In moments of self-doubting, when you feel like there’s no way you can pull off the way-too-many projects you’ve committed to, try typing ‘what did Bowie’ do in search, and a dedicated app will show you what Bowie managed to get done over the course of a year, when he was your age.
In one spectacular career, which spanned across half a century, Bowie was able to defy cultural conventions, redefine genres, invent multiple stage personas, experiment with just about any art form, revolutionize fashion and gender, inspire generations of artists, and gift the world with a phenomenal discography of 27 studio albums, countless collaborative projects, and iconic contributions to film industry. What earned Bowie the title pop culture icon is not merely remarkable talent, but a combination of skills, hard work, and ahead-of-its-time approach to branding and marketing.
Here are just 5 things we can take from David Bowie into our careers as creatives, freelancers, influencers, entrepreneurs and marketers.
1. Ch ch ch ch changes
On the last scheduled date for his sensational Ziggy Stardust tour in 1973, Bowie made a dramatic announcement and declared Ziggy dead. The tour was a huge commercial success, it garnered attention all around the globe, and could have gone on (and sold out stadiums) for years to come. But Bowie got bored. He’s already moved on to set the next new trend and soon reinvented his brand with a new stage persona. Throughout history, it was never the brands who kept milking the same cow that got to rise to a super-brand status. It was the ones who, just like Bowie, have mastered the art of pivoting. Strong brands respond to changes, but it takes a super-brand to lead these changes.
2. Always collaborating
Bowie never let himself get fixed on a certain work process just because “that’s the way we’ve always done it around here”. Since very early in his career and to his last day, Bowie has initiated work relationships and creative collaborations with artists from all across the cultural spectrum, and surrounded himself with people who inspired him almost as much as he inspired them. And while these collaborations often led to iconic works of art, their explosive PR value even surpassed their artistic one. Obviously you can’t put Bowie in the same room with guys like Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop, Lou Reed or Freddie Mercury (and this list goes on and on) and not expect a pack of hungry ‘Rolling Stone’ reporters to set up a camp across the street and go nuts trying to find out what it is they’re up to. No marketing budget in the world can buy such publicity. And well, your business collaborations might not immediately get such a worldwide media coverage, but just think of the exposure you would get, the leads you can generate, and the opportunities you can create when your marketing channels join forces with your partners’ channels, not to mention the unique skill set every team brings to table.
3. Rebel Rebel
From folk to punk, from glam rock to electro pop — there can’t possibly be anyone in rock history who experimented more than David Bowie. Even if not all of these experiments necessarily led to commercial success, his experimental spirit is what kept Bowie flexible, diverse, creative and always on trend. It’s what helped him cater to ever-changing tastes and appeal to different generations. Successful entrepreneurs are always the ones who dare to challenge ‘best practices’ in their discipline; the ones who don’t shy away from new technologies, new media and new genres. In that regard, Bowie never let himself stay in a comfort zone (if he ever had one). Even on his deathbed, knowing that his days are few, Bowie was determined to leave the world with a non predictable, thought-invoking piece.
4. A Multi-disciplinary approach
David Bowie took a multi-disciplinary approach to art. From the visual arts to cinema — there was simply no art form he didn’t leave his mark on. In addition to being an acclaimed musician, he’s also earned the reputation of a poet, a playwright, a visual artist, a fashion icon, an actor, and for the most part, all of these things at once. His performances went from a concert to an epic spectacle, and all visual aspects of his work were treated with the same storytelling expertise, whether it’s his album covers or his extravagant costumes.
5. Embracing failure
When you never stop exploring new paths and taking risks, you are bound to experience failure along the way. Not everything Bowie did turned out to be a success. In fact, his 1967 debut album went completely unnoticed and Bowie himself had later referred to it as nothing but an embarrassing phase. In his portfolio you can often find some non-communicative materials completely ahead-of-their-time, which no one really understood at the time. However fashions change, tastes evolve, and with time, even his less popular works were rendered iconic. And even if what Bowie considered failure is still more epic than most of ours’ biggest accomplishment, the one lesson we can all take away from Bowie’s career path is that not everything we do will lead to immediate success, and that is ok. Doing makes progress, even if we can’t see this progress right away. Eventually, it was his fearless spirit and continuous doing that made David Bowie the super-brand that he was.