The Bowie factor: a guide for iconic brands

The Bowie factor: a guide for iconic brands

Today’s dispatch comes from the Mash New York studio, as Director Fiona Lovatt draws inspiration from the unmistakable, inimitable brand that is David Bowie.


I wore a David Bowie t-shirt the other day. It drew more comments and interaction than any other single item I’ve ever worn. A visit to the physio ended up with me doing my stretching exercises to a Bowie playlist, and my wait in the airport security queue was brightened by an in-depth conversation with the TSA guy about the brilliance of the David Bowie Is… exhibition where the t-shirt was purchased.

Every conversation was filled with a warmth and enthusiasm for Bowie that was palpable and powerful. It got me thinking. And because I’m a brand strategist, those thoughts were not about what my favourite Bowie song is (Life on Mars) but about the Bowie factor, what it is and what brands can learn from it.

Differentiation | Unique is an over-used word, but one that can be genuinely applied to Bowie. I think we can only imagine now the impact Ziggy Stardust had when he first appeared on TV screens in 1972. Bowie wasn’t afraid of difference and standing out from the crowd. How truly different is your brand? Could you honestly say its unique? If not, how could you make it more so?

The Zeitgeist and Beyond | Bowie’s big break came when Space Oddity accompanied footage of the first pictures of the moon beamed back to earth and shown on the BBC in 1969. He captured the mood of the time, but didn’t stop there. He then hurtled into a future few had imagined with the creation of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, dragging his new-found fans with him for a wild and exciting ride. How are you capturing the essence of the times and giving your consumers a glimpse of the future?

Higher Purpose | The David Bowie Is… exhibition elevates Bowie to the status of artist, not just musician. Its clear creativity and expression were his guiding lights and his higher purpose. From the unused full movie storyboard for Diamond Dogs to the poetry, mime, acting and Kabuki theatre, exuberant creativity oozed from Bowie’s every pore. What’s the higher purpose your brand lives and breathes, that consumer can really feel?

Visual Impact | No-one can deny the visual impact of Bowie on-stage. He knew the value of the visual to increase the impact of the verbal and musical. As social media finally catches up with him, and Youtube and Instagram take the lead, what’s the visual statement you want your brand to make?

Control | Bowie controlled and inputted into every aspect of his brand image, collaborating widely and deeply while still maintaining his artistic integrity. In today’s world of partnerships and co-creation, who can you collaborate with to take your brand to the next level, and as you do, are you clear on the things on which you’ll never compromise?

David Bowie Is… is on at the Brooklyn Museum, NYC until July 15. And you can catch my Bowie t-shirt periodically at the Mash NYC studio – stop by!