8 Lessons on Branding from 8 Musical Legends

by jeremywaite

1. “Don’t think that the brand is just the logo, stationery or corporate colours”.

The Ramones lead the way in the punk music revolution of the 1980’s.  What’s interesting about the Ramones though is that their logo is more famous than their music ever was.

Ramones t-shirts are everywhere, yet their few people can ever name any of their songs.  It’s great that marketers are capitalising on their cool status, but once the next cool icons comes around the Ramones may be forgotten.  If they were remembered for their music and their logo – things would be quite different.

The Ramones are one of the only bands who’s merchandise sales have far eclipsed anything they ever made on album sales.

Great bands (like great brands) encompass everything from their fans perception and experience to the quality of their product, their presence on-line and their ‘tone of voice’. You love a band because of how it makes you feel and what their music reminds you of.  Brands are no different, that’s why the most successful brands have learnt to connect with their customers on an emotional level and not just a rational level.  The logo is just the packaging.  What is important is what you think and feel about that product or company – that’s the brand.

2. “When rebranding, don’t forget about your brand’s equity and your customer goodwill”.

Dismissing brand equity when you are rebranding anything alienates established customers, while unnecessary overhauls can irreparably damage a brands perception.  When Take That re-launched their careers in 2006, they were careful to remain faithful to their existing original brand and the reason that their fans loved them so much in the first place – but it was also obvious that they weren’t a boy band anymore.

They had an image overhaul led by some very well-chosen stylists, but they wrote great songs to capture the public’s imagination again.  They reminded us why we loved them so much in the first place and within 2 years they broke records for CD sales, DVD sales and concert tickets. All because they kept the things that made them special and only revamped the things that needed bringing up to date.

Like Take That, many companies try too hard to rebrand themselves when sometimes just a new coat of paint or a small evolution may be all that is required.  Just look at the Post Office when it changed its name to Consignia in 2001.  They soon realised that customers didn’t understand why a much-loved name had been ditched and they were forced to change their identity back to the original one.  A costly mistake, but one that some decent market research and customer insights could have helped to avoid.

3. “Many rebrands lack credibility or are just a superficial facelift”.

If you are going to change your image or your position in the marketplace, the story behind why you are doing it must be believable.  It must also hold credibility internally and to all those involved with the brand.  If employees who live the brand don’t believe in it, the target audience won’t either.  Unlike the successful rebranding of Take That, I always thought that Pink Floyd getting back together for Live8 was for no other reason than commercial gain (album sales were up 400% after their appearance).  I’m sure they had the best intentions and I was as pleased as anyone to see them on stage together again, but many bands reform just for the money and if that’s what it looked like to the public, then that’s all that mattered.

Pink Floyd may profit from re-issues of their back catalogue for a short while, but I suspect Take That will still be kicking out good albums in a few years to come – unlike the Floyd who clearly have no intention of blessing us with any new material.  So chose your path carefully! Do you want to rebrand your company to make some quick cash and disappear again, or do want to create something a bit more long-lasting?

4. “Don’t disappoint your fans

Did you know there are over 2 dozen videos on YouTube of Lady Gaga crying during one of her concerts? Most involve her breaking down in response to something her fans have done, but then there’s this video. In that video, a teenager is in line to get Gaga’s autograph, and he’s crying because he’s about to meet Gaga. When he gets up to Gaga he breaks down, and Gaga reaches for him and hugs him for several seconds, then signs his CD, kisses it, and gives it to him. She then says ‘I love you’, and hugs him again.

If you are trying to understand why Lady Gaga is currently the hottest pop/rockstar on the planet, those 30 or so seconds explain all.

It also shows you what you are up against if you are trying to build fans around your social media efforts.  If you want to have REAL fans of your brand, or fans of your blog, or your company.

In the day-to-day buzz of the business environment, it’s easy to forget what it is that made your brand special in the first place.  There’s a reason that your loyal customers love you and if you lose sight of that, you will lose their business soon afterwards.  It’s important to remember the basics and always exceed their expectations.  Whether it’s your physical environment, your marketing materials or the language of your terms and conditions, if it doesn’t reflect the values that make you special then the ‘brand experience’ declines.  Remember ALL your customer touch points when you are rebranding because passionate fans, like loyal customers, notice everything.

5. “Don’t forget that people don’t do what they say”.

Superstars are as guilty of letting their fans down as brands are of disappointing their consumers. How many times have you heard the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be great if people just said what they did and did what they said”?  After all the high-profile media gossip surround Britney over the last few years, publicists realised that she needed to clean up her lifestyle and project a strong image to her fans.

