That’s the model brands like The Rolling Stones and One Direction followed to such dizzy heights. Likewise Hobgoblin ale and Tony Blair on their respective rises to prominence. Sometimes being the very antithesis to your competition is the only way to get ahead, representing everything that they do not and finding an entirely new emotional connection with the audience.
The Rolling Stones juxtaposed the clean cut, gentlemanly, boy-next-door nature of their Liverpudlian counterparts, The Beatles. Jagger V McCartney, Richards V Lennon, Rock V Pop. They embodied their point of difference, their identity, the thing that people could connect with. A decades long superstar brand was born.
Similarly, One Direction’s clean-cut, friendly, boy-next-door image cast them in a very different light to their American musical counterparts who were less approachable, less relatable. One Direction became a band which teenagers could identify with, turning the nature of American musicians into the monster. This down-to-earth identity has been utilised by other Brit’s in America too, with Ed Sheehan being perhaps the biggest exponent of the relatable image, and reaping vast rewards as he continues to do so. To prove this is not just a British trait though, American musicians have also begun following the example set by others; Shawn Mendes, for one, name checked Ed Sheeran when describing his inspiration in music.
Trouble had been brewing for the ale industry after the emergence of Lager from Europe and US. Traditional brewers in England were finding that consumers were turning to the lighter, fizzy alternative and losing their taste for what they saw as the past. Some brands failed, some re-modelled, and some repositioned themselves in the eyes of the consumer. Hobgoblin ran a marketing campaign which goaded beer drinkers into trying Hobgoblin ale: ‘Afraid you might taste something, Lagerboy?’ read the advert. Men across Britain looked twice and asked themselves if they really were the sissy Lagerboy type that can’t handle the taste of a real drink. In a brilliant marketing play, Hobgoblin successfully recast its identity and in so doing changed the perception of ale in consumers minds, by demonising the tasteless Lager and highlighting ale’s real taste. The results have followed and we have since seen the emergence of Microbrewing in UK.
Tony Blair ended 18 years of Conservative dominance, and subsequently became the first post-war Labour Prime Minister to win three consecutive terms by becoming the opposite of the very thing he led. Tony Blair did all he could to project a fresh identity for the Labour party to the point which he outrightly rejected the beliefs of the left and embraced Thatcherite economics, demonising the beliefs which he had previously stood on in the process and creating an entirely new brand. People could identify with this new image in a way they had not a politician for some time. Did they know they had just created pop politics in doing so? Boris Johnson has followed in Blair’s pop politician wake stayed, staying at the top so long and at times experiencing unrivalled levels of popularity, by presenting a strong personality (identity) for people to recognise and identify with.
The recurring theme in each of these examples is that they each projected a clear identity that resonated with their carefully selected audeinces. Tony Blair embodied modern Britain, while others found their own niche. Brands must find a space for themselves in the market, and sometimes that involves forgetting everything you thought you knew about what an audience likes.