Why Every Startup Should Brand Like Billie Eilish

3 Lessons On How To Become A Viral Brand In 4 Short Years

Sophia Sunwoo
Big Hairy Goals
4 min readFeb 8, 2020


Lars Crommelinck

Billie Eilish is an 18-year old pop star who’s grown a 52.9 million fan base within 4 short years.

I think Billie’s the perfect case study of what to do when creating a new brand, especially if you’re launching your small business in current times.

Between 2017 and 2018, Billie Eilish’s Instagram audience grew from 257K to 6.3 million. At the time of this piece, she’s now at 52.9 million followers.

In my opinion, her insane audience growth is a result of branding that you’re either mesmerized by or absolutely loathe. She’s polarizing, and it works.

Below are three ways that Billie demonstrates great brand direction and how you can apply it to your budding brand.

Are You One Of Us, Or Are You Corporate?

Billie wears clothing you’d never expect to see on a pop star. She’s completely in her own category when it comes to her style and external appearance.

From the very beginning, she never resigned to what a typical pop star should look like, say, or care about. I don’t think she has ever been seen in a dress or has shown any skin beyond her forearms and calves. She sometimes wears a face mask for good measure.

Billie’s just a girl who loves making music with her brother, has a style defined by oversized matching tees and shorts, is really into bright colors and loud accessories, and has a superfan obsession with the show The Office (she has a song with sound clips from one of their episodes too).

She’s offbeat and doesn’t care if you like her or not. She’s so insistent on just being herself.

The main reason why a lot of startup brands have an unremarkable brand presence is because they lack this dimension and the confidence to just be themselves.

They fulfill the carbon copy of what a brand within their industry should look like, but they don’t think of their brand as a unique individual with their own thoughts, interests, and style.

In an age where there are so many competitors within your industry fighting for your audience’s attention, you won’t get far with no obvious point of difference from everyone else.

If your content is like everyone else’s, what’s the point of consuming your content?

If your brand doesn’t have an opinion, why would I listen to you when I can just Google it?

If your content is boring, why would I give you my attention when your competitor is much more entertaining?

To be a brand that stands out today, you have to be insistent on building an identity that’s beyond pretty color palettes and a cool logo.

Who are you when you open your mouth?

Is there a real person behind the business or are you a corporate robot who doesn’t identify with anything beyond making money?

You Don’t Have Competitors When You’re Just You

Billie has been labeled as a goth-pop star, but many view genre-fluid as the more appropriate term to describe her music.

Her music has been identified as goth-lite, angst pop, emotional trap, indie, electronic, and so much more.

Billie isn’t thinking about coloring within the lines and her music has become almost indescribable because she’s her own thing.

This type of approach surpasses any trademark you can get on a new product design you’ve engineered — people will eventually rip it off and create a variation of your product (just look at the copycatting within the smartphone industry as an example).

What your competitors can’t and probably won’t try to copy is your personality and style as a brand because it’s super cheesy. No one wants to engage with a fake Louis Vuitton bag that all your friends can tell is a fake.

When you become your own personality and style beyond your product, you become hard to copy.

The fun thing about this? When you’re just you, the craft you’re selling is no longer about you vs. your competitors.

The game becomes — how can you intensify the relationship you have with your audience so that they keep on loving you?

That’s a much more fun game to play than sleeping with one eye open, waiting for the day when your competitors are going to step onto your turf.

You Talk About Real Things

Authenticity is another word for this.

Upon receiving their Grammy for Album Of The Year, Billie’s producing partner and brother, Finneas said:

“We didn’t think it would win anything, ever. We wrote an album about depression and suicidal thoughts and climate change and being the bad guy.”

You won’t prompt a reaction from your audience if your product is uninspired or boring. We can all tell when you’re not excited or moved by what you’re selling.

When you lack this passion, the quality of your product goes down, you don’t connect with your audience, and everyone is swimming in a pool of ‘meh’.

Sometimes the best brand direction for your business is to create what you care about, not what some marketing trends report tells you will sell well.

If you want to build a successful brand, show us what moves you. Talk about real things.

If you’re going through some tough sh*t and it relates to your business and your customers, let your audience know.

Hiding behind “everything’s great!” and “I’m crushing it 24/7” is not human, nor does it sell your product. Your customer has real pain points, and if you share those same pain points, sharing your journey from pain to solution is powerful and magnetic.

People want to know that it’s possible for them to grow, and if you can share how you or your customers are growing, you’re giving your audience the gift of seeing the light at the end of their current pain.

Do you have a healthy business or does it need a tune-up? Grab my free checklist to find out.



Sophia Sunwoo
Big Hairy Goals

I create moneymaking brands with womxn entrepreneurs who refuse to settle for mediocre. www.ascent-strategy.com