Rock and Roll

I had the opportunity to catch a true rock & roll legend when he played a local coffeehouse recently: Roger McGuinn, the multi-talented founder of the Byrds—the band that virtually invented "folk-rock" in the 60s with hit songs like Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man," and Pete Seeger's "Turn, Turn, Turn." McGuinn is currently on a mission to promote and preserve many of the great American and British folk songs by featuring his recordings of them on his "Folk Den," where you can download them for free.

But McGuinn's performance got me thinking how successfully the Byrds BRANDED themselves in their glory days of pop superstardom (before McGuinn took the band in a country rock direction). Few of the top bands over the years have created such a radically unique sound AND look. The Byrds' signature was McGuinn's "jingle-jangle" electric 12-string guitar sound and their ethereal harmonies, but they ALSO had that "8 Miles High" cosmic-cool image (highlighted by McGuinn's granny glasses). Their Brand Promise? "We will [fill in the blank] your mind!" (I can still smell the incense.) Too many modern bands create their brand exclusively through their music. But the design-savvy Byrds had the mysterious stage presence, trippy album covers, and psychedelic logo working for them, too. Check out their "Fifth Dimension" album jacket.

So are there lessons here if you want your brand to be a star? How about (1) distinguish the brand on as many "dimensions" (and sensory levels) as possible, and of course (2) "think design." Maybe we can all learn something from McGuinn and the Byrds.