Bowie proves that less can be more, and great marketing can still pay off

A friend of mine – or her parents to be precise – had invited the teenage German exchange visit pupils and their British hosts round for a welcome party. We were underage, so it was very well-behaved – lemonade and sandwiches. It was also rather formal; we’d just met our exchange partners, and whist their English was a whole lot better than our German, it still made for somewhat stilted conversation. And I was still recovering from the horror of realising that my designated partner, Carsten, who was a good six inches taller than me, was in fact the shortest of the German “boys”.  Some of their girls were quite cute though, so it wasn’t all bad news...

The television was on quietly in the background. Suddenly someone said,  “look at this” and turned the sound up. We gathered round, to see this weird skinny bloke wearing make-up, in a luminous snakeskin outfit, cuddling a pretty girl on guitar – hang on, that’s not a girl – and singing about a Starman coming down to meet us. A Starman? What is he on about? Twenty English and German teenagers watched in open mouthed amazement for three minutes.

That performance by David Bowie has become a cliché of a cultural moment, but believe me, it was a real event, and it genuinely embedded itself in my memory very firmly. We had never seen anything quite like this before, and the fact that parents hated it made it even better! And the influence that Bowie had on popular music from then for the next ten years or so was immense, and he is one of my all-time idols.

Jumping many years, this week’s big cultural event has of course been Bowie’s first new music  for  years being released. I’ll pass on the review until the album comes out, other than to say I like the new track a lot, but from a business point of view, it was interesting to see just how much publicity it got. Announced on the very serious BBC Radio 4 no less, 4 pages in the Times yesterday! And all for a 66 year old who, let’s remember, hasn’t produced any geat new music for many years.

It was a brilliant piece of marketing, apart from anything else.  In these days when everything seems to be about instant availability, more is better, media is available on tap, (often free), bloggers churn out thousands of words a day, and new bands feel they have to post a new song on Soundcloud or YouTube weekly, then Bowie has proved that scarcity, surprise and a sense of occasion can still make a serious dent in the world’s attention span.

That won’t work for every business of course, but it should make us all think at least – when could less mean more for us too?

Have a good weekend, and our next blog will be published in March 2017.  (Only joking!)

First Voice

  1. Planbee:

    Ha Ha Ha, Hee, Hee, Hee…..

    Or on the other hand perhaps its David Bowie we’ve got to thank for 5 years of glam rock.

Discuss this:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *