Me, Ziggy Stardust 40 years on – 5 lessons for your branding

The 40th anniversary of David Bowie’s iconic album ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ has a particular personal resonance.

It was the first LP that I ever bought. For you the album still today has significance for your branding, personal brndcasting and creativity.

1. Chance for your fans to show their fandom.
In those days buying an LP had a bigger significance than just obtaining some music to listen to.

It was mandatory to parade around with your album; you declined the offer of a record shop bag else no one would see your latest status symbol.

So, in July 1972 Chrisp Street market Poplar saw a 14 year old tank top-wearing Oik, walking round with an LP under his arm.

Nowadays, what ways do you, or your brands enable your fans to show their fandom?
While you may not have a 12” cardboard cover for emotionally insecure adolescents there is still a need to enable people who connect with you and your brand to signify this connection.

2. Noticeability
Bowie’s appearance was outrageous. Androgynous in an age of homophobia you could not avoid noticing Bowie.  (I remember with regret being an impotent onlooker as a mob threw bottles against the first East London Gay Centre in 1976)

Memorability among key audiences is crucial to your brand identity. Fundamental to being  remembered is having Brand Icons – images that are triggered when your brand name is mentioned.

These icons act like coat pegs to hang the rest of your communications on. If you don’t have Icons, you don’t have memorability.

3. Talkability
So you remembered the man, the next thing was to tell your friends. Creating conversations is crucial to your brands’s success.

Looking back Bowie communicated through a number of what I call Brand Platforms – avenues for creating news stories, dialogue and conversations.

These Brand Platform act as strategic branches to hang the rest of your tactical messages on.

Bowies brand platforms in 1972 I would suggest consisted of:
• Debate about sexuality
• Style – new fashion
• Redefining yourself away from the 1960’s
• The Ziggy story – what did it mean?
• Oh, and there was also the music

4. Help your Mavens
Back in 1972 if you knew something about David Bowie your mates didn’t, then you were a person in the know. Assiduous reading of the 3,000 word features in NME and Melody Maker rewarded itself with being in the circle of cool. You had some status.

Little did I realise that I was in fact a Bowie Maven – someone in a network who is seen as a repository of knowledge. For networks to flourish they need to harness and secure the legitimacy of Mavens.

Your Brand Mavens – people who are experts in your domain – need feeding and nurturing. You need a content marketing strategy of targeting different materials for different audiences – and ensuring your Mavens are sharing the optimum information you would like to see out in your infosphere.

5. Use your Brand exposition to seize the moment and create bigger, legendary Brand Truth
Bowie’s first appearance as Ziggy on ‘Top of the Pops’ (mandatory Thursday night viewing in those days) is still talked about today.

Bowie using all the elements of his brand transfixed and transformed an audience of potential fans. The nonchalant putting his arm around the shoulder of guitarist Mick Ronson was electric.

Crucially, Bowie had seized the moment, had aligned all the expectation and buzz and then delivered a further knock-out blow.

In the telling of his story he hade made that story even richer and deeper. That’s how Brand Exposition works – the richness of the character deepens through the telling and performing of the story.

40 years on ‘Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ sounds as good now as it did then.
Ziggy played guitar, and also played a blinding lesson in brand marketing.



2 thoughts on “Me, Ziggy Stardust 40 years on – 5 lessons for your branding

  1. Interested in your memory of watching bottle attack on East London Gay Centre. Tell me more – I lived there at the time!

  2. Thanks for getting in touch.

    I was about 17 or 18 before I went to university and had a job as a ‘Pot Man’ – collecting all the glasses from the pub – whose name escapes me – but was 2 or 3 doors along from the then newly-opened East London Gay Centre.

    One night I witnessed a group of lads throwing glasses and bottles at the building and shouting out homophobic statements like ‘F*cking Queers’, effectively laying siege to it after the pub had closed at 11pm.
    I was outside collecting up what glasses I could to take back into the pub.
    Much to my later shame, I became part of the passive group of onlookers.

    Although there is much sentimentality about the old East End, it was in fact a very conservative, racist community. (I used to be regarded as a ‘Commie’ for my then left-wing views)

    That’s about it really. A lesson for me – and for others – that ‘pretending you don’t see’ and not doing anythng can make you as guilty as those doing it.

    Hopefully the world is a better place now.

    Hope this is of interest


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