The Bowie Brand, 1947-2016
Posted on Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 by Joshua Murray
Much has been, and will be written about the life and career of David Bowie in the days after his death. He was an icon in the entertainment world, and he died too young after his private battle with cancer.
What lives on, and was so strong over his more than 50 year career, is the Bowie brand.
Stop anyone and ask them about David Bowie and they’ll produce an image in their mind, a memory of a Bowie era. Maybe it’s Ziggy Stardust, maybe the Thin White Duke, or any number of other albums or costumes and personas. The truth is, it doesn’t matter which image they have, he’s there.
David Bowie’s brand was built on ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, it didn’t matter what outfit, make-up, or hair style he brought to the table, you knew it was him, and he owned it. He was the hero of outcasts and freaks, the one who stood up and proved that you didn’t have to fit in to be cool, and that you didn’t have to be normal to live a full life. Bowie’s brand invited everyone in, but took extra care of the ones that were often left behind.
But that’s not all.
Entertainment is a world based not just on art, but sales as well. And Bowie sold. The 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee sold an estimated 140 million albums world wide. Add that to movies, concert tickets, posters, books, t-shirts, keychains, mugs, etc., and you end up with hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the Bowie brand. You can look at each Bowie era as a case study in rebranding. Each time he brought with him a reputation of talent and greatness, and added a new look and flare to the product.
Bowie also used his brand for good. Coming out as bisexual in the 70’s, performing at Live Aid in 1985, eschewing gender norms, stereotypes, and obstacles along the way. The gay community saw him as an example of how they could express themselves, just as the social outcasts and loners saw him in this dark rock and roll lyrics.
No man is perfect, David Bowie included. But he did a lot of good in his 69 years on earth, and his brand’s legacy will live on in the memories, movies, and music that he leaves behind.
I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing, will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day