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Rock and Roll Branding

I could list 50 bands I would never have a beer with. I don’t like their mood so I am not buying them.

Rock and Roll Branding

Think of your car or your electricity provider. Have you ever seen someone with a tattoo of one of these brands? Probably not. I call this the tattoo test.

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I know people that have a tattoo of Red Bull or Harley Davidson (disclosure: both are Edelman clients). These are examples of commercial brands that have managed to become cultural icons: every brand’s dream. Do you know what makes people get a Harley tattoo? The same thing that makes someone get a Queen or AC/DC tattoo: the feeling of belonging. And this is why marketers have a lot to learn from Rock and Roll.

In only five years, Elton John released nine albums, Prince also had nine. And KISS… 10! You need to innovate permanently to be in the market. But bands don’t only sell albums: bands sell moods. The Smiths are sad, Eminem is angry and the Spice Girls are, well, spicy. Who would you hang out with? I could list 50 bands I would never have a beer with. I don’t like their mood so I am not buying them. On the opposite, KISS has more than 3,500 licensed products including condoms, coffee and caskets: if you love them, they can sell you anything.

What did the Rolling Stones invent? Not a thing. Yet, they sold millions of albums. Despite being a classic Rhythm & Blues band, they knew how to create and feed an exciting story to engage their fans. Do you remember the Sex Pistols? They had a lasting career of… only one studio album. Know why? Because they weren’t able to evolve from beyond their straitjacketed brand. Brands die when they have nothing to tell. So forget your competitive advantage, focus on your competitive story and tell it.

Now think of why you know Bono and Sting. You can’t love a band if you don’t know their members. Same thing happens with brands. If Lady Gaga finds time to tweet with her fans, you should too. Put your face on your brand, show up and tell your story in person. Just like in a gig.

Gigs are the ritual where fans connect and build something together. Purchasing the album is only the first step of the experience. Concerts are also the best place to say a big thanks to your fans, so let’s plan your Thanks Tour to celebrate the connection.

Define your mood, build your story, show up and let people in. Someone is probably going to get your brand tattooed.

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Jordi Ballera is deputy general manager of Edelman Spain and director of the M.A. Program in Events Planning and Management at Istituto Europeo di Design, IED in Madrid. You can follow him on Twitter: @JordiBallera

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