5 Branding Lessons from The Sex Pistols

The Sex Pistols

What do the Sex Pistols and branding have in common?

You might be tempted to answer, “nothing”, but in fact, the Sex Pistols were revolutionary, not only in the music industry, but also in the way they utilized branding to improve their reach as rock stars.

The Sex Pistols were a punk rock band formed in London in 1975.

They are thought of as the band that birthed the punk movement in the United Kingdom, which later led to the explosion of the punk and alternative rock genres.

The band’s career lasted a short two and a half years, but due to the band’s ability to brand, their single studio album landed them in the hall of fame and is thought of as one of the most influential albums in history.

The group was actually the brainchild of Malcolm McLaren and was manufactured, much like the boy bands of today.

Read below to learn some of the methods the Sex Pistols used to build their brand and find success as a group:

1. Define a Common Enemy

An old adage says, “nothing brings people closer than a common enemy, “ and the Sex Pistols utilized this concept to its fullest. The single “God Save the Queen,” showcased the group’s hatred of the monarchy along with their disdain of social conformity.

Those who agreed with the Sex Pistol’s view, found a camaraderie with the Sex Pistols. In fact, the release of the single incited the last and greatest pop-based moral pandemonium.

How You Can Define a Common Enemy:

You can implement this element by offering a solution to a common problem; thereby fighting a common enemy. If you are a CPA, your common enemy could be the “quickie tax” places.

You could even do a campaign where you compare them to fast food places.

This would give something for you, your customers and prospects to make fun of together… and build a camaraderie.

2. Use Media to Your Advantage

The Sex Pistols used the media to their advantage and made them take notice by their many PR stunts. One such stunt was performed on June 7th ,1977, on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

On that day, the group hired a boat, sailed down the Thames and played “God Save the Queen” next to the House of Commons. Eventually, police boarded the boat and arrested the group’s manager.

Some might have seen the stunt as ineffective and foolish, but the Sex Pistols knew that any media attention would bode well for them.

How You Can Use the Media:

No, you don’t want to necessarily pull off a stunt that gets you arrested just to acquire media attention.

However, it is smart to go on as many radio shows, or talk shows as possible and be willing to share your message in various ways whenever you can.

3. Be Hated by Majority to Passionately Appeal to Small Group

The music, attitude and theatrics of the Sex Pistols did not appeal to everyone. However, those that did like the group, were passionate followers.

Although the group could have toned down their lyrics and appealed to a wider audience, they understood the importance of remaining who they were, whether they were overwhelmingly embraced or not.

How You Can Appeal to a Small Group:

In business, you can apply this method by choosing a portion of your client base and gearing your advertising and service to them alone.

It might seem counterintuitive to reduce your reach, but when you focus on a small segment of people, instead of everyone, you will be able to appeal to that group more effectively.

4. Be an Experience

Not only did the Sex Pistols impact the music industry, they also brought to their audience an entire experience. Their followers began not only copying the group’s attitude toward the status quo, but also mimicked their hair, clothing and virtually everything else about the group.

As a result, the Sex Pistols are thought to be responsible for the punk rock look catching on and spreading like wildfire.

How You Can Be An Experience:

As a business owner, you can be an “experience” by offering your clients more, within your specific genre.

For example, if you are an accountant, you can write a book on how to do your taxes when you are self employed. Just look for any way to create more substance in regards to what you are doing, so your business will become an experience.

5. Do One Thing

The Sex Pistols never strayed from their core beliefs and never tried to garner the affection of the general public by including a few ballads here and there.

No, the group stuck to loud, crude and oftentimes off-putting punk rock music and never wavered. As a result, the band is known only as a punk band, and forever will be known that way.

How You Can Do One Thing:

As mentioned above, specialization is wise in business. After all, “perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Use this method to examine your business, what needs to be the focus, and so on.

Love them or hate them, the Sex Pistols certainly made a lasting impact on society and the music industry as a whole, largely due to their ability to brand themselves well. Therefore, the tips above, derived from the branding techniques used by the Sex Pistols, are beneficial to anyone who wants to grow their brand.

If you're not familiar with their music, check this out to hear their most well known song:




About the author

Brian Ainsley Horn

Brian Ainsley Horn is considered to be the “pioneer of authority marketing”, which has exploded in popularity recently. His unique methods have been talked about and covered on The Howard Stern Show, Wall Street Journal, ABC, Perez Hilton, CBS News , Forbes, Advertising Age and dozens of other media outlets. Brian is the co-founder of the consulting firm, Authority Alchemy, and also writes for Huffington Post and Entrepreneur Magazine about authority marketing and personal branding.

Click here to add a comment

Leave a comment: