Tortured by your brand

Iron Maiden, "Piece of Mind"

Iron Maiden's branding didn't drive Eddie mad.

Heading uptown from Wall Street on the 2 Train after work earlier this month, I spotted a man wearing an Iron Maiden T-shirt. It had been years since I saw someone proudly sporting this cotton badge of honor to represent the veteran British heavy metal band. The black shirt, pointy red logo and Eddie—the grisly zombie mascot—stood out wonderfully among the suits and ties coming from the Financial District.

While not a big fan of the group, I’d always been intrigued by the ghoulish imagery and impressed by the iconography of the logo.

The man stepped off of the subway ahead of me at Penn Station, where the frequency of different Iron Maiden shirts drastically increased as I got closer to the Long Island Railroad tracks.

Iron Maiden was scheduled to play that night right above at Madison Square Garden. And the troopers gathered below.

Members of the T-shirt-wearing cadres modeled different interpretations of Eddie from different album covers—15 studio, nine live and five compilations—throughout the band’s 35-year career. The mascot has been a lobotomy recipient, a puppeteer, a pharaoh, a futuristic assassin and, on Maiden’s latest release, a galactic traveler. One young fan even wore an Eddie mask. I’m not sure what phase he depicted, but he looked a little too gruesome to ask.

But the logo has remained pretty much unchanged. Through many lineup changes, sound evolutions and different versions of Eddie, it’s the one constant element of the Iron Maiden experience—well, besides founder and bassist Steve Harris.

Businesses in a variety of industries can learn a few lessons from these successful old metal heads. Inside the confines of your company, it’s really easy to get sick of your logo, color schemes and slogan; you see it everyday, all day—complete saturation. But the moment you become bored with your materials, someone in the outside world is exposed to your brand for the first time.

What would’ve happened if Iron Maiden decided to change their visual brand on a whim because they were just over it?

What if Iron Maiden changed labels and the brand?

New look, same heavy sound.

5 Responses to “Tortured by your brand”
  1. Donna says:

    When i was in NY a few years ago, they were playing at MSG. It was a sea of eddies. I saw people from thier sixtys down to 10 years old. I do think It is truly a brilliant logo. even if you dont know who they are, you remember that logo. I think the cover i remember the most is “The Trooper”. .

  2. hnic says:

    I had a similar experience a couple of years back with a Kiss concert. I was lost somewhere in Jersey when I drove into a gathering of Kiss Heads (don’t even know if that’s what they call each other). They were of all ages. That’s what stood out to me. I always wonder how young people get into stuff that clearly precedes them, but I think that happens because its new to them and because there’s a history they can become attached to and involved with. So much of our consumer culture is about dispensing with the old in favor of the new, but I’m one who believes there’s really nothing new under the sun anyway. It’s all just a trick to get us to think it’s new. On the elevator the other day I read that 85% of men and 79% of women feel the need to have new experiences. Well, re-branding is an opportunity to provide a new experience to people who’ve grown tired of something. But the people you re-brand for are also going to grow tired of the “re-brand” and expect something new again anyway. Groups like Iron Maiden and, dare I say, The Harlem Globetrotters, have a core audience that takes comfort in the nostalgia and consistency. That audience may be limited but it’s loyal. All they really have to do is make sure enough new heads are brought into the fold every so often. The tours are the way that’s done. That’s where bands have a leg up. Most corporate brands can’t go on tour!

    • hal says:

      Ah, you ran into the Kiss Army. I didn’t mention this in my post, but like Donna’s experience, I saw men and women of a wide range of ages sporting Iron Maiden shirts. And you’ve seen that the Kiss Army is the same way. You’re right on the money with your points on re-branding. Either you have to keep it the same or change it often. There’s really no in between. Even if those core audiences who like the nostalgia of the same old logo are limited, they’re the ones who keep it alive and thriving. With very little radio or television support, Iron Maiden has sold over 100 million albums worldwide. Multimedia megastars and arena rock gods Kiss has sold the same amount, and its debut album was released six years before Maiden’s.

      Who are the groupies of corporate brands on tour?

  3. James says:

    To extend this to the sports world, brands like the NY Yankees (who do you think of when someone says “Pinstripes”?) have maintained a consistency that their fans count on and make part of their family. These sports teams who change their uniforms every couple of years do a disservice to their business because it’s treating something that should be handed down from generation to generation as nothing more than the latest fad (how many uniforms have the NY Jets have had in the last 10 years and see their difficulty in selling out their season tickets this year?). It takes an emotional connection and cheapens it with trying to push another jersey down their throats for this season. Sports brands become part of the family and for better or worse, your family does not change.

    The other great music brand more dearer and nearer to my heart growing up was the Ramones. Black leather jackets, jeans and Converse with the great American eagle with baseball bat logo:

    For fun, check out the Judas Priest brand interpreted in the Capitol Center parking lot circa 1986:

    • hal says:

      Yes, no matter what industry you’re talking about, brand consistency is crucial. I guess the Jets and some other sports franchises are using food brands as the model. Miracle Whip comes to mind right away. I see Kraft’s campaign for the new look plastered around Manhattan. But really it’s just the same stuff—quite foul actually. And compare Burger King, who has altered its logo, changed its French fry recipe and transformed its mascot into a creepy stalker to McDonalds, who has added a new catchy tune and slogan to the never-changing golden arch logo. Ronald still stands far above the king. Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.

      Thanks for the Ramone’s World link. Ramones’ art director Arturo Vega hits it right on the money when he said, “T-shirts are the flag and manifesto of rock culture.”

      Judas Priest also have a very strong brand and consistent logo. Even though Bevis and Butthead chose to sport the equally iconic AC/DC and Metallica logos on their T-shirts, they still used Priest’s “Breaking the Law” as a unifying anthem.

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