fbpx

BRAND STRATEGY

Stranger Things, Kate Bush and Brand Association

Brand association is one of the most powerful ways to elevate your perception and therefore your business.

Just ask Kate Bush.

But before we dive into it. I just want to do a quick definition of brand association for the uninitiated.

Stranger Things Kate Bush and Brand Association

What is Brand Association?

A brand association is a connection someone makes between your brand and something or someone else.

The obvious version of brand association is a partnership or affiliation with another brand.

However, it can be more subtle or dare I say esoteric than that. It can also be a conscious or unconscious association you make with a concept, image, sound, emotion, experience, person, interest, or action.

The ideal outcome is that association has a positive impact on your audience. That it helps them understand your brand better and differentiates you from your competition. It should seek to encourage them to have an emotional connection with you, formulate a positive opinion about what you represent and ultimately form a meaningful relationship with you.

This association can say something about your brand beliefs, values, point of view, personality, or impact.

In short, the right brand association is very lucrative.

What is Brand Association?

 

A brand association is a connection someone makes between your brand and something or someone else.

The obvious version of brand association is a partnership or affiliation with another brand.

However, it can be more subtle or dare I say esoteric than that. It can also be a conscious or unconscious association you make with a concept, image, sound, emotion, experience, person, interest, or action.

The ideal outcome is that association has a positive impact on your audience. That it helps them understand your brand better and differentiates you from your competition. It should seek to encourage them to have an emotional connection with you, formulate a positive opinion about what you represent and ultimately form a meaningful relationship with you.

This association can say something about your brand beliefs, values, point of view, personality, or impact.

In short, the right brand association is very lucrative.

Let’s Set the Scene

Now, I want to precursor all this by saying that ‘Running Up That Hill’, from Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love’ album released in 1985, is one of my all-time favourite tracks. To be honest, Kate Bush is one of my all-time favourite artists. Have you ever seen her being interviewed by Delia Smith circa 1980, about her vegetarian recipe for Waldorf Salad (another 80s classic)? TV gold.

But this is not the point. Well, it kind of is actually. For the past let’s say 30 years, Kate hasn’t exactly been at the top of the charts. In fact, she’s been something of a recluse. Unless I’ve been missing something? That’s not to say the cult, die-hard fans don’t love and adore her. We do.

But the young bucks haven’t been falling over themselves to listen to Hounds of Love.

Until now.

Enter Stranger Things.

In contrast, I think most of us are familiar with the Stranger Things phenomenon. If you’re not, it’s The Goonies meets Ghostbusters meets Nightmare on Elm Street.

And it’s a bit of a chicken and egg scenario. No one’s quite sure what came first. The late 2000s 80s revival or the 80s love-note that is Stranger Things. Because the show itself has cult status. It’s what all the cool kids are watching. And if the responsible adult in the house won’t let them watch it, they’re pretending they’re watching it.

Cut to Season 4. Specifically, episode 1, when we see one of the main characters, Max, walking down the 80s-tastic high school halls listening to none other than Kate Bush’s ‘Running up that Hill’. Side note, she’s using a Walkman. What’s not to love about this scene!

Wait, what! SHE’S LISTENING TO KATE BUSH.

Long story short, that scene (and subsequent pivotal moments in the season – no spoilers!) has catapulted Kate Bush and her 80s whimsical classic up the mainstream, Spotify and iTunes charts.

But why has this brand association had such a resounding impact? Here’s how I see it and what we can learn about the concept of successful brand association as a result.

Brand Association

1. Magnify the Core Message

 

Whether by luck or judgement, this was, without question, a genius pick by the Stranger Things production team. Hats off to them.

You can see it now. ‘Team, we’re having a brainstorm in the breakout room in 20. We need to nail the hero track for season 4 of Stranger Things.

Now, let’s see. We need something that…
~ Embodies the 80s
~ Not too obvious or mainstream
~ Has an underlying dark theme
~ Catchy
~ Moody
~ Linked to an enigmatic, multi-dimensional quirky character

Basically, we want the musical equivalent of Stranger Things Season 4.’

Then some old crusty who’s ‘over 40’ gets out an iPod or something equally archaic and starts scrolling. They sheepishly hit play on a track… ‘Do you want to hurt me… Do you want to feel how it feels?’, floats into the air.

Everyone stops. Silence.

Then cheers, fist pumps and high fives. An awkward moment when someone asks who the artist is!

Because ‘Karen’ totally understood the brief.

And the icing on the cake. The lyrics basically tell the story.

If I only could,
I’d make a deal with God,
And I’d get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
Be running up that building

It’s about broken, destructive relationships; damaged, traumatised humans; sacrifice; guilt. Without giving anything away, it’s pretty much on the money.

A powerful brand association should help to reinforce your values, beliefs, perspectives and/or message. It should be a shorthand for what you want to say to your audience about your brand.

2. Perfect Brand Alignment

 

When you think about it, it couldn’t be a better fit. Both ‘brands’ represent all the retro, quirkiness we love about the 80s. Whether we were there or we’re enjoying the renaissance.

Kate Bush is more 80s than the Delorean surrounded by an impromptu dance off on the streets of NYC by the cast of Fame vs MJ flanked by a pack of zombies while everyone watches on eating pop tarts!

She is unusual, unafraid to zig when everyone else is zagging, almost endearingly alternative. Much like the characters in Stranger Things as well as the show itself.

There is a logical fit. Even though they were created well over 3 decades apart.

And the love in is mutual. Kate’s track was the perfect choice for Stranger Things and has added new depth and edginess to the franchise. But Stranger Things has done absolute wonders for Kate too. And might I say she is the picture of humble gratitude.

Brand Association
Brand Association

2. Perfect Brand Alignment

 

When you think about it, it couldn’t be a better fit. Both ‘brands’ represent all the retro, quirkiness we love about the 80s. Whether we were there or we’re enjoying the renaissance.

Kate Bush is more 80s than the Delorean surrounded by an impromptu dance off on the streets of NYC by the cast of Fame vs MJ flanked by a pack of zombies while everyone watches on eating pop tarts!

She is unusual, unafraid to zig when everyone else is zagging, almost endearingly alternative. Much like the characters in Stranger Things as well as the show itself.

There is a logical fit. Even though they were created well over 3 decades apart.

And the love in is mutual. Kate’s track was the perfect choice for Stranger Things and has added new depth and edginess to the franchise. But Stranger Things has done absolute wonders for Kate too. And might I say she is the picture of humble gratitude.

Brand Association

3. Don’t Just Play it Safe

 

On that note, you could be forgiven for thinking the hype and success has taken Ms Bush by surprise, just as much, if not more, than the rest of us.

In hindsight, whilst a stroke of genius, you might also say this was an obvious choice. But rewind to the breakout room with Karen and co. On paper, before it proved to be a call of spectacularly epic proportions, you might say it’s a slightly off the wall choice.

And that’s the other thing with brand association. Don’t go all vanilla with it. Make a statement. The point of a brand association is it has impact. It should be memorable and get people talking and thinking. If you play it safe, well you can expect a ripple down at Number 300 at best. But no, Running Up That Hill has peaked at no. 8 on both the formal U.K. Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100.

They could have gone with so many other more ‘suitable’ options. Tainted Love by Soft Cell? Sweet Dreams by ‘The Eurythmics’? Or the embodiment