How Charli XCX’s Brat Leveraged Cultural Capital and Exclusivity to Create the Summer’s Biggest Campaign

Nathan Evans
Content Executive

Oh, haven’t you heard? It’s Brat Summer. British pop star Charli XCX has created one of the most effective album release campaigns in recent memory, and it has sent the internet and general music fans into a frenzy and propelled Charli to newfound levels of mainstream attention. The album was released at the start of June, but the amount of posts, discussions and memes created in honour of it has felt like it achieved “classic album” status long ago. If you haven’t come across the slime green album cover or some variation of it in the past month, I hope you’re recovering well from the coma you’ve been in.

Brat’s cultural capital is so powerful that even brands have based entire adverts around the album, such as Field Roast’s “Bratwurst” campaign. It’s not just because the album is excellent – an ultra-potent bump of unshakable confidence, hedonism and spontaneity shaped into gloriously frazzled electropop – but its marketing has been something for the ages. Brands in eCommerce can certainly look at how she has galvanised her audience and the wider pop music community with many moving parts and apply it to their next campaign. Here’s how.


Clock the Market and Go Against the Grain

In a pop music landscape, where the biggest releases are often the artist’s “most personal yet” and reviews talk up about how “confessional” the music is, Charli has seen fit to swing the other way and offer a counter. She has long been a provider of bubblegum pop thrills with an eclectic hyperpop packaging, but in the wake of 2024 albums from Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Billie Eilish, she has reintroduced to audiences what makes pop music fun in the first place – its simplicity and capacity to start a party. This embrace of simplicity has informed her entire process, from the 2000s club and electroclash aesthetic to the writing style, which as Meaghan Garvey wrote for Pitchfork, “quieted her inner industry pro who strung together vowel sounds and buzzwords that rhymed, approaching her lyrics as if she were typing a gossipy text to a friend.”

This move adheres to the old adage that people don’t know what they want until they see it, and that offering something completely counter to the competition can build a strong fanbase. By bucking trends, you set your own and become a market leader. As Shaad D’Souza wrote in the Guardian: “Taylor Swift may have captured the charts, but Charli XCX captured the zeitgeist”.

Takeaway for Brands: Offer something unique and counter your competition. Sometimes, people don’t know what they want until they see it.

Use Exclusivity to Your Advantage

What do you do if you have a good product and want to generate as much interest in it as possible? Make it exclusive. The Brat campaign started with a momentous Boiler Room live show in Brooklyn with DJ sets from Charli herself, A.G. Cook and the 1975’s George Daniel. Not only did it telegraph a pivot towards club culture to her fans, but it also attracted immediate and almighty interest, as the show broke the record for the most ever RSVPs to a Boiler Room event: over 40,000.

Despite being extremely exclusive, the show became one of the most viral moments of the year online, with the full set garnering over 4 million views on YouTube. The move was a brand collaboration that made just enough sense but still intrigued, coupled with a limited event that produces many moments for social media. Brands can use this combination to rile up fascination with your next product. This method is tried and tested, from Nike trainers to even Stanley Cups, which use limited-edition collaborations and colourways to drive hype about a product.

Takeaway for Brands: Collaborate on intriguing, limited events that create social media moments and build hype.


Make the Buildup Special

A key component of the Brat campaign has been the Brat Wall – a billboard in Bushwick, New York which is livestreamed on Charli xcx’s TikTok account. The Brat Wall was continually changed to announce deluxe editions, upcoming collaborations and add general messages to her fans, and keep people hooked to her TikTok account waiting for a regular announcement buildup. Plus, as it’s being made, speculation builds and people guess what it’s trying to say.

It’s another component to Charli’s masterstroke social media game, which also includes a dedicated private “Brat_360” Instagram page which gives messages and insight into her world (once again giving ardent fans a feeling of exclusivity).

With so many engaging ways to connect directly with your audience, simply offering feed content for a follow or subscribe seems rather, as Charli would say, basic. Instead, deepen that connection and reward your audience by increasing interactions, establishing a direct line through text, email, or DM, and ensuring they are always at the forefront for digital and physical exclusives.

Takeaway for Brands: Deepen connections with your audience through regular, direct interactions via text, email, or DMs. Reward their loyalty with exclusive content and early access.

Simplicity Encourages User-Generated Content

The Brat album cover, with its striking slime-green hue and those four letters in a stretched, slightly pixelated font, has become an internet sensation. This bold and simple design is easy for fans to replicate and has inspired a wave of user-generated content and memes. At Glastonbury, the album cover was even recreated in flag form, showing the power of a strong, recognisable image that fans can easily engage with and share.

Takeaway for Brands: Design bold, easily replicable content that encourages user-generated content and memes.


Involve Your Audience in the Journey

Making people feel part of the journey has been crucial for Charli XCX’s success. This is her biggest album yet, eclipsing other first-week sales during its first week worldwide. It’s been the culmination of a years-long journey where she’s been seen as a niche, middleweight pop star, something she’s been proudly building with her fanbase and the wider hyperpop scene for around eight years. She’s involved her fans every step of the way, from sneak peeks of new tracks to interactive social media campaigns.

Takeaway for Brands: Make your customers feel part of your journey. Involve them in your brand’s story and celebrate milestones together.


For more advice on marketing trends, check out our blog on content marketing trends to watch in 2024.

For more information on how Brave can help you make an impact with your branding and engage your customers, contact us today.

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