Learning from David Bowie
I have been a fan since “Life on Mars”, so forgive what comes next. The thing is that David Bowie has always had a penchant for marketing and image making. His ability to refresh the Bowie brand is legendary. Sometimes he gets it wrong (Tin Machine) and sometimes he gets it so right its a lesson to every marketing professional. Here is the guy that taught Madonna everything she knows apart from that one BIG RULE: take massive risk when you change it up. Madonna never really changed, Bowie will fearlessly change Bowie as soon as he feels the brand is losing relevance.
So here we are. Total silence for nearly a decade. There were rumors that a heart attack had terminated his creative output. Then, taking a leaf out of the Steve Jobs playbook, he signs musicians to an NDA, collaborates with a trusted producer and out of the blue launches a new album. It crept out through social media, it was streamed free on iTunes, he gave no interviews, there was no fanfare. Simply put, he allowed, as Steve used to say, “the consumer to connect the dots”.
Its a good album, uninformed by a younger artists need to stay current, it graphically replaces his most iconic album: Heroes. It is time to be present not past. Yet it has some uncanny soundalike moments. But most significantly, Bowie is back. Back in a way that feels right for a 66 year old Bowie. No MTV Awards relaunch this time, no Trent Reznor and no Arcade Fire. Just the man.
So, once again, we learn from artists. Authenticity rocks. No need to constantly tease your audience with what is coming next. Surprise is a valuable achievement in a social media world. But most of all, focus on the quality of the product and take your time to get it right.
I am on my fifth listening. And grateful for the effort.