Countless books advise how to build your personal and business brand. Consumers flock to brands that embody the ideals they admire and help them express who they are and want to be. The most successful of these become iconic brands. Many Rock performers unquestionably build lasting iconic brands and unique visual trademarks.
1) Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones had been frustrated by the bland and boring branding “efforts” offered by their record label Decca Records. Mick Jagger visited John Pasche and hired him to design the “Tongue and Lip Design” logo in 1971, which was originally reproduced on the Sticky Fingers album. It was perhaps one of the first successful cases of rock brand marketing. The pop art design excellently showed off Mick Jagger’s well known lips and the band’s rebelliousness and has been in use by the Rolling Stones ever since. Show anyone old and young the logo and almost every person will associate it with The Rolling Stones. In August 2008, the design was voted the greatest band logo of all time in an online poll. We’ve also all been to gigs where the band did the bare minimum. They showed up, played, and walk off. The Stones have always promised a big show, then delivered every time.
In the late 60′s they were the very first musical group to establish a proprietary customer database and newsletter to stay in touch with their growing legion of loyal “Deadhead” fans. In the early ’90s they offered a powerful interactive Web site.
The Dead allowed fans to record their live concerts, an action that goes against every rule in traditional show business. This further fueled the grass roots devotion to the band, which generated high brand equity, affinity and sustainable customer loyalty. Whether or not you love their (we love love it), their greatness came from a unique ability to connect fans to their brand in a profound, emotional way and their brand score’s off the charts!
Jackson understood how to connect with his fans. The moonwalk that we all tried and most could not do. The glove, the uniform, “The King of Pop” monicker (that stuck because of his hard work and innovation) and Neverland are all burned into our brains. He co-wrote “We Are The World” with Lionel Ritchie in 1985 and sold over 750 million records outside of the United States. Yes Jackson was quirky, eccentric, mysterious and a bit odd, but he also was amazingly generous in giving back to over 40 charities and organizations during his career.
John, Paul, George and Ringo. Just their first names are iconic brands. The Beatles broke up almost 40 years ago, but their brand power is almost as strong today as it was when they first played the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. The band continues to promote the brand, gaining new generations of fans along the way – without the benefit of formal relationships with PR firms or advertising agencies.
Games (“The Beatles: Rock Band”), Albums, iTunes, Films, Media Play, Vegas Spectacular (Cirque du Soleil’s “The Beatles Love”), Tourism (Liverpool pulls in 2.2 billion a year), and Concerts (McCartney and Starr are still huge draws) all contribute to the growing power of their Fab Brand. Apple Record’s brand control accounts for the purity of the Beatles image and authenticity, but in the end it’s the music that keeps making new fans.
Kiss realized the power of merchandising from day one, made it a priority and executed it flawlessly. At an industry coming-out party before they even had a record deal, the band made their own Kiss T-shirts for female fans were in the front row.
Today, Kiss continues its reign among the merchandising elite? for decades, Kiss fans have been there, done that and got the T-shirts. As well as the mugs, comic books, condoms and coffins. Live Nation Merchandise, which oversees the band’s merchandising and licensing business, says Kiss grossed more than $500 million in the past 35 years, more than any other rock band when tour merchandising, retail licensing, online and international sales are combined. Perhaps making the ubiquity of the band’s merchandise even more impressive, Kiss’ catalog album sales and touring revenue don’t match competitors like the Beatles, AC/DC or the Stones. They know their place in the market and don’t deviate.
A classic powerhouse band and always have been. Their sound is powerful, consistent good old-fashioned hard rock. Over four decades they have ignored trends and stuck to what they do best building a great brand. They use iconic imagery to reinforce the brand message. The school uniform, the devil horns, the giant bell (Hells Bells), the cannon (For Those About To Rock), an over-sized train, funny animated videos, a 40 foot blow up doll called Rosie and seemingly endless guitar solos from fan-favorite Angus Young. Rather than make their fans sit through all “the new artistic material”, AC/DC knows that everyone wants to hear the big hits and delivers.
So what do these top bands and their brands have in common? Customer service, niche intelligence, PR control (for the most part), over delivery, hard work, multiple revenue streams, fantastic artwork, great logos and a product that flows seamlessly from generation to generation to generation.
Businesses large and small could learn a lot from these rocking brands.