Though I’m a big music fan, I’m not going to pretend I know much about the actual music industry. But I do know a lot about graphic design and have my share of marketing know-how. And I recognize that there’s a lot more to creating an iconic band than great guitar riffs and a good-looking lead singer.
Is a band a brand?
Some bands are just bands. They’re not interested in creating an identity for themselves beyond what their music conveys. Although bands who want to get to the next level know that the business of music is not unlike any other business – it requires the use of marketing, advertising and design. Like anything else, good branding can help distinguish them among the competition. Bands have their own identities. Yet as musicians they’re not just creating music, they’re also shaping a brand persona – whether this was their intention or not.
Does a band need marketing and design?
Just like any other brand, a band needs to find its audience and connect with them. This happens of course through their music. However it is also created by the interactions they have with their audience, their public performances and appearances, their official and unofficial videos on YouTube, their presence on social media and their visual identities.
This is where the marketing and design comes in. Visual identities are created in order to market the music. These identities can end up on every facet of their visual branding – from T-shirts to websites. Some of the most successful bands of all time have made great use of this visual medium.
So putting my music tastes aside, I’ll throw on my designer hat for my picks of some of the best in band branding.
If you google “kiss”, you’ll actually get the band Kiss – which in itself is pretty impressive. Originally known as Wicked Lester, headed by Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley in 1971. But it wasn’t until 1973 that the name change to Kiss came about and a new image was born. The Kiss logo was first developed by their original lead guitarist Ace Frehley, later to be polished by designer and illustrator Michael Doret.
Since then, they haven’t just put it on a few posters and T-shirts – they ran with it. Combined with their trademark make-up and costumes, the entire Kiss brand has been built into a music empire spanning over four decades.
Starting out as cover band The Big Thing in 1967, a name change to The Chicago Transit Authority in 1968 was short-lived due to the threat of legal action from the actual Chicago Transit Authority. By the 1970’s the band became simply Chicago. Their final name logotype was designed by art director John Berg.
That logo has since fronted nearly all of the band’s album covers – taking on a different illustrative style each time – yet remaining true to its original design. It has also earned its place in design history, with a nod from designer and author Philip B. Meggs, in Type and Image: The Language of Graphic Design.
The French duo that in 1992 was originally called Darlin’, after the Beach Boys song, quickly re-branded themselves as Daft Punk after receiving a negative review describing their music as “a daft punky thrash”.
By the latter half of the 90’s Daft Punk were beginning to not only carve out a place for their unique sound but their solid, albeit unconventional, visual brand. Known now for their look as much their music, the two robot-human hybrids have created an image for themselves without ever showing their faces.
These bands, although completely different in musical genre, have at least one thing in common, they have really taken advantage of branding to boost their identities – as have hundreds of other music greats. The music is their product, but they’ve also crafted a marketable image. And each is an example of how consistent branding can help propel any brand, or band, to the next level.
As most know, a good one-off will only give you your 15 minutes. But great branding, effective marketing and strong design can take what is already unique and give it the stage to really stand apart.