Band brand experiences
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Band brand experiences

We love these band brands. But what makes band brands so powerful and enduring? What lessons can corporate brands learn from the band brand experience?

By Kim Myhre

Over the past few years there have been a number of exhibition experiences that feature the work and lives of some of our most important rock bands. The David Bowie exhibition at the V&A, the Rolling Stones Exhibitionism at Saatchi Gallery and the Pink Floyd exhibition at the V&A called Their Mortal Remains are recent examples of band experiences and a testament to the power of band brands.

It’s no surprise that these exhibition experiences are popular and very successful. The design and production values of the Rolling Stones and David Bowie exhibitions were amazing. They created brand story-worlds where the participant was completely immersed in an environment and narrative that was engaging, moving and memorable.

We love these band brands. But what makes band brands so powerful and enduring? What lessons can corporate brands learn from the band brand experience?

The Madonna Effect

All of these exhibition experiences are structured around a journey of the brand’s re-invention over time showcasing the different ‘periods’ of the band’s output over the years. Each period offers the band’s interpretation of this time in history. It’s powerful as it mirrors our own journey and re-invention through the years. It makes the experience very personal.



The Madonna Effect is a concept that describes how enduring brands re-invent themselves at the top of their success curve. Madonna obviously did this and so have many other successful band brands including the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Prince and David Bowies. David Bowie’s continual re-invention from Space Oddity to Ziggy Stardust to Plastic Soul demonstrated the power of the re-inventing brand experience. Some of the most successful corporate brands have also mastered the Madonna Effect like IBM, Apple, GE to name just a few.

The ability to re-invent your brand experience, to stay one step ahead of the continually changing world, is key to enduring brand success and can create a personal bond with your brand fans as they navigate the same world changes.

Making memories

The most powerful brand experiences create memories. I can still remember watching the Beatles for the first time on the Ed Sullivan Show. When I hear Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone, I am back in my 1969 VW Beetle – my first car and when I hear Ruby Tuesday I can smell the patchouli. Anyway, you get the idea. Experiencing memories during the exhibition, created a powerful personal journey. It took me back in time, in a way that I felt personally connected to the brand.

Similarly the most successful corporate brand experiences create positive memories. Remember the Apple ad where the sledgehammer goes through the screen? Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone in his black turtleneck and jeans, or the first time you visited an Apple Store? These are all iconic memories that changed our world.

Heroes and fans

At the end of the day we look up to our favourite band brands as heroes. We really like what they do, what they stand for and we want to be associated with them in spite of the band’s ups or downs or personal scandals. We’re fans. I’m a David Bowie fan. That’s part of who I am as a person and I know lots of other people like me who are also fans. We share a common experience in our fandom and can easily recount minute details of the last time we experienced David Bowie at Hammersmith Odeon or the Rolling Stones at Wembley. These are powerful and enduring tribal connections. The kind of connections that corporate brands dream about.