Evolving Your Own Twisted Brand


During the summer of 1984, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. To me, a 14 year-old kid, that song was a young rebel’s anthem. It embodied everything I wanted to say to the establishment!

Just as fall arrived and I was heading back to school to be under the control of teachers, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” peaked at #21.

Despite a very respectable catalog of heavy metal music, Twisted Sister never had another Top 40 single.

It would have been easy for Dee Snider to simply disappear into rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia as yet-another one hit wonder.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, Dee Snider became the host of MTV’s Headbangers Ball and later very publicly testified in front of the Senate in order to protect musical integrity and save albums from having parental advisory warnings. Very quickly, Dee Snider became known as an intelligent voice of reason in hard rock.

Dee went on to write horror movie scripts, compose music for TV shows, and become the host of a nationally syndicated radio show called House of Hair. He has hosted various TV shows, appeared on several reality TV shows, created voice overs for cartoon and video games, and stars in Dee Snider’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Tale, a theatrical production at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto.

Dee Snider is a fantastic example of an artist who has expanded his brand far beyond the 1984 chart success of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. Nearly 32 years later, he remains a relevant artist and entrepreneur.

And his iconic hard rock song continues to capture the rebellious imagination of every 14 year-old boy.

How did Dee Snider evolve his brand so well, when so many others failed?

He created a powerful audio and visual image, and embraced it.

The Dee Snider of the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video has a little more hair and make up than the Dee Snider of today, but he’s still a long-haired heavy metal singer. While other people tried to change when “hair bands” apparently went out of style, Dee celebrated it with his House of Hair radio show.

He took on new projects that contributed to his image.

Hosting a TV show called Dead Art about the beauty of old cemeteries was a perfect extension of his heavy metal image. His Halloween project, Van Helsing’s Curse, went from a concept album to touring production narrated by Snider. Snider has even brought his heavy metal approach to the holiday season with his Christmas production.

He has let his fans behind the curtain.

From the 1980s when he read his lyrics and their meaning to the Senate, to his family’s reality TV show Growing Up Twisted, Dee has famously let his fans see the real him. His radio shows have allowed him to reveal himself regularly, and his fans feel a true connection to who Dee Snider really is.

Dee Snider, at 60 years old, is well-removed from his band’s one big Top 40 hit. But if you look at the Top 40 chart from the summer of 1984, there are few artists who have persevered, adapted, and built their brand better than Dee Snider.

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Jeep, Coke, and Twisted Sister: Your Brand Repurposed

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Jeep didn’t start out making the urban soft-tops you see on the interstate every day.  The genesis for the Jeep was a World War II military request to have an all-purpose light truck for reconnaissance.

Coke wasn’t originally created to be the world’s best-selling cola.  It was initially an alcohol based drink called coca wine.  When the first prohibition rules were passed in Georgia, the non-alcoholic drink was created and marketed as a medicine.

And rock singer Dee Snider didn’t start off as a TV star.  He began as the lead singer of Twisted Sister, and in full big-hair and make up he belted out the massive 80′s hit “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.  Twisted Sister didn’t have a wealth of other hits, although they did attract a strong following in the hair band scene that supported them over the years.  When the audiences started to dwindle, Snider evolved into a radio host with his syndicated show that paid tribute to his genre, “House of Hair”.  That led to a full-time radio gig hosting a morning show in Hartford and then Philadelphia, keeping Dee Snider employed and in the public light long after his band had folded. Later, Snider’s voice became the soundtrack to many movie trailers, video games, and VH1 music specials.

Now Dee Snider is about to invade your home on TV with his reality show “Growing Up Twisted”, which follows Dee and his family around as they go about their business day to day.  A&E has signed the show for seven episodes this summer to test the waters.

That ability to adapt and navigate is the artistry of entrepreneurship, and you see it in great bands and great brands all of the time.

Like Jeep, Coca-Cola, and Dee Sinder, most great Rock Star brands and bands didn’t start out in the same form we see them in today.

Is your business plan nimble enough to change direction at any moment to take advantage of competitive opportunities?

Is your radar on to the trends and fashions that could open up new doors?

Dee Snider’s show runs on A&E on Tuesday nights this summer.

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Marketing to Masks


People are never exactly who they think they are.  We are all wearing “masks”.  In the branding world, “masks” are the personalities we aspire to be.

White suburban teens are the biggest consumers of hip hop music.  Does gangsta rap really speak to the average white suburban teen?  Nope.  It speaks to their “mask”.

Growing up in the early 80′s, my  spirit was summed up in Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.    But I took it anyway, and went to school and listened to my parents and got pretty good grades.  My mask – the person I aspired to be – was  a teenage rebel who wouldn’t take any sh*t from anyone.

Music speaks directly to our masks.

Jimmy Buffett is a perfect example of an artist who markets to the mask of his fans.  When they listen to his music or go to his concerts, for a few minutes or hours they are beach bums with no cares in the world aside from how the fish are biting and when the next tropical drink will arrive.

Smart brands tap into those masks too.

Harley-Davidson has done a masterful job of convicing middle-aged men and women that they are far more rebellious than they really are.  On weekends they strap on their designer leather gear and fire up their Harley for a jaunt around the neighborhood.  They are law abiding, productive members of society, even if their mask says otherwise.

Jeep markets itself as the perfect vehicle for the generation that lives in the now and wants to seize every moment for adventure and excitement.  Yet most Jeeps never leave the safety of a paved road.

There’s nothing wrong with masks.  They are aspirations, and we all have them.

Rock star brands like Jeep and Harley-Davidson wisely market to our masks.  But they also live up to the brand promise, appealing to both the mask and to the reality.  Even if your Jeep spends most of its time in a heated garage, it is still built to handle the Rubicon Trail.  Likewise, every Harley ridden by a middle-aged CEO on a Sunday run to Dunkin Donuts could just as easily be straddled by a bad-ass Hell’s Angel speeding away from the cops.

For more reading on this topic, consider downloading the free e-book called “Refining Your Brand Personality” by David Freeman. David’s 15 page pdf on the topic helped inspire this post.  It is a free download from Wizard Academy Press and is available here.

And now, enjoy a little 80′s rebellion with Twisted Sister.

Harley Davidson, Jeep, Jimmy Buffett, Twisted Sister, Wizard Academy 141 Comments