Wednesday, 13 January 2016

David Bowie: A Tribute to an icon of music and marketing

As the world mourns the loss of another music legend this week, most will be thinking about his mesmerising music. For six decades David Bowie amazed, shocked and delighted his fans with songs about spacemen and life on mars. Many people may not appreciate what a true genius he was when it came to marketing his own personal brand and his music. Bowie’s career is one of constant evolution and reinvention throughout the decades.

His career really began to take flight with the release of the song “Space Oddity”, which was about the fictional astronaut Major Tom on his journey into space. The song was written and released just five days before the Apollo 11 rocket set off on mans first flight to the moon. The song was perfectly timed to capitalise on the mood of the nation and fascination surrounding the historic event.

Bowie himself changed physically throughout the years, from the bright red hair of Ziggie Stardust to the “White Duke” persona. He was able to redefine musical genres and even make successful transitions into both art and film. One of the reasons why I believe David Bowie was so successful is he was able to keep his finger firmly on the pulse of popular culture. He was also able to reinvent both his image and his music multiple times, pushing boundaries and set new trends in popular culture. These are all attributes that the most successful brands in the world would all dearly love to have.

In 2013, Bowie released his then new album (The Next Day) after many years away from the music industry. Most artists would accompany such a come back with a huge PR campaign, but not Bowie. In fact, very few people initially even knew about it at all!

The launch took the world by surprise, as there had been no leaks about the new album, which he had been secretly recording for two years. On the 8th of January the album was released with no hype or fanfare. The news of the surprise launch found its way into the media where it quickly became a major news story. Such a laid-back approach really shows the confidence and self-belief Bowie had in his own brand. In an industry where everybody is shouting to have their voice heard, a different approach along with a well-recognised brand name was able to capture the attention of both the media and fans.

David Bowie was a man who was known for doing things differently. His creativity shines through his work in the entertainment industry. He leaves behind a legacy as a trailblazer of musical and artistic trends but also many valuable lessons in marketing.

Robert Brunning
Current student in the Master of Marketing program at the University of Sydney Business School

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