July 13, 2017

The Rolling Stones: The Bad Boy Brand

Rock n RollJuly 12 is a special day on my calendar every year. No, it’s not my birthday, it’s even better than that! To understand why, let me take you back 55 years to the moment that changed the music industry forever.

It’s July 12, 1962 at the Marquee Club on Oxford Street in London. Over the years, this legendary music venue would be the home to some of the greatest artists trying to make it out of Britain and into rock and roll lore – Led Zeppelin, The Who, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac to name a few. But that night would see the birth of a band that would go on to dominate the airwaves across the globe and even challenge the might of The Beatles.

It was a Thursday and the owner of the Marquee Club was offered a last minute slot on BBC Radio’s Jazz Club, taking the opportunity to book in his new four-piece band for their first-ever live performance. The band hadn’t yet written any of their own songs, so they only played covers that evening. They didn’t even have a name, and had to quickly find anything that would sound good. As the legend goes, a Muddy Waters album was lying on the floor. A band member saw it and remembered the title of one of the tracks – “Rollin’ Stone.” I guess it stuck!

And so The Rolling Stones were born. They would go on to have eight consecutive No. 1 studio albums in the US with eight No. 1 singles along the way. Even 55 years later and with the band members reaching their 70’s, they are still rockin’ on, selling out concerts around the world. I probably could fanboy about The Stones for this entire post, and you probably don’t want to read a lyrical analysis of my favorite song ‘Ruby Tuesday’ (but if you do, just shoot me an email and I’ll send it over) so instead, ride along as I take a hard left turn and dive into the branding behind the group hailed as ‘The World’s Greatest Rock and Roll Band.’

The most obvious visuals that spring to mind when you think of the branding and image of The Rolling Stones is their ‘bad-boy’ look. With long, unkempt hair and scruffy clothing, the band juxtaposed the choir boy image of The Beatles. And this was done deliberately.

In fact, original manager Andrew Oldham (who at the time of signing with The Stones was so young that his mother had to co-sign the forms!) had dressed the band members up in matching suits, mimicking the very style of their later rivals. However, he quickly realized that the fab four completely owned that look and a new direction was needed if the band was going to create their own identity.

Oldham decided that a complete U-turn was required, ditching the boring suits, messing up the hair, and hiding their razors. The young manager wanted to brand the group as unpredictable and undesirable, a little rough around the edges. They were specifically told not to smile in their first album cover so as to look moody, brooding and even a little disturbed.

The public ate it up, with gossip and rumors about the band members’ latest exploits building such large, extravagant personas (around Mick Jagger and Keith Richards in particular) that they even admit having to act up a little just to match the expectation. Of course, they lived up to it in their own unique way, with plenty of arrests to warrant their image.

But, this image and brand they created helped fuel their popularity. They were the scruffy hooligans that everyone wanted. Forget the choreographed routines of The Beatles and bring on whatever you call what Jagger did on stage – I think it was meant to be dancing. That ‘bad-boy’ brand and image has stuck with them even now as they start to collect their pensions, and it’s still working for them just as well.

So this has been the latest edition of Delucchi Plus Blog goes to Britain. I guess the main lesson is to find your own unique brand identity and run with it – I know, super insightful, but take it easy I’m only an intern. Tune in next time where I’ll probably try to tell you that Monty Python sets a great example for SEO strategy or that the Queen’s corgi runs an amazing Twitter account. Pip pip cheerio.