Bands, brands… are they so different?

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I’ve always liked history, and although I didn’t always excel at playing musical instruments myself I have from the earliest age had an interest in music. Strangely enough, this combination means I am particularly drawn to television documentaries that combine the two (i.e. music and history). That applies even if I’m not actually really a follower of the particular type of music or even if the history is relatively recent.

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Some of the best material seems to be found either on BBC4 or on the Sky Arts channel. Whilst watching a re-run of an excellent series on rock, I was struck once more by the similarities between music groups, which we will here call ‘bands’, and product or service ‘brands’. It is not just the use of similar letters in both words that is of interest. Let me explain.

1. Firstly successful brands tend to have a strong core product or service. More than that they must be packaged in such a way as to appeal to their target market. The same is true of bands. They must ensure that their core product (the music) is packaged in such a way to appeal to their target audience.  Note that for packaging think hairstyles, make-up and clothes. In short: fashion.

2. Secondly, the majority of successful brands need to be initially launched into an existing category. This is so that consumers understand just exactly what the brand (i.e. product or service) actually does. The same is true for a new band. It is usually important that they are identified with a particular music genre. This acts as very simple label that says “you know what you’ll get with us”.

3. Thirdly (and ironically), some of the most successful brands/bands then need to break free of the very category/sub genre that they initially wanted to be linked with. Why so? Well this is because product categories just like sub genres tend to come and go. Just as they may have come “into fashion”, they can just as easily go “out of fashion”. Added to this is the fact that the band cannot control behaviours of other bands in their genre. And of course brands cannot control the actions of other brands in their category. Therefore long-term success seems to lie in becoming their own stand-alone entity where the brand is more important than the category. Similarly, the band seeks to outlive the sub genre.

4. Fourthly, both need an element of something truly different or unique. It might be some sort of ‘secret sauce’ in the case of a product, or it might be a particular hook for the band. It might be nothing more than a great name that helps with initial category association or it could be some sort of visual identity. Of course, it might also be some sort of product innovation or very different sound.

5. Finally, they both need some sort of consistency to achieve what most seek ultimately which is some sort of longevity. After all longevity probably also means financial returns. That consistency might be in terms of core product ingredients or band personnel. Conversely, that consistency might be achieved through change – being seen as the great innovators in their market, in the way that great brands never stand still, the same might be said of the greatest bands.

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So whether rock band or consumer brand it is worth considering just how close the two are in fact related or are not so very different.

 

 

 

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