If brands can learn anything from David Bowie's legacy
It’s now just over 48 hours since Britain woke up to discover one of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st Century had sadly passed away. As is the standard practice, tributes have been pouring out from a range of sources- whether that’s major broadcasters and newspapers or your Facebook friends- although in this instance this has happened with rarely-seen levels of emotion and fervour.
Which isn’t particularly surprising. David Bowie was, quite clearly, amongst the most innovative, expressive, varied and groundbreaking pop musicians the world has ever been lucky enough to have. And his legacy goes well beyond that, too.
Labyrinth, Little Red Riding Hood, and Extras represent just a handful of examples wherein he crossed over into film and television, meanwhile collaborations with the likes of Philip Glass show his interest in sounds far removed from those most will be familiar with. Add to this his overall relationship with the wider arts, efforts in the cause of breaking down barriers and lines in gender and sexuality, daring to ask us to ask ourselves whether linear differences are really as significant as we are told, and the way his development of alter-egos showed how identity can be and is in a state of perpetual flux, and his impact on society becomes even more crucial.
Put simply, then, by refusing to stay still, even for just a second, he belonged to a small and arguably dwindling number of individuals who genuinely contribute in a positive way towards creativity and culture as a whole.
Perhaps conversely, considering his enviable success, Bowie was also an incredibly private individual. Interviews with him are comparatively few and far between, but when they did appear two things were always clear; he made these instances of exposure count in a huge way, and would always come across as incredibly down to Earth, something that’s not usually present in platinum-selling singers, let alone people who form identities that could perhaps best be described as wonderfully alien. Hence this recent homage on the satirical news site, News Thump.
In many ways then our headline here could be seen as rather anti-Bowie. Although the man was undoubtedly his own brand, he was also adverse to forced branding and salesmanship. His music and work was concerned with messages, thought-provocation and emotional intensity. That he was so utterly talented is the real explanation for why nobody could stop themselves from buying his work whenever new material was released.
Nevertheless, this isn’t to say we can’t respectfully relate his oeuvre to the experience brands. And in doing so there’s one fundamental lesson that can be learned from this life dedicated to furthering the arts, cut tragically short. We must persevere and strive to develop fresh ideas, to re-write the book, and tear up the status quo in order to realise concepts that will truly last in the memory. Remaining sedentary, refusing to take risks, and simply striving to be part of the pack wandering down a road more-travelled are options none of us should consider, because when all’s said and done everyone is creating their own legacy, and a legacy is nothing if it cannot be recalled by others.