Branding is an issue for a lot of companies, I think. As a young consumer I experience firsthand all the sorts of things that they try to get me to buy things with. Here’s a breakdown:
Fast food is usually about sheer presence. Meaning that they don’t really advertise that they have feature X or some different something or other. They stamp a logo everywhere they can and eventually people will get hungry thinking about it, and know where to go.
Most of retail is selling a word. The luxury companies selling watches or cars might sell the word sophistication. You will be sophisticated if you buy this product. A brand like Sears might sell the word inexpensive. A brand like Ed Hardy sells the word trashy, but somehow people still buy it. Top tip to ladies: this is the perfect way to tell which guys to avoid.
Cars sell a word as well, but usually on a trend greater than the car. Right now: “eco-friendly”. This means virtually everything from completely electric cars to cars that are slightly more fuel efficient than before. This, of course, is ironic since half of them are still trying to brand the old buzzword: hemi, which in it’s design / construction is inherently less efficient.
But bands are sort of different.
They sell a lifestyle. Or the good ones do, anyway.
Have you ever noticed that when bands achieve a certain notoriety, theirs fans start dressing like them? Green Day, when it emerged on the punk scene added to a list of other, similar bands and started the sort of punk proto-emo movement that went on when I was in high school.
Similarly, rappers have a lifestyle. Well, they have two. They have the life they actually lead, and then they have the life that they say that they lead. At last count, these guys have been shot nine times and have escaped from gangs and whatever. Did that actually happen? Nope. But it makes for a good story and people admire the sentiment, no matter how fictitious.
This is where I think a band becomes truly influential: Have people followed them in their lifestyle?
The Beach Boys spawned a lust for waves and that warm, breezy air on the Cali beaches. I’ve never surfed in my life and the music makes you feel that way.
Whereas Bono with U2, although I think the band is pretty good and they’ve won awards and such, who’s dressing up like them and living that life?
How to Make it Work
So, it’s simple, really.
Good branding is not one message. Good branding is a lifestyle that they desire, it’s a pattern of things that can be extrapolated by the public. It’s so obvious that they can think for themselves and make life decisions based on “Would wear this? Or play this instrument, or like this thing?”
Make a brand that people can get behind and make their own. Don’t simply tell them that they should do this thing or that. That worked in the 60′s, but we’ve come a long way.
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