Branding the Stones

We’ve been talking about branding in the last few Business Updates and as Plato said, “the example teaches.” With that in mind we thought we’d take a look at some of the most famous and successful logos over the last few decades.
The first logo I’d like to discuss is the famous lips and tongue. It was suggested to me by one of our subscribers, Tim Mehloff, that the Rolling Stones “lips and tongue” logo would be an interesting case study. As Tim put it, “I mean, how many rock and roll bands had a logo back then?” More importantly the lips and the tongue came to mean something far more than just the Rolling Stones. It came to stand for a generation weaned on rock and roll. It also came to symbolize the party-like, free attitude that dominated the 60s and early 70s.
Where did the logo come from?
It all started at a party in New York in 1969 when Andy Warhol casually mentioned to Mick Jagger that it would be amusing to have a real zipper on an album cover. A year later, Jagger proposed the idea for Sticky Fingers, the first release on the new Rolling Stones label.
Album packager Craig Braun had also suggested releasing the album in a clear plastic jacket with heat-sensitive liquid crystals inside — “so you could make your own little Joshua Light Show,” he says — as well as with a mammoth foldout cover of Jagger’s castle in the sound of France. But Jagger knew what he wanted: The packaging of Sticky Fingers proved the Rolling Stones had not lost their gift for outrageousness and, as their first post-Altamont studio album, very shrewdly moved the Stones away from what Braun calls “the evil thing” and into a more sexual mode.
Sticky Fingers
Sticky Fingers also debuted the famous Stones logo: a caricature of Jagger’s lips and tongue. The heavily merchandised image was soon incorporated into pendants, key chains, belt buckles and even tattoos.
Warhol took the cover shot; though many assumed the model was Jagger, it has often been rumored to be a hanger-on at the Factory, Warhol’s studio, named Joe Dallesandro. Then Braun realized there had to be an extra layer of cardboard to protect the record from the zipper; that layer features another Warhol shot of a different man, possibly the twin brother of Warhol’s “boyfriend” and assistant Jed Johnson, this time in his jockey shorts.
But it turned out that during shipment the zipper would press into the album stacked on top of it (invariably damaging “Sister Morphine”); Atlantic Records threatened to sue Braun for all the damage. Braun came up with the solution; pull down the zipper before the album was shipped — then it would dent only the label. Braun never did figure out how to keep Sticky Fingers from scratching other album covers.
You can brand anything!
While this story may be interesting, it proves that you can brand pretty much anything. I can think of no more than 4 or 5 rock and roll groups that actually have logos even today, not to mention memorable, influential ones. But this is true for most products and services. Few are meaningful let alone memorable. But it doesn’t take a rocket scientist or marketing guru to create a brand. All you need is honesty, creativity and a viable, interesting product. A good brand creates attraction and tells a story that’s worth telling. A good brand “takes a risk” in the story it tells.
Think about your own company, product or service. Whet male’s it interesting? How can you be brutally honest in the way you communicate its meaningfulness? How can you visually communicate this in a creative way? And just like that…. You have your brand!
 Thanks goes to the web site: for providing their fabulous historical input and to our subscriber Tim for his idea for a retrospect on the Stones logo.

Posted in Marketing Strategies, Uncategorized.

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