Here is an unpublished article from a professional acquaintance of mine that I wanted to share.
The Punk Rock Brand
By Darryl Ohrt, Visual Intelligence Agency
Fans crowd around the stage, mesmerized, as the bare-chested singer writhes in broken glass. It's the early 70's, and the bleeding rock star is Iggy Pop. Fast forward to today. Iggy's anthem "Lust for Life" is the background track to one of the most successful cruise line ad campaigns in the world. Iggy Pop selling family vacations may seem like a career-ending decision, but that's punk power at its best.
Punk rock is more than music, it's a life philosophy. Punks reject what society considers the norm; they question authority and they fight to be different and make a difference.
I was a punk rocker from the early 1980's. But after shaving off my last Mohawk and meandering through my 30's with a wife, kids and a house, I figured my punk rock days were long gone. Then I started a design and branding firm...
How does punk philosophy relate to branding?
Within the punk rock credo of my youth were the seeds of a larger business philosophy. Ten years in a boutique design and branding firm has shown me how valuable the punk rock attitude is to a successful brand plan. The brands that consistently rise to the top have questioned everything that's been done before. Adding "X" to a razor's name? Just a lame attempt at buying an audience with weak, non-genuine branding. Inventing a razor for shaving heads? Totally punk rock.
Who are the current punk rock brands and why?
Punk rock brand philosophy exists in nearly every successful product or service. These brands break through the clutter, present themselves in unique ways and generate the kind of fans that create buzz. When a businesses inspires people to talk about it, get emotional about it and believe in it, that's punk rock. Some recent examples:
Burger King. Before the Subservient Chicken came along, burger ads and burger joints mellowed in the mediocrity of general family advertising. No wonder their campaigns were failing. With a target audience that was primarily male and in their 20's and 30's - the same audience as beer advertising – the king needed a makeover. Their agency, Crispin, Porter & Bogusky introduced Subservient Chicken, the freaky king mascot, and "big, buckin' chicken" to position BK as a burger joint that does things differently.
Google. Prior to the launch of Google, search engines (and specifically industry leader Yahoo) had become cluttered pages of content. Google questioned the conventional wisdom of how search was presented, and turned the search industry upside down. They've since created a unique company that's hell-bent on product development, and they do it all without "being evil."
Apple. This is a brand that has questioned everything, and come up on top as a result. Music compressed below the quality of current compact discs and fit into a stylish white box? You bet. Computers that feel like artwork and become conversation pieces for their owners? Absolutely. Through hard core product development, Apple has emerged as the lanky looking kid with a Mohawk in the computer and technology industry. They're different and proud of it.
How can your brand become punk rock?
Target early adopters.
It's okay if at first only a handful get it. In fact, your product's low-profile can be a selling point during the early days. Eventually, everyone else jumps on the bandwagon. REM, U2 and Sum41 were all unknown alternative bands. Geico, GoDaddy and Google were all unknown brands. Now they're all household names.
Make people stand up and take notice.
Sport an 18-inch Mohawk. Or the business equivalent in your marketplace.
Support your fans.
Fan culture can make or break a band. Or a brand. Let your fans become a part of the experience. Celebrate fandom, and put your fans up on stage with your brand.
Never sell out or it's over.
Fans know the real deal. So do your customers. An audience will only last as long as your brand's reputation. NHL? Sold out. Dell's exploding laptops and frustrating customer service? Sold out. But the Beastie Boys - who started as a punk band, have managed to evolve their brand image and their product - while keeping their fans signed on.
Don't be a poser.
Punk rockers – and the people who buy your products – can smell a fake. Apple has managed to maintain a loyal fan base, even after the tremendous success of the iPod. They're earliest fans are still devotees - because they've kept it real.
It's ok to be controversial.
Scream loud. Pierce your cheek. Your brand will never stand out from the masses if you stay meekly within your industry norms. You won't always be right, and you'll create a few enemies in the process, but in the end, you'll foster discussion, attention, and fans that celebrate your achievements.
Be the revolution.
Punk rockers are change agents. Learn from the brands that have questioned everything and ask yourself: what can my brand can do to turn our industry upside down?
Most importantly, understand that your brand can't be a punk rock brand if it's not genuine. It's not about putting on the trappings of punk culture. To be a real punk rock brand, you've got to evaluate every aspect of your company, and honestly assess how it stands up to the punk rock credo. It's not as easy as licensing an old punk song for your TV spot. Brands that are punk have reinvented their operations, their products, their branding and their customers. They have a "Lust for Life."