an example of  PR done right. So, my answer is “both.” Lol! I think that might be cheating?

Identity Crisis- My Take

Tiwa Savage is smart, beautiful and talented. On the red carpet, in my opinion, she is appropriate  for the most part and frankly too boring for me from a fashion editor perspective. She does not set trends that make me want to tell my audience they “gotta have musta have” her shoes, clothing, bags, earrings etc. That’s just me. So, for me, where the identity crisis lies is what she does off the red carpet in her performances both at concerts, music videos and other marketing and promotional activities to get her music out.

I believe she comes off as a woman who does not understand and own her own voice and as such suffers from a case of identity crisis.

NOTE: There is a caveat to the above statement. My conclusion  is strictly based on Tiwa Savage’s recent claim on an interview with BellaNaija that her primary target audience is the Nigerian woman. Based on that statement, to me, there is a clear disconnection in what she is giving to the the Nigerian woman and what the Nigerian woman is saying she wants from Tiwa Savage.

If, however, her audience is the Nigerian man, then to me, there is no identity crisis. Tiwa Savage shifts from a woman who lacks a voice and a clarity of who her audience is, to a woman who knows her audience (males)  and uses sex  to sell herself and her music to them, ultimately increasing her bottom line, money, quite rapidly.

Since Tiwa however claims she aims to please the women, she has an identity crisis worth talking about.  How?

Let’s break it down to the basics on music branding for artists so you all see where I am going with this:
Often we talk about branding but what is it? What does it really mean for artists?

1.What is Branding?  Branding is your personal identity projected through your music and image. It has clarity in purpose and tells the world and your fans your personal values, what to expect from you with your music, what to expect from you with other brands you endorse or artists you affiliate your name with and what sets you apart from others. If  I mention  Lady Gaga, Adele, Beyonce, you should have a clear idea what these ladies are about when it comes to their music and their personal brands.

Tiwa Savage, in contrast, appears to have no clearly defined personal brand identity. Specific to the woman she is trying to reach, Tiwa Savage is yet to communicate who Tiwa is as a woman, especially through her music videos, marketing and branding campaigns. Indeed what she communicates is in direct conflict with what she says she is about. While she has a great voice and sings well, when it comes to overall presentation and image branding, there is no defined line that sets her apart from other women in the music business, except controversy over her dress sense. When I mention “Eva” one of Nigeria’s female rappers, there is a clear brand identity. From Eva’s hair to her clothing style sense to even her aggressive tomboyish music and delivery style, you know what she is about. With Tiwa, it is confusing. It is indeed why many wonder if she is Rihanna today, Beyonce tomorrow or what have you.

2. As an Artist How do you define your brand? Once you know that a brand is about your personal identity projected through your music, the next question is, how do you define your brand? There is no getting around this. To define your brand, you must look at your core values  i.e. you have to know what you stand for and what you are about. They say if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything. Your identity as a musician or otherwise  (for those in other creative fields reading this) comes from your core values. This means, necessarily, at some point in an artist’s career, he/she must answer the fundamental questions such as: what drives me? What am I about? What are my values? What am I willing to do to get to the top etc? How do people view me? How do I feel about how people view me?

This part is where Tiwa Savage really gets Nigerian women confused. On the one hand she says she desires to please them and has a long term goal of being a missionary worker, which means her value systems are most likely quite conservative. Yet, on the other hand, she is comfortable singing about getting it on with a guy or giving lap dances to males in her audience when performing.  Are those things bad? It depends on her audience. To the Nigerian women she says she is trying to reach, she sends a very confusing message. She sends a message that says women must exploit their sexuality in such manner to be successful. In the USA, arguably, this is no big deal. In Nigeria, it is definitely an issue and a big deal.

3. As an Artist how is your Brand Memorable? A big part of branding is having a memorable brand. It is what sets you apart. 2Face, Nneka have memorable brands that will outlive them. Will you remember Kele Kele love or Tiwa Savage 5yrs from now if she took a break from music? The answer is “probably not.” This is where Tiwa needs to let her personal identity and values system shine through. Her personal identity and value system is what will help make her memorable for a long time to come.

