Street-fighting brand

Blur v Oasis, Duran v Spandau, Gates v Young. The music world has always thrived on hyped-up rivalries. For those of a certain age, these subsequent pop squabbles are karaoke copies of the first great fan-battle – The Rolling Stones v the Beatles.

Indeed, it’s the one thing the Rolling Stones are best known for, after their remarkable songs, a distinctive Home Counties take on blues-driven rock, a handful of iconic (or ridiculously caricatured) rock personalities, and some awe-inspiring live performances.

OK, so the rivalry is really just one thing the Stones are known for, but it did help me get this piece started. But what the Stones are less well known for is their vital role in the history and evolution of brand management and content marketing.

That may be about to change. In his new book, Campaigns That Shook the World: The Evolution of Public Relations, PR journalist Danny Rogers interviews the Rolling Stones’ former PR man, Alan Edwards.

And Edwards offers a fascinating insight into a surprisingly clinical (some might say cynical) and controlled approach to media and marketing by the band. Perhaps its no surprise for one of the first bands to adopt a logo.

But Mick Jagger, in particular, is identified as being obsessed with the band’s brand image and identity. Edwards, the founder and CEO of the Outside Organisation, claims to have learned more about PR and marketing from Mick Jagger than anyone else he worked with.

“He was great with the media, and obsessed with reputation, brand and commercial development. Mick taught me about interview technique, prep and analysis,” says Edwards.

Edwards describes how Jagger wanted to control the entire marketing mix (even if he didn’t describe it in quite those terms). Significantly, Edwards also explains how Jagger was ahead of his time in terms of owning the band’s content.

From merchandise to logos to live concert film distribution, the band controlled it all. Whether cognizant of what they were doing or not, they recognised that more than just being rock stars and musicians, the Rolling Stones was a merry band of content creators. But more than that, unlike some businesses today, they recognised the value of the content assets they owned.

So, if you ever strutted round your bedroom to Jumping jack Flash or wielded a tennis racket pretending to be Keith Richards, then perhaps it’s time to imitate your childhood heroes once more.

Campaigns That Shook the World: The Evolution of Public Relations by Danny Rogers is out now (Kogan Page).

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