In 2008 I presented the idea that you could learn a lot about how to successfully build a brand by looking at and understanding Marilyn Manson.

Over the weekend - I was casually listening to a collection of 60's, 70's & 80's rock and was again reminded that the most memorable bands of all time owned their uniqueness, pioneered sounds that they made all their own and were masters at constantly working on their craft.

If you listen to the first few opening bars of any track by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, U2, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, Nirvana or NIN - you will immediately recognise their unique sound.

Branding lessons from the world's greatest bands
Branding lessons from the world's greatest bands

In many ways - building a legendary band is similar to building a great brand. It takes commitment, hard work, planning, foresight and a leveraging of core strengths to achieve.

'Jazz masters like John Coltrane would practice six to nine hours a day, often cutting his practice only because his inner lower lip would be bleeding from the friction caused by his mouth piece against his gums and teeth. His ability to compose and create new styles and directions for jazz was legendary.' via

These days, music has become more about scale and is largely commodified.

Pop musicians today are more focused on their Instagram accounts than they are about writing new songs. Their brands are now rooted in multimedia channels rather than the artistry of sound alone.  

'In an interview, Billy Joel was asked what has made him a standout. He responded his ability to read and compose music made him unique in the music industry, which as he explained, was troubling for the industry when being musically literate makes you stand out. An astonishing amount of today’s popular music is written by two people: Lukasz Gottwald of the United States and Max Martin from Sweden, who are both responsible for dozens of songs in the top 100 charts. You can credit Max and Dr. Luke for most the hits of these stars:

Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift, Jessie J., KE$HA, Miley Cyrus, Avril Lavigne, Maroon 5, Taio Cruz, Ellie Goulding, NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake, Nick Minaj, Celine Dion, Bon Jovi, Usher, Adam Lambert, Justin Bieber, Domino, Pink, Pitbull, One Direction, Flo Rida, Paris Hilton, The Veronicas, R. Kelly, Zebrahead

With only two people writing much of what we hear, is it any wonder music sounds the same, using the same hooks, riffs and electric drum effects?' - via

But under conditions where everyone is trying to sell something by relying on quick fixes and shortcuts that generally create commodity businesses - the opportunity presented by doing real, fundamental old-school brand building increases.

Every business these days is on social media - there is nothing remarkable about a retailer being on Instagram. But what that does mean is that the opportunity to build a real relationship with customers by leadership spending more time in-store actually talking to customers  instead of just relying on sterile data is where the effective brand building starts. When your competition is simply data mining - thinking that they are getting useful insights from staring at numbers - the door just opened for you to sit down and have a cuppa coffee with people and start a real conversation with your fans.

John Coltrane became great by practicing his sax until his lips literally bled. That's commitment and you can hear it in the music that he made.

If you want to build a great brand - the same level of dedication is required to mastering your offering and craft.