Turn and face the strain
ch-ch-Changes” (David Bowie, 1971)
In March 2013, David Bowie, musical innovator, mega-star and rock and roll chameleon, released his 24th studio album. He is 66 years old and The Next Day is the first record he’s put out in a decade. In its first week of release, buoyed by little radio air time and an art house video featuring the the equally avant-garde actress Tilda Swinton (she’s currently sleeping in a glass box as part of an art installation piece at the MoMA), The Next Day shot to #1 on the UK album charts, selling 94,000 copies. It sounds like an impossible feat, but what do you expect from the Man Who Sold the World?
Since hitting the music scene in 1969 with the glam rock gem, “Space Oddity,” Bowie has reinvented himself more times than any musician, period. While Madonna gets props for reimagining her sound and persona with every record she makes, the Material Girl didn’t storm MTV with her torn fishnets, spangled bracelets and faux Marilyn Monroe mole until 1983; by that time, Bowie had already been Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, and the Thin White Duke. Throw in the Berlin Trilogy (1976-79) and his own foray into plastic 80s pop, and keeping track of all Bowie’s musical characters is a tall order. In fact, it’s a lot like keeping all the names straight in one of those Russian door-stoppers.
If you’ve read this far, then chances are you like Bowie. If not, well, you probably still know where we’re going with all this. To reinvent, reimagine and restyle is the essence of content marketing. You have to ch-ch-ch-Change with the times. Writers, content services, small and large businesses—they’re all faced with this daunting task. How do you continue to make your writing or your brand relevant in a fast-paced and continually changing world? Or, on the flip side, if you’ve found a good formula, do you stick with it?
The Rolling Stones still play the same type of bluesy rock and roll they did 40 years ago. Bruce Springsteen still carries the weight of the working class on his shoulders just like he did on his 1973 debut: Greetings From Ashbury Park, N.J. In fact, we can borrow a phrase from the world of content marketing—evergreen—and apply it to those artists. They’re musicians that have a lasting relevance to a certain demographic of customers because they refuse to reinvent the wheel. Five years from now the same fan base will turn out to hear the same Stones songs; the music is evergreen.
David Bowie has rebranded himself for the past 44 years. Sometimes it was successful; sometimes it wasn’t. The music he did with Tin Machine from 89-92 was dreadful, as was a lot of the over-conceptualized electronica he put out in the early and mid nineties. From year to year and decade to decade, content marketing is a rollercoaster ride.
As long as your brand doesn’t end up like Ziggy Stardust’s Rock and Roll Suicide, you gotta’ “turn and face the strain.”
Damon H is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.