The Beatles — an evolving brand
The recent sad passing of Sir George Martin reminded me of a very famous brand that went on quite a journey, of which Sir George was a large part — The Beatles.
The Beatles are universally-known and loved, and their story is a part of British and global culture, but let’s consider The Beatles the brand.
Using business terminology we might call the ‘product’ The Beatles produced to be music. Although we know they did other things, such as make movies, music was pretty well a constant as what we would term their ‘product’. However, these four guys (and the others around them like Sir George) were innovators, and not just in the music they created but in the brand they evolved.
Like many bands of the 60s The Beatles started out as a rock and roll band. They took their references from 50s skiffle and rock and roll, from the US and Europe. The first evolution was the move from rough-and-ready rockers to more stylish and professional ‘pop’ stars.
They developed a more ‘pop’ sound and look that would appeal to a wider market, to the point where it could be argued they became a kind of cultural forerunner to ‘boybands’. This ‘pop’ period saw the famous Beatles ‘moptops’ and smart, matching suits. They had a distinctive look, and sound, and they became huge. Their cheeky, likeable style had come to the fore and they were loved by audiences everywhere.
By the mid-60s their rebellious side was showing itself, with them beginning to openly talk about drug-use, which saw public opinion shift. And with it the brand evolved again. The Beatles had moved away from their early rocker and subsequent pop star nature, and had become a much more complex entity and brand. In releasing Rubber Soul, McCartney said ‘We’d had our cute period, and now it was time to expand’. They started causing controversy, intentionally or not, with Lennon even saying they were ‘more popular than Jesus’.
The evolution didn’t stop there, in fact it gained pace and the band became more experimental, abstract, daring. They took in new influences, created music in even more diverse musical styles from psychedelia to vaudeville, and became increasingly involved with the issues of the day. The individual members developed stronger individual brands and reference points, which eventually saw them clash and break up the band.
The Beatles created fantastic music but they were never afraid to innovate. In fact, over anything else innovation is at the core of The Beatles brand. As their own reference points changed, as the wider environment around them changed, so too did they.
The Beatles were huge, but they were never afraid to develop and evolve in order to better reflect where they were at now.
When considering a brand — be that a business, organisation, person, globally-famous band — in order to remain relevant and appealing in your current environment you need to embrace change.
The Beatles brand meant a thousand different things at different times in its evolution, but that is a part of its success and relevance to people. The Beatles were innovators, and truly were (and still are) a brand in process.
(RIP Sir George Martin)