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Michael Ryan

February 15, 2011 in NPD, PLM

Radiohead – great band but even better example of a brand

I am so excited I can hardly concentrate.  It’s not because it’s Valentine’s Day and I going out with my fiancée later.  It’s this ….

radiohead launch

This is Radiohead announcing the release of their new album, “The King of Limbs” on Saturday 19th February.  So what have they done to make me so excited? My passion for Radiohead’s music has increased with every bold and innovative move they’ve made.  And let’s make this clear.  I didn’t just hear Radiohead and decide they were the best band in the world immediately.  They won me over. Here are three things that made me love Radiohead.
Kid A and Amnesiac
It takes a very brave band to risk the huge commercial success of albums like The Bends and OK Computer by releasing two very different sounding albums. Apparently unhappy with the sound they had created, Kid A and Amnesiac embraced the electronic music that the band had been listening to and created something that was not only different to anything they had done before but also quite different to anything that was around at the time. The guitarist Ed O’Brien said at the time “If you’re going to make a different sounding record, you have to change the methodology. And it’s scary – everyone feels insecure. I’m a guitarist and suddenly it’s like, well, there are no guitars on this track, or no drums.”
The release of In Rainbows
The album In Rainbows was released through their website with limited press and with no record company support. And, if you wanted it, all they wanted in return was a donation … and you could pay what you wanted. The average donation was £4 showing that, despite the opportunity to get the album for virtually nothing, their fan base was still prepared to pay for a reasonable price for it.
The In Rainbows tour
The band set their production team the challenge of making their world tour carbon neutral. As a result the team worked with their suppliers to create a lightshow using LEDs that used 50% of the energy of their previous tour. The light supplier i-Pix have an interesting case study available from their website about the development of the lights. The company had only 5 months to design and manufacture 206 units for the tour and they made it with 4 days to spare. They put their success down to “down to an exceptionally good team, some serious planning and pushing their subcontractors to the limits!” The case study is at http://www.i-pix.uk.com/gallery/case-studies.htm. There is also a great document available that gives other examples of the how they planned to reduce the environmental impact like using locations with good public transport and changing the way they moved the equipment. It is also available at http://www.i-pix.uk.com/downloads/RadioheadLSIJune2008.pdf. I saw them at the LCCC ground in Manchester and the effect was breath taking. I recommend that you watch it all but, if not, start at the 2m 45s mark. The lights are great and it puts pay to the myth that they are miserable sods who hide behind their guitars. There is a PLM story here. Radiohead are fearless in the products that they create and the way that they create them. They are prepared to innovate at the creative stage and they are not afraid to look sideways at other genres of music to create their unique sound. They also look forward; Kid A bemused a lot of fans when it came out but since it release it’s been hailed as one of the best albums of the Noughties by Pitchfork, Rolling Stone and The Times. They understand their fans and know that it’s not just what they sell that it is important but it is how they appeal to them. Radiohead have made a conscious effort not to follow the typical record company approach and have used technology to help them do that. But they still retain the elements that make them who they are. They do all this with a wider sense of responsibility and their approach is echoed in everything that they do and in the people that they work with. There is an argument that rock stars shouldn’t do this kind of thing but I disagree completely. Radiohead understand that people look to them as examples and the way they act is as important to their fans as their music. What these things typify to me are Radiohead’s innovative approach to artistic integrity and social conscience; an approach that in itself generates loyalty and excitement in their fans. Needless to say, my copy has been ordered and I am waiting impatiently for Saturday to come so I can download the album. I have to wait until May for the physical product to arrive. The decision to not buy it just didn’t enter my mind. So how about your brands? Are people craving your next move or just reacting to your launches?

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