David Bowie 1947 – 2016: Inspiring a NEW generation
As the world mourns David Bowie, who passed away yesterday at the age of just 69, a number of recurring adjectives have dominated news reports and social media tributes: inspirational, influential, pioneering, genius, hero, visionary, legend, icon.
There is no doubt that David Bowie was one of the world’s most iconic stars and it got me thinking about how many of the words used to describe him crop up within our industry on a day-to-day basis. ‘Hero products’, ‘iconic packaging’, ‘pioneering technology’, ‘influential campaigns’ and ‘inspirational messaging’ are all terms we, our clients and stakeholders use in meetings, brainstorms and choose as KPIs. I argue that using these highly evocative words so casually in day-to-day communication has lessened their significance and led us to forget their true value.
The casual overuse of such terms has raised an incredibly high bar, over which creative agencies and brand managers are expected to catapult product after product into the waiting arms of consumers, through communications campaigns intended to get them flocking to brands. But how many of us really think about whether our work will achieve iconic status or be labelled a truly innovative idea?
As brand builders, we owe it to David Jones, the young boy from Brixton who dedicated his life to
ch-ch-ch-ch-changing the face of popular culture, to take a step back and look at how we are contributing to the cultural landscape and how we can really make a mark. We also owe it to our clients to constantly aim for ‘Bowie-esque’ stardom, yet accept that in order to reach legendary status there is a long journey before reaching that end goal.
What yesterday’s tragic events really got me thinking is whether we have become too focussed on quick-wins and transient ideas. What did the young boy from Brixton set out to achieve? If he had written himself a brief, what would it have demanded? He was not looking for overnight success or Warhol’s ‘15 minutes of fame’. Instead, he successfully grew his brand over a 40-year career that involved taking risks and pushing creative boundaries. He was so far ahead of his time; he perfectly predicted the impact the internet would have on how we consume music, long before anyone else did.
In order to leave a legacy that is anywhere near as great as the one and only, David Bowie, one of the world’s most influential influencers; we owe it to ourselves to constantly fight against complacency and most importantly, ‘normality’.