You drew them on your notebooks and pencil cases.
Their posters adorned your bedroom walls.
In the 70′s and 80′s, having a great logo was simply part of being a great band. Today a great logo is a bit of a lost art in the music business, probably in large part because a downloaded song doesn’t come with an album sleeve or cassette insert to showcase the artwork. Some contemporary acts use a logo or consistent font to build their brand, but not to the degree that bands did a few years ago.
The AC/DC logo was created in 1976 by graphic artist Gerard Huerta for the cover of the band’s album “Let There Be Rock”. The gothic logo has been part of the band’s visual image ever since, and has inspired many band logos since.
Van Halen’s logo features the stylized VH with wings and visually represents the energy of the band perfectly. Great band logos are able to visually represent audio. It has lasted through three lead singers… David Lee Roth, Sammy Hagar, Gary Cherone, and David Lee Roth again.
Quite possibly the most recognizable band logo on earth is this one, created for the Rolling Stones in 1971. The band had already been well established for 8 years before this logo came along, yet today it feels like the logo has been with the band since day one. The lips and tongue logo does a perfect job of capturing the raunchy irreverence of the band.
There are few fonts as distinct as the famous KISS logo, designed by guitarist Ace Frehley in 1973. The logo was part of the band’s unique strategy of bringing major theatrics to the rock stage with make-up, costumes, and extreme pyrotechnics. The font used for the SS part of the logo invoked Nazi lettering, an association that the band has consistently denied. But even in denial, the rumors contributed to the band’s anti-establishment reputation.
Love or hate their music, there aren’t many bands who have made as good use out of a logo and mascot as Iron Maiden. The British heavy metal band created “Eddie” for their first album. Eddie evolved from a mask to a full character, and was often portrayed in violent scenes on the band’s album covers, on stage, and later in video games. Eddie, along with the Iron Maiden font, became a visual touchstone to the band’s unique sound.
What band do you think had the best logo in rock ‘n roll history?
Whitney Houston is next in line to try recapture the glory of her 1984 to 1994 run of hits. Her new album “I Look To You” hits stores September 1.
This week in New York I had the privilege of being invited to a star-packed Allen Room at the Time Warner Center to hear the new album in advance, and have her legendary collaborator Clive Davis provide a song-by-song commentary.
Going into the evening, there was obvious skepticism. Was Whitney clean of the drugs she had been rumored to be involved in? Was she clear of the bad-girl image she had gained through her failed marriage to Bobby Brown? Was Whitney ready for the new music sound of 2009?
Musically, the album is very, very good. Collaborations with Alicia Keys, Akon, and R. Kelly have given the songs a decidedly progressive sound without losing the essence of her signature sound. They’ve also managed to avoid over-hipping Whitney Houston and trying to turn her into something she genuinely isn’t. That would have been a fatal mistake.
But the success of Whitney’s comeback isn’t entirely about the music. It rests in the story. Having great product is vital, but without a great story the great product could easily go unnoticed.
The songs on this album each share part of her story. Her fall from grace. Her failed marriage. Her struggles with drugs. Her faith. Her family. With each song she admits her mistakes, takes accountability for them, asks for forgiveness, and moves on confidently.
That’s how you rebuild a brand.
That’s how Hugh Grant overcame his scandalous rendezvous with a prostitute. He went on The Tonight Show and owned up, apologized, and moved on.
That’s how Tylenol recaptured its lead in the pain-reliever market after the 1981 poisoning of the products. They addressed it head on, voluntarily pulled all of their products, developed new tamper-proof packaging, and moved on.
I can’t say with certainty whether Whitney Houston will succeed with her comeback, but I can say that her odds are much better thanks to some very smart brand rebuilding moves.
When his luggage came off the conveyor belt broken, Dave Carroll wasn’t surprised. As the plane was boarding hours earlier he had witnessed baggage handlers at O’Hare Airport tossing his luggage – a $3500 Taylor guitar – around the tarmac.
Dave brought his concerns to three United employees, who couldn’t help him.
Over the course of a year, Dave chased different departments and different people at United in an attempt to have someone take responsibility for breaking his guitar.
And when he got to the top of the United Airlines food chain… the answer was “no”.
So Dave Carroll did what any musician would do when faced with an emotional situation. He wrote a song. It’s called “United Breaks Guitars”, and as of this writing about 3 million people have viewed it in one week alone.
With 3 million people now aware of Dave’s situation, suddenly United Airlines wants to fix the situation.
Dave is a rock star. Literally. Dave is in the popular Canadian band Sons of Maxwell.
But Dave is a rock star in the branding sense as well, because he has demonstrated clearly one of the principles of branding like a rock star in the digital age: accountability.
Brands today need to be accountable to their customers in ways never before imagined, because thanks to the internet, the big company or brand no longer has all the power.
Disgruntled customers can post on message boards, form Facebook groups, create blogs and websites, and post their home made videos on sites like YouTube.
And if the disgruntled customer hits a nerve with their message, as Dave did, their video can be seen by 3 million people in one week.
Brands today need to take part in the conversation and interactivity, because it will happen with or without them. Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and other emerging technologies need to play a key role in any brand’s evolution.
If you ignore the digital conversation, someone like Dave Carroll will catch you off guard.