4. Tiwa’s Brand Strategy Reveals an Identity Crisis:  Beyond Tiwa’s activities of radio, performances, press releases etc. where is a purposeful brand strategy that truly targets the Nigerian woman she wants to reach? She is a Nigerian-American woman but she seems to want to embrace the Nigerian woman in Nigeria but serve up Nigerian/African-American entertainment values and culture to the Nigerian woman in Nigeria. Why?

Other questions we need to ask include:

  • Does Tiwa really understand the Nigerian woman in Nigeria in relation to her music? Tiwa has returned to Nigeria only in the past few years. Her time is split between Nigeria and Los Angeles. In Nigeria, she is making music, managing her label, touring/doing shows etc.  What meaningful time has she had to spend interacting with Nigerian women to really know what they want from her as an artist that seeks to sell music to them?
  •  If the Nigerian woman is Tiwa’s stated primary target, how exactly is she speaking to them in an authentic and original way? But for her interview with Bella Naija, Tiwa Savage is yet to directly speak to the Nigerian woman who she says is her target audience. There is a disconnection. It appears while she wants women as her audience, the men are her #1 fans. Nigerian women from the continent can be found on new media (blogs) and social media (twitter etc.) and when it comes to Tiwa Savage’, they appear to be the most critical of her, particularly as to her appearance. In contrast, majority of Nigerian and other African men who watch and listen to her would not change a thing about her.

NOTE: As a general rule, artists and non-artists reading this, with a product or service you market, you MUST find your target audience. Artists tend to say, “everyone is my target audience.” From a creative perspective that is all good and dandy. From a music business perspective, think twice. Music is business. Regardless of how many free downloads, free mix-tapes etc. you have given, music is  business. You MUST identify your target market and where applicable even hyper-target your audience (Nigerian women in Nigeria vs. Nigerian women in the USA). Is your targeted audience the Nigerian woman? How old is she? Can she afford to buy your songs? Where can she be found? How can you get your songs to her so she can easily purchase? What sounds is she listening to? Who are the artists that already appeal to her? How can you leverage your resources and talents with those artists to reach her? P-square, for example, reaches millions of women across the continent. Tiwa featured on P-Square’s Do as I Do song off their latest album, The  Invasion. Was that a good move? Absolutely. Why? Most likely, the P-Square woman is who Tiwa also wants to reach.

Tiwa Savage, more than many in the industry, has the ability to connect in such deeply personal way with millions. She, however, needs to own her voice and personal identity which should be driven by her values. Such values would yield tasteful yet sexy, refined, goofy/quirky and probably a girl next door identity.

PR Done Right

Alright, I take my business hat off and now exchange it for the PR one.

Clearly, any musician or music label wants to measure a return on investments (ROI). When PR is done right (whether good or bad publicity), we can see a return on investments.

In Tiwa’s case, we have several identifiers to look at:

Increased Sales & Demand: Tiwa Savage now enjoys  1) overall increased sales of singles, 2) increased downloads 3) increased requests by promoters to perform, 4) brand endorsements (Hennessy Artistry) and 5) increased requests for collaborations with other artists. Tiwa’s fan base has also really increased. I remember when it was like 6,000 fans on Twitter and within a year she has over 55,000.

Tiwa knows her packaging and presentation creates controversy. She knows sex sells and she pushes it despite her promises to tone things down. In fact, she keeps on keeping on. Indeed her latest release of her song with Don Jazzy came within a week of the published BellaNaija interview where she promised to tone it down.  To me, all the above is an indication of a Tiwa Savage team who gets PR done right. PR done right means you fuel that fire and make sure people keep talking about you. The end result is an increased interest in Tiwa as a brand and ultimately, money.

