Those of you who know me personally are rolling their eyes at the title of this post, as I am a huge fan of Australian born musician, Nick Cave*, and am not terribly shy about it. Nick Cave is a dark and celebrated icon of the music underworld, but beyond that, he is a brand, and a very successful brand among his constituents.

When most of us think of a musician as a brand, likely candidates to pop up in your mind are Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Madonna, or Justin Bieber. These are inherently mainstream pop stars, known throughout the world, not only for their music but also for their somewhat controversial personal lives.

Even if you think you’ve never heard of Nick Cave, chances are you’ve encountered his work…whether watching Shrek, Harry Potter, True Blood, or The X-Files where his songs have added texture to the visuals; or watching movies like Lawless or The Proposition, both screenplays which were written in part by him. You won’t read about him in the tabloids, or catch him twerking with a young Miley Cyrus type any time soon, although he does have a penchant for featuring her in compromising positions in his songs and literature.

So where does Nick Cave fit in, and why am I writing this? It’s because his brand’s unique attributes keep him relevant, consistent, and engaging. Nick Cave is defined by his constant reinvention of himself and his music. He is never standing still, always defying himself to deliver a truly unique and evolved experience with each new recording released. Brands need to sustain relevance in the marketplace, but how do they also remain consistent in a constantly shifting environment? Sounds like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it.

While Mr. Cave’s music is continuously evolving, the basic tenets of his ‘brand’ remain consistent. He utilizes a litany of sarcasm, humor, and vivid, sometimes gruesome imagery, tied to mostly heartfelt, genuine sentiments that articulate his unique perspective of this world. When a Nick Cave fan encounters a new song, it is almost like entering one of Joshua Foer’s ‘memory palaces’, as the themes, style and tone have been consistent throughout his career, and I believe this is one of the major reasons why his fan base is so loyal. I’m oversimplifying his brand aura here, but hopefully you get the point.

Another example of an artist as a brand is Prince, who briefly changed his name to an unpronounceable symbol while ‘enslaved’ in a bad record deal. While the name change did affect sales negatively for a while, his fans mostly remained loyal. His upcoming new album release is being greeted with much fan fervor.

So what am I trying to teach all the brands out there? Be memorable by making a lasting impression that resonates with your target audience. This is what successful marketing is all about, whether you’re a musician or an entrepreneur. Create positive, memorable, unique experiences that can’t help but remind people of your company. So when your basic products and/or services need to pivot (which ultimately, they will trust me), your customers and prospects will continue to relate positively and strongly to your brand.

What brands would you evangelize and why? Let us know.

Photo credit: Nikolitsa Boutieros

*Nick Cave the singer known for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Grinderman, and The Birthday Party, not Nick Cave, the Missouri-born sculptor, dancer and performance artist.

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by Joshua Foer

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