The sad part is that Britney obviously listened to her team because she soon established a twitter feed and kept issuing updates with frenzied regularity.  The reason that it is sad is because it was clear from day one that it wasn’t her tweeting.  If it was it would have been great, but her tweets were basically press releases from her team about what she was up to.  Personally, I think that had a more damaging effect on her personal brand than if she did nothing at all because it felt desperate.  You could argue that none of that matters because she now has more followers than any other celebrity, but if your brand isn’t appealing directly to teenage girls – then maybe you need to think carefully about what message you send out, and how you send it.

I hate to tell you but I’m not a big believer in focus groups.  I believe you take your inspiration and throw it out there.  If it sticks, praise God.  If it doesn’t, you can listen to research and try to fix it, but I don’t believe that a focus group has ever created a revolution”.  Guy Kawasaki (Marketing Guru)

Use caution when basing rebranding strategies on focus group type research.  Unless you are physically in the customer’s environment, observing them using your product or service, you are not getting the full story.  Actual observation, while not perfect, will get you a lot closer to the right solution. (And just because someone is a consultant doesn’t mean that they know best.  No one knows your brand better than you do, so be careful who you listen to).

6. “Don’t forget to plan ahead so that your brand can evolve”.

U2 are unique in that they have rebranded themselves for almost every album, even though they didn’t need to commercially.  After the success of the Joshua Tree, they didn’t need to refresh their values or image because they were at the top of their game.  Evolving their brand, whilst upsetting some of their hardcore fans (especially during their PopMart Village people phase!), kept them inspired personally and in turn gave us even greater music and performances than before.

I love U2 because even though the years are ticking away, they are still creating fantastic original material – unlike the Rolling Stones who are the cash cow poster boys of ‘how to make a living from greatest hits tours and albums, without creating anything truly original for years’.

Brands are the same and while consistency is important, if you are at the top of your game – there is only one way you can go, unless you keep fresh and stay relevant.  Kellogg’s is a great example.  I worked with them recently, but it seemed obvious to me that because they were such a huge organisation, they struggled for new ideas despite their large creative teams.  Like the Stones, their fantastic heritage also seemed to be their biggest downfall.

All the best brands, like the best bands, are brave and courageous when making plans for the future.  They love change and embrace uncertainly.  You could do worse than live by Richard Branson’s motto at Virgin… “Screw it, let’s do it”!

7. “Do not create a brand (or a band) based on advertising

An ad campaign and a slogan to not a brand make.  Brand strategy should lead advertising – not the other way around.  Sometimes the most effective brand launches don’t involve traditional advertising at all.  The Ting Tings from my home town of Salford, like the Arctic Monkeys from Sheffield, became superstars because people discovered their music for themselves and then told all their friends.

Their fans sneezed and infected all their friends with their excitement!  (Seth Godin writes a lot about ‘sneezers’ in his great book The Idea Virus – citing this kind of phenomenon being the most powerful form of marketing altogether).

In 2002 The Arctic Monkeys were famously the first band to have a number 1 hit based on MP3 downloads instead of actual CD sales – driven primarily by word-of-mouth marketing, NOT advertising.

The Fray (musical legends??!) on the other hand, great band that they are, allegedly had a budget of $120m from Epic to practically buy their fans.  It was the biggest marketing budget for a new band of all time because Sony thought that they had all the ingredients of a great band, so they decided to throw all their marketing weight behind them.  Billboards, TV slots, radio promos, background music in Scrubs…. But even with all that exposure they still didn’t secure a number 1 chart position, losing out to the Kaiser Chiefs and Mika.  Money it seems can’t always buy you fans.

Word of mouth is great, except when it isn’t”  Bob Garfield (American Ad Critic and Journalist)

8. “Focus. Focus. Focus”.

Warsaw were a little known band from Manchester who were taken under the wing of the infamous Anthony H. Wilson.  He was head of Factory Records and the driving force behind the Hacienda, which in it’s day was the most influential nightclub in the world.  But Tony’s Cambridge educated background was in media production, tv presenting and journalism.  Of course he was insanely passionate about music (which is why he became the success that he was), but his insights from other industries gave him the vision to create a music scene in Manchester which is famous across the world to this day.

Tony Wilson’s label, Factory Records, turned Warsaw into Joy Division as well as discovering other iconic bands like James and The Happy Monday’s.  You could argue that it was his non-musical background that made him so great at discovering new musical opportunities in the first place.

Joy Division were only together as a band for X years until it’s lead singer Ian Curtis died and they became New Order.  They are one of the few bands that have sold X times more records since they split up than they ever sold when they were together.

Focusing solely on your own industry can be limiting.  When you are rebranding, cross-pollinate your thinking with what leaders in other industries are doing in regard to customer experience, retail experience and customer care.  Pull in thinking from different industries and encourage your agency (if you have one) to do the same.

Need any more inspiration? Email me at JeremyWaite@Me.com to find out why rebranding was also such a big deal to David Bowie, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Blur and Nirvana.

Jeremy Waite   |   www.jeremywaite.co.uk
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Autor: Gabriel Catalano - human being | (#IN).perfección®

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