Punk and disorderly: The enduring impact of punk culture on brands today

Stewart Hodgson
May 9, 2018 · 6 min read

The 70s in the UK were a complicated time, but they did help to introduce a brand-new genre for fashion and music: the era of punk. Punk was unfiltered, intense, and raw — a way for the people of the day to stand up against the oppressive and outdated nature of the world they lived in.

While punk never totally became a mainstream movement, it was a concept that almost instantly earned the hearts and minds of a loyal cult following. Punk became a sanctuary for the misunderstood and the marginalised.

However, you feel about punk today, it’s hard to ignore the impact this movement has had on the world we live in. The residual and ongoing effects of #PunkCulture are everywhere — in our politics, music, and fashion. In fact, today’s companies could even learn a thing or two about creating a disruptive brand from the punk icons of the past.

Here, I’m going to look at the history of punk, and what it means to the modern brand. It’s time to channel your inner punk.

The origins of punk: Getting to the bottom of punk culture

#Punk started off as a cultural movement. It was an artistic way for people in the 70s to express their angst with volume and creativity. Although, in recent years, the idea of “punk” has become more commoditised through stadium rock bands like Green Day, the origins of punk are surprisingly pure.

As grimy as this movement might appear to be on the surface, punk was all about making an authentic, and raw impact on a highly over-produced world. It was something that flew in the face of the disco music and hair metal bands of the day.

Of course, it’s difficult to translate the idea of punk into something that’s clean and easy to understand. The very nature of punk is messy — right down to the arguments that people have about where it began. Most circles agree that the punk rock era began in the United States, inspired by the garage rock sub-culture. New York gave birth to bands like the and The Ramones, before the ideologies of punk came over to the UK.

While the United States was slower to cast off the hippie styles of the 70s, London was eager to embrace something new, with the help of icons like Vivienne Westwood. Within a matter of months, the streets of the UK changed drastically, with doc martens, ripped shirts, and mohawks on every corner. Since then, punk has continued to transform the world as we know it. While you may not see the punk makeup of the 70s frequently today, the underlying nature of punk lingers in every person, group, or brand who stands up against something, or for something.

Punk branding: What can companies learn from punk?

So, what can modern companies learn from the #HistoryOfPunk?

Punk wasn’t just a fashion movement or a music genre. To the lovers of the movement, it’s a mindset — a religion, and a way of living. It’s about being true to yourself, standing up for what you believe in, and walking in the opposite direction to people who simply do as they’re told.

The punk ethos appears within every disruptive brand who decides to take what the industry is doing and turn it on its head. While the average punk might turn their nose up at the thought of relating to something as commercial as branding, companies today could learn a thing or two from the mothers and fathers of punk.

1. Be authentic

Today’s customers don’t trust corporations. In fact, you might say that the consumer world is becoming increasingly punk, as people refuse to buy things just because they’re told to do so. Your clients want to feel a connection with you before they hand over their money, and if you want to create that relationship, then you need to start with authenticity.

Your audience can spot a fake company from a mile off. If you take a leaf out of the book of the punk revolution, and be indisputably raw and transparent with your customers, on the other hand, then you could earn their loyalty.

2. Stand for something

Standing for something is inherently #PunkRock. The punks of the 70s started their movement because they wanted to stand up to the injustices of the day. They were sick of being overlooked and underserved.

Today’s customers — particularly millennials — connect more strongly with companies that are willing to stand up on behalf of something that matters. If your brand can show that it has similar values to its clients, you can create a following that’s just as passionate as the punk rock groupies of decades passed.

3. Stand out

Finally, it’s safe to say that people from the punk movement never tried to fit in. These weren’t the kids that used to shrink back in their seats and wear neutral colours to school. Punk is loud, it’s visceral, and it’s impossible to ignore. That’s exactly what a brand should be too. Whether it’s with your logo, your content, or even your marketing materials, companies should always look for a way to separate themselves from the crowd.

Of course, while the punk culture had a distinguished look — it wasn’t just about aesthetics. Punk was an experience — a feeling, and an emotional connection. Don’t make your image your entire brand identity, use it as a platform for your audience members to get behind.

The power of the punk

We only need to look at companies like #BrewDog to see examples of punk in the modern era. While there’ll always be an argument about what punk really means, most people agree that it’s all about doing something unique — flying in the face of the pre-established and making a statement.

There’s so much more to the #PunkDesign than most people think. From a primal new musical scene, punk has emerged as a powerful part of our cultural history, and it continues to have an impact on the world today. To learn more about the history of punk, check out my complete overview, which explores the origins of punk.

Whatever it means to you, punk is unique, raw, and authentic. It makes an impression, and it’s impossible to ignore. In a world that’s over-saturated and frequently over-commercialised, don’t just be another company in a crowd.

Be real. Be powerful. Be punk.

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Stewart Hodgson

Written by

Marketer and co-owner of creative agency Fabrik Brands, London. An acute interest in branding, naming, music, gadgets and sharing content.

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