While this may be good for her short term, long term, it may hurt her and the longevity of her brand, especially where  a new artist enters the scene and stays true to self.


For me as a Nigerian-American, Tiwa Savage’s dressing does not necessarily shock me. From a fashion perspective and as a fashion industry insider and editor, she needs a risky yet refined well edited look. I also think she needs the room, like all of us, to grow into the woman she is meant to be. This takes time and just because she is a musician will not necessarily speed up that process. On a professional level, the truth is that Tiwa’s targeted audience are women in Nigeria both on and offline that do not process things the way I do. When in doubt, they need Tiwa to be a lot more conservative than she is. They also need her to show positive images of Nigerian women; not the seemingly sexual overkill grinding/shaking her ikebe (buttocks)  in some man’s random lap during her performance(s). This means if  Tiwa Savage wants to still connect with the Nigerian woman in a deeply personal and powerful way, she needs to  own her true identity and values and be the ultimate decision maker in a truly assertive way on how her name and brand is managed. This is particularly important as she is one of the few women in the business of music in Nigeria.

There are opportunities for her to brand herself beyond singing in future including as a speaker on the business of music, teaching creative music workshops on songwriting and speaking on panels about women in the business of music in Africa; across the continent and the USA. To do so, she needs to truly edit her image to be taken seriously and most importantly respected by all when she walks into a room.

Otherwise, she needs to admit her audience is the Nigerian man/men and she can continue to give them what they want. The only problem is, fast forward ten years from now, if she returns to tell them she is a  “missionary worker,” their idea of missionary worker might be quite different from what she has in mind.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree or disagree with me? Why? 

Tiwa Savage featured on P-Square’s Do as I Do off P-Square’s Invasion Album. Such lovely voice.

[audio:|titles=P Square – Do As I do ft Tiwa Savage & Mayd]

Tiwa Savage Kele Kele Love

Tiwa Savage Performs Kele Love

Tiwa Savage Fans

Africa Music Law™

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Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Uduak Oduok (Ms. Uduak) is a fashion and entertainment lawyer, speaker, visionary, gamechanger, trailblazer, and recognized thought leader, for her work on Africa’s emerging global fashion and entertainment markets, and the niche practice of fashion law in the United States. She is also the founder of ‘Africa Music Law,’ an industry go-to music business and law blog and podcast show empowering African artists. Her work in the creative and legal industries has earned her numerous awards and recognitions, including an award from the American University Washington College of Law for her “legal impact in the field of intellectual property in Africa." She has also taught as an Adjunct Professor at several institutions in the United States. For more information, visit her at

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  1. Tiwa Savage, Identity Crisis or PR Done Right? My Answer . . . + Music Branding for Artists:

  2. Nick says:

    Pure rubbish. Dis is a case of a woman pullin down anoda woman

    1. Africamusiclaw says:

      BIG SMILE. You don’t say. Expanding the mind of people with limited thinking is something I’d rather skip on an article like this. 🙂


      1. camron says:

        If young Nigerian women are her target audience, then i think she could learn something from beyonce.

  3. Ikechukwu says:

    Dis is ridiculous.discusing dis topic is really preposterous.i mean for GOD’s sake,every one has a sense of judgement.if tiwa goes white then she is white at the moment,if she goes black then she is black.

    1. @Ikechukwu- Lol! It should be (“preposterous”) for and to you, a man, who she is clear is not her primary/intended targeted audience. Further the average guy, Nigerian, American or otherwise, do not engage in discussions about style, per se. Women in general do. In this instance, Nigerian women, her clearly proclaimed target audience, have and they are not pleased. Tiwa cares about them. She has listened. She has and is making her adjustments. Her customers/fans are (responding and some have now said they are) pleased.

      She is clearly, by making the adjustments, a very smart woman who “gets it” that music is very much about business as it is about the creative side. She gets that a successful artist is flexible and makes amendments that are not a deal breaker so the message does not get lost in the process.

      Thanks for your comment.


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