pharrellPharrell Williams says he was always aware of the power of branding, even if he didn’t know it at first. “As I grew as an artist, I began to realize how central marketing and branding was to success,” he says. So perhaps it’s only a natural progression for him to launch his own branding agency in partnership with longtime collaborator Cornerstone. Both parties tell Billboard the deal is still taking shape, and Williams will act as the “chief of creative” in the new venture. It will operate separately from Cornerstone and have its own staff.”When I was a kid I’d see a video and the way an artist sang or the way that they moved or their presence, and that was what would get me really into them,” Williams says. “When I got older, I realized that the video was a means of marketing. When you do things that feel organic and natural, it’s not like you’re selling something to people. The problem with a lot of advertisement is that it feels forced. And for kids, they can see it. They can smell it a mile away.”

It’s that type of savvy that makes Cornerstone co-founder Rob Stone feel confident about the new venture. “We both have unique skill sets, and we can combine them to create a powerful agency,” he says. “We’re starting small, on the ground level,” Stone says. “We have one or two clients and some things in the works.” Williams isn’t the first musician to launch a branding agency—last year, Jay-Z founded Translation with Steve Stoute. While Translation also brings artists and brands together, the firm focuses on “multicultural” projects. Stone says Williams is talented at identifying the strengths of brands and artists and improving campaigns. “Pharrell is a natural at bringing people together in new ways,” Stone says. “If you look at the kids backstage at his show, you’ll see a lot of designers and artists and creative types. He’s very talented at getting people thinking in new ways.”


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