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Cannes Lions | Article

Sequential Success: Lessons From Usher

Today’s iHeartMedia session at Cannes Lions brought together two rival singing shows, with American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest interviewing The Voice’s Usher about his 20-year career across stage, screen and studio.

Broadcast turf wars aside, Seacrest helped Usher illuminate his path to success. When Usher speaks of his journey to the top, his words carry a confidence as if his international superstardom was only a matter of time.

“I believe in things happening in order,” Usher says as he paints a picture of a 9-year old boy in Chattanooga, TN who dreams of being the next Michael Jackson. That cerebral approach to success from insight to execution and beyond is something our brands and clients can learn to appreciate.


Surely, Usher’s path was not free of good fortune and maybe a bit of luck, but his plan of action is simple and straightforward. Whether thinking of your own career or a brand’s progressing story, we can take simple lessons from this legendary recording artist.

STEP ONE: Inspiration
Just as Usher was inspired by New Edition and Michael Jackson, brands need to hold themselves to one truth that drives our creative execution and consistently tie back to that inspiration. Do not lose the essence of the idea.

STEP TWO: Aspiration
Usher spoke passionately about the role of mentors like LA Reid and Babyface in his career, not just because of the lessons they imparted, but because he saw them as an end-goal, a guiding light, and a point of reference he could strive to reach. As we progress in our campaigns and careers, we must remember to be respectful and mindful of people and products that have previously blazed trials to see how we can build upon that foundation.

STEP THREE: Motivation
The motivation that pushed Usher to a successful career came from being raised without a father in his life. A driving force for him at a young age, he pushed himself to become something great as a way to inspire others. Through this honesty, he encouraged the audience to “stay hungry, stay thirsty,” embrace the people and culture around you to develop insights and innovation.

STEP FOUR: Evolution
Beginning as a singer and dancer, Usher has evolved into songwriter, producer, TV voice coach, actor, and talent scout. How? By being uncomfortable.

“The more uncomfortable you are, the more you grow,” said Usher to a full theatre of attendees and paparazzi alike.

By expanding our learning into areas and categories we do not normally operate within, we can broaden our skillset and horizons. Yet, participating in these new areas does not breed success alone. There is a need to listen with integrity and adjust based on the response.

Although his path seemed effortless, it wasn’t. It is clear the amount of dedication, work and intention behind each endeavor, leaving the audience with a reminder to “be willing to be the first there and the last to leave.”


In an emotional moment, he recognized the pain of failure and the impact of seeing something you poured weeks and months into fall by the way side. He, like all of us in a creative industry, picks up and moves on, evolves and iterates, fails fast and gets up.

As a proofpoint of his “hustle,” Usher was quick to plug a MasterClass session he created to teach others how to be just like him. So you don’t need to take my word for it, you can see for yourself…for one low payment.

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