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What you can learn about branding from Metallica!

Last Updated 2022/04/22

On 18th June 2019, I went with my wife and son to watch Metallica play live at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, UK. Separately, Craig, our Development Manager, went to see them (and meet them in person!) as well. Along with around 60,000 other Metallica fans, we watched, danced and sang as they put on an awesome show. But what can this tell us about branding? In this article, I will explain how to apply the lessons of a 38-year-old rock band, and others in the music industry, to your branding and marketing strategies.

Find your own alternative

One - The first thing to understand about Metallica is that they are an "alternative" band. They are not part of mainstream pop culture, as say, Ariana Grande. They don't appeal to most people. Their lyrics cover some macabre subjects, and the guitars are heavy. However, they have been going for nearly 40 years, and they are still filling stadiums, so, they must be doing something right. The lesson here is that your product doesn't need to be for everyone. In fact, by purposely being different, and definitely so, you can attract an audience that identifies with your different. By appealing so specifically to a group of people, your brand can be very purposeful and precise. No-one calls Metallica a middle of the road, vanilla band. Have you ever heard anyone say that their favourite genre of music is middle of the road? People may listen to that type of music, but they are probably not die-hard fans. They may love the beautiful music and beautiful lyrics, but they don't get the band logo tattooed on their arm. By being clear of who your tribe are, you can have a strong brand message, and focus your attention towards them specifically. Even people who consider themselves to be different, counter-culture, or alternative, like to be with their tribe of others who are as diverse as they are. Your brand can even put people off from your offer, as Metallica does to the vanilla pop fans.

Sell your brand not a product

Two - The second lesson to take from Metallica is that you sell your brand, not your offer. If Metallica were just about music, then they would make their money from streaming, downloads, CDs and live shows. If you are a Metallica fan, you can buy t-shirts, drinkware, raincoats, leather jackets, backpacks, jewellery, books, posters, bottle openers, car mats, drum sticks, deck chairs, and the list goes on. Does Metallica make the best drum sticks or even car mats? It doesn't matter. They are Metallica car mats! You are (apparently) a little bit more metal (on-brand) if you drive around with your Metallica brand car mats blasting Enter Sandman, and nothing else matters. If your business has a strong brand not tied to a single product or service, then you can transition into other areas. You must be careful as you do this as you can put your brand at risk if you make the wrong move. It is sad but true that many companies are only in it for the money, and will lend their brand to anything to make quick cash. Can you imagine Metallica collaborating with Starbucks on a branded Pumpkin Spice Latte (The thing that should not be)?

Collaborate to grow

Three - The third lesson to take from Metallica about their brand and marketing is that they collaborate. They do this with both other artists and also with their fans. They have played with artists from Marianne Faithfull to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. Each of these projects helps to bring their music to another audience, and for their current audience to experience their favourite band in a slightly different way, keeping things fresh. Also, they get exposed to the work of the collaborators, introduced to them by their trusted old friends. They also collaborate with their fans, whether or not they realise. It would be unkind to say that Metallica is the master of puppets as the fans are willing volunteers. They wear Metallica t-shirts, they play Metallica to their friends, they get tattoed with band imagery, and they promote the band across social media. What is more, they often pay for the privilege to do this themselves. Metallica has true advocates of their brand. They have their tribe of loyal followers, and they work together with them to drive brand Metallica forward.

Keep at it

Four - The final lesson to take from Metallica is that it takes commitment. You don't get to be a 38-year-old band by flaking out at the first hurdle. You need to drive forward with passion, no matter what stands in your way (they lost a band member in a horrific accident), you need to stay true to your vision and mission.

Conclusion

If you believe in your brand, align everything that you do as a business through with your vision as an organisation, and stick with it - great things will happen. Fade to Black. SwiftCase helps thriving businesses, swamped by growing demand, automate and organise, to focus on what matters — loved by 1000s of users across Insurance, Finance, Legal, Service & Contractor sectors.

Adam Sykes