We have lost an absolute hero, legendary artist and inspiration.
As the tributes to David Bowie came flying in on Monday, I reflected on how this master of self-reinvention and the soundtrack to my life has influenced my work in branding and marketing. My love affair with Bowie started as an emotional teenager, and he’s been a part of my life ever since for several reasons.
His artistic integrity
Madonna‘s Twitter tribute yesterday said it all: “Talented. Unique. Genius. Game Changer. The Man who fell to Earth.”
Bowie always remained true to himself, honest and an inspiring storyteller. From “Ground control to Major Tom”, the astronaut evolved over the years from “Space Oddity” to “Ashes to Ashes”, while always staying true to himself in his music at that moment in time.
Authenticity and sincerity should be the foundation of all work, and companies will only win the trust of consumers if they embrace this simple guideline.
Be brave and have the courage to take risks! When Bowie embarked on his transformations, it all came from within. The image and music had a depth of feeling so internalised that everyone could feel it.
Brands need to adhere to what they believe in and stand for, then back up their words through their actions. Every employee should believe in the mantra of their company and carry it out in their work.
From working class roots to superstar – there was a Bowie for everyone; the powers to regenerate David Robert Jones in Brixton. Innovation and creativity have become critical skills to being relevant. His appearance was always changing and David Bowie was in a permanent revolution.
Do not let yourself be defined: the world is constantly changing. From the 1960s’ hippy of Space Oddity, through to Ziggy Stardust and the Thin White Duke to his later reincarnation into a soulful rocker, Bowie kept re-inventing his persona and sound.
Be a true original as was Bowie for over six decades. He is the antithesis to the challenges that many brands are facing today in terms of staying relevant.
This ability to stay contextually relevant and reinvent your brand is more important than ever before, as we are all more informed and selective. Customers only respond if you are in the NOW and relevant.
He was always there for me
Brands need to be there when it matters. Bowie was always present in moments that mattered in my life. His music and image were tied to how I felt and what I stood for. I danced and celebrated to “Let’s Dance” and realised it was ok to be an individual, as captured by the thousands of fans paying tribute at the Ziggy Stardust album cover in Brixton.
His work was full of symbolism
Bowie created his own rules and combined innovation with surprise and entertainment across a proliferation of platforms, music, art, theatre, fashion.
His albums and life were full of symbolism. In a world of information overload, having a strong symbolic image and brand is needed to break through the sea of sameness. And for any business to be creatively inspired they need to explore and play.
He branched out with new media.
Bowie was always breaking ground and branching out with new collaborations and media reaching new audiences in new ways.
The Scary Monsters was a pioneering video from Ashes to Ashes, which updated the story of Major Tom.
Then he had surprise duets with Bing Cosby for Little drummer boy and the 1985 duet with Mick Jagger, a cover version of Martha and the Vandellas’ “Dancin’ in the Street”.
Testing new media partnerships largely contributed to his success and should stand as a lesson to brands to explore in their communications.
He was giving
Bowie’s final album Blackstar was released on Friday 8th January: 2 days before his death.
Bowie’s life-long collaborator, producer Tony Visconti, who worked with him on albums stretching from 1969’s breakthrough Space Oddity to his latest LP Blackstar, said on Facebook that Blackstar was Bowie’s “parting gift”.
The significance of the Blackstar’s lyrics and Bowie’s gesture is amazing, as captured in the opening line of the third track “Lazarus”: “Look up here, I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.”
Giving and providing something of genuine value engages and creates connections with your audience. This should be at the heart of our approach to work and play.
Thank you, David Bowie, for inspiring me. You were an extraordinary man.
Rest in Peace.