Conquering through change: how Prince Charming became the King of the Wild Frontier.
by Becca Luke, Copywriter
It’s the end of 1979.
Tired of playing the same old venues to the same old crowds, night after night, Adam Ant took a gamble and paid £1000 to former Sex Pistols manager, Malcolm McLaren, for some business advice. Over the following year, Ant would experience betrayal, heartbreak, a questionable makeover — but most importantly — success.
Now let’s jump forward to 1980.
In early January, McLaren convinced Ant’s guitarist, bass player and drummer to ditch him and form a new band.
Come February, he was understandably pissed off.
But little did he know at the time, by October, Adam Ant would be a household name.
For good reasons, and some that maybe weren’t so good.
Whether he was loved or he was just a bit of joke, a household name he was. Armed with a new band and trademark Apache stripe, he couldn’t pop to the shops without herds of girls chasing him down the street. And later in 1981, Antmusic hit number 2 in the charts after peaking at just 48 a year earlier.
This got me thinking.
McLaren may have pinched his band, but after the initial fuss died down and it was no longer pistols at dawn, Ant still got exactly what he wanted. His dream was to sell millions of records — and his previous strategy wasn’t getting him anywhere.
When there’s a stall in your career, hiring someone to point you in the right direction is quite similar to bringing in an agency.
You think you’ve got a killer idea. And you’re pretty sure you know your audience.
But, something isn’t working.
You should be doing better, but you aren’t cutting through the noise of everyone else around you.
And despite every brainstorming session and the hours scratching your head, you still can’t quite put your finger on why.
Like McLaren, agencies can lead you in a direction you’d probably not considered.
And that can be scary.
But if you’re stuck in a rut — whether that’s the 80s punk scene or what you’re selling people just aren’t buying — we sometimes all need reminding that we don’t always know best.
You love your product. It’s your baby. You’ve poured hours into it from conception to creation.
That doesn’t matter.
Ant was many things: a singer, an icon, a dandy highwayman. But brand manager, marketer, public relations expert? Definitely not.
But he was willing to listen. And he was hungry to succeed.
So Ant followed McLaren’s direction. He accepted his new band members and spent hours listening to the artists McLaren told him to find inspiration from. Ant found his new sound, and they worked together to refine it.
When you’re a bit stuck, a good agency will help you find a new approach. We certainly won’t steal your band, but we will help you connect with the people you want: your audience.
Maybe all that’s needed is an Apache stripe to breathe new life into a brand.
But often the problem lies deeper. You may need to find better ways to communicate — both inside and out. And if you’ve had a bad experience with an agency before, it’s easy to raise an eyebrow when someone walks in saying they can fix your problems.
Sometimes, you just have to take the plunge.
Listen to advice. Collaborate. Change the things you don’t want to.
Even if it seems daunting at the time.
I mean, it worked for Adam Ant.
Oh, and if you don’t know what happened to his old band— they went on to become Bow Wow Wow.
You could say it worked out pretty well for everyone.
Ready to get the b(r)and back together?
Take a look at the brand revamp we recently worked on for Brunel’s SS Great Britain. They finished the first year with their new brand 11% over target for visitor numbers and are already ahead of that this year.