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“Never Mind the B******s” – 7 things punk rock can teach you about marketing your business

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the “long hot summer of ‘76”. The UK had a hosepipe ban and even a Minister for Drought.

Sports events, such as Wimbledon and cricket Test matches took place on barren seas of brown, rather than lush green. Archive film shows The Oval resembling the Gobi Desert.

People who went off on package holidays – back then very much a novelty – came back to find those who’d stayed at home had enjoyed better weather and had better tans.

Also, 45 years ago this summer, a new youth culture imposed itself, quite forcibly, on British consciousness and things would never be quite the same again.

Punk ripped a hole in the cultural space-time continuum that couldn’t be repaired – not even with the standard punk accoutrements of safety pins and bags of glue.

Visually, the image had all the attraction of the inter-galactic bar scene in Star Wars – A New Hope.

From a music perspective – because behind the fashion and attitude it was really all about the music – punk was like nothing we’d ever heard before. The flabby, over-produced, glitter the 70s had offered up to that point was rejected in favour of something far more basic – two chords good, three chords better.

One, often-overlooked, feature of punk was that it knew how to market itself. As a homage, therefore, here are seven things punk rock can teach you about marketing your business

1. Produce content your audience will understand

“Write about what you know” was the succinct advice given to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of The Clash by their enigmatic manager, Bernie Rhodes. Based on that, they went away and produced the one essential punk album from the era.

It was packed with songs with subjects that both they, and their audience, could relate too:

  • Unemployment – “Do you wanna make tea at the BBC, do you really wanna be a cop?” (‘Career Opportunities)
  • The tedium of a boring office job – “…the boss is a berk, always checks his shoes” and “…he’s got a Ford Cortina that just won’t run without fuel” (‘Janie Jones)
  • The importance of the weekend – “48 hours is 48 thrills” (‘48 hours)

Tales of Topographical Oceans it certainly wasn’t!

The steer here is to keep it simple and produce content that your audience will understand. Avoid too much technical jargon, and boil things down to simple statements and a clear “what’s in it for me” argument.

If you’re using case studies to illustrate a subject, make them relevant.

2. Keep it short and sweet

Whilst the prog-rock bands of the 70s were releasing double and triple albums, filled with musical virtuosity, and tracks that could easily last up to 15 minutes, the first Ramones first album consisted of 14 tracks in 29 minutes each with two guitar chords – maybe stretching to three if they were feeling adventurous.

So, publish short, snappy articles if that’s what you feel works for a particular theme. Important messages can easily get buried beneath too much content. If something can be fitted into 300 words, then do that.

3. Keep your content fresh

Most punk bands produced a new single every couple of months. Most bands seemed to permanently tour, and they were constantly giving interviews to the music papers.

On top of that, punk effectively invented the concept of “fanzines” – publications produced by the fans themselves and churned out at a bewildering speed.

Likewise, try to make sure you’re putting new articles and other content on your website regularly. If a visitor to your site sees that the last article is from March 2020, they might read it, but they’re unlikely to come back for more.

4. Don’t be afraid to innovate

If you look at the long list of bands that were successful during the punk era, the ones that achieved any kind of long-term success were the ones that were able to adapt their musical style into other genres.

The purists sneered, but The Clash, The Jam and Elvis Costello achieved massive success through being prepared to experiment and try new ideas.

So, don’t be afraid to try something different. If you’ve produced a series of articles about retirement planning, maybe try something about income protection for a change. You could find it’s exactly what some readers were looking for.

Likewise, if you’ve never tried running a webinar for your clients, give it a go. A short online presentation is a great way to get key messages across to an audience, and they also get the opportunity to get involved themselves with questions and feedback.

5. Add value and entertain

Punk was when live gigs became “occasions” rather than concerts where the duty of those watching was to sit and listen.

Audiences didn’t stand around and watch – they got involved. Bands too played up to the interactive theme by often spending more time in the audience than on-stage.

With the Covid lockdown now at an end, meetings with clients are possible again. So why not make up for lost time with seminars or presentations to small groups of clients.

Face-to-face meetings can be far more flexible than those hosted online, and you can therefore get more value from your precious time.

6. Make sure your website is visually appealing

Although punk style and fashion wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, there’s no arguing with the fact that it was eye-catching and make people look. Punk artwork, too, was designed to catch the eye – all loud colours and bright images.

We’re not suggesting anything as radical when it comes to your website site – dayglo was very a short-term phenomenon – but make sure it’s visually appealing rather than drab and lacking in inspiration.

7. Don’t be afraid to borrow ideas

For a movement so concerned with kicking over the traces, punks were magpies when it came to ideas.

When the Ramones arrived from New York in late ’76 clad in leather jackets, punks started wearing them even though they could barely afford their bus fare, let alone a motorbike.

“I’ve got my motorcycle jacket, but I’m walking all the time”. (‘This is England – The Clash)

Punk bands were also very keen on cover versions of well-known songs. Partly that was down to lack of their own material, but it was very much about copying something because they liked it.

On that basis, if you see another adviser talking about something, or read a particularly good piece on their website, don’t be afraid to produce something along the same lines yourself.

Obviously, you should avoid a straightforward “cut and paste” job, but something making the same point in your own words could be as appealing to your audience as the original piece was to you.

Get in touch

We’re not big fans of punk artwork, but we can certainly help make your website more visually appealing. We can also produce engaging online content and help you with presentations for seminars and online webinars. Get in touch now.

Email [email protected] or call 0115 8965 300.

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