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Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Established in 1956, the annual international music competition brings together countries from Europe and beyond in a celebration of diversity, creativity and unity through music. Eurovision has evolved into one of the world’s largest televised events, captivating audiences with its eclectic mix of pop, rock, ballads and everything in-between. More than just a music contest, it’s a cultural phenomenon that bridges continents and unites people in a shared love for music and entertainment.

Unfortunately, the 2024 Eurovision competition was plagued with numerous blunders and organisational disorderly conduct. However, what did shine through, despite the behind-the-scenes controversy, was that some of the participants chose to put on performances grounded in ethnic authenticity — staying true to themselves and their home countries. And it is these performances that offer valuable brand authenticity lessons we can all take note of.

Embrace diversity, celebrate uniqueness

 Ukraine’s entry was a good example of a tapestry of cultures, languages and styles woven together into a harmonious spectacle. The track Teresa & Maria positions Mother Teresa and the Virgin Mary as central figures serving as beacons of hope for humanity. Representing a quintessential Ukrainian Eurovision entry, it exemplifies the country’s recent mastery of the competition’s essence.

In contrast with other nations favouring sugary pop ballads, the song seamlessly blended haunting folk chants, crisp rap verses and anthemic vocals, all delivered proudly in Ukrainian — talk about celebrating diversity while still standing out! Brands can learn from this inclusivity by embracing diversity in their messaging and celebrating the uniqueness of their audience. Authenticity thrives when everyone feels seen and valued. Ukraine: alyona alyona & Jerry Heil - Teresa & Maria

Tell compelling stories

Behind every Eurovision performance is a story waiting to be told. Whether it’s a tale of love, resilience or self-discovery, these narratives resonate deeply with audiences. Jako from Armenia did this with flair, traditional outfits, flutes, a few chickens and a crazy toe-tapping beat, while being sung in Armenian. The entry told the story of the female lead, Jako, and her embracing of the right to think freely and to be whoever she wants to be (“so I will dance, and you will watch” is my favourite line). The song is about overcoming the limitations and social norms that are put on young girls in order to conform — now that’s a story. Brands can learn to craft their own narratives that go beyond product features, connecting on a human level with their customers. Armenia: LADANIVA - Jako

Be bold, be true

Authenticity shines brightest when there’s no compromise on integrity.

Eurovision is a platform on which artists dare to be different, embracing their true selves without reservation. And no-one did this better than Estonia's top rap group, 5miinust, and folk duo Puuluup, which collaborated. The number included the talharpa, a traditional Northern European instrument. Every time they performed the act had the whole concert hall on its feet.

Not content with just performing their unique, high-energy “Veisson” dance on stage before an adoring audience, the group reprised the routine for anyone who wanted to watch backstage as well. The group demonstrated its bold energy on stage and became known for their judges’ announcement antics, such as a pyjama party at the semi-finals, and “fishing” for points with fishing rods at the finals. They boldly stayed true to who they were beyond just being an entry at Eurovision.

Brands can draw inspiration from this fearlessness by remaining true to their values even if it means taking unconventional paths. Authenticity shines brightest when there’s no compromise on integrity.

Estonia: 5MIINUST x Puuluup - (nendest) narkootikumidest ei tea me (küll) midagi

Engage authentically

The Eurovision experience goes beyond the stage, with fans actively participating through social media, voting and events. Greece took this one step further by creating an official music video for Zari, which is essentially a love letter to Greece while simultaneously looking like a tourism advert to the rest of the world. Singer Marina Satti blended elements of Greek and Balkan sounds with modern elements, while posing as a tour guide going around Greece showing parts of the country that visitors may not be accustomed to seeing but should definitely check out — tiny cafes, beautiful architecture and dancing at fountains. She took the opportunity to share her love for music and combine it with her love for her country. It  would be interesting to hear from the Greek tourism authority about visitor numbers after Eurovision.

Brands can emulate this engagement by fostering genuine connections with their audience, listening to their feedback, and involving them in meaningful ways. Greece: Marina Satti - ZARI

Authenticity transcends borders

Eurovision transcends geographical boundaries, uniting people from diverse backgrounds under the banner of music and creativity. Did I ever think I would find myself singing along to a Croatian rock-techno-inflected track, asking cats to miaow back? Never in a million years; and yet it’s still a daily occurrence in my house. Why? Because Baby Lasagna connects us all with a tale about economic migration — having to leave home to find a better life for himself — an activity many Europeans and even Africans can relate to. Its catchiness and epic staging made it fast become a fan favourite. Plus, who doesn’t love an artist named Baby Lasagna?

Similarly, brands that recognise the power in sharing their authenticity have the ability to resonate across cultures, forging connections that span continents and languages. Croatia: Baby Lasagna - Rim Tim Tagi Dim

Learn from failure, celebrate success

Eurovision is not just about winning; it’s about the journey of self-expression and growth. And this has never rung truer than for the Netherlands. The country became the first entry to be disqualified in Eurovision’s 68-year history, following an alleged backstage incident. However, Europapa has proven you don’t need Eurovision to be a winner. It stormed  up global Spotify and iTunes charts and had local Dutch churches sound the bells mimicking the catchy bop, and setting social media ablaze with support for musician Joost Klein.

Regardless of what happened, Europapa is the true winner this year. Brands can adopt a similar mindset, learning from failures, celebrating successes and continually evolving in their quest for authenticity. The Netherlands: Joost Klein - Europapa

Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s back to jamming to my playlist — “Europapa, Europapa.”

The big take-out:

Eurovision’s class of 2024 present a compelling demonstration of brand authenticity, underscoring the importance of authentic storytelling, embracing diversity and remaining steadfast in our values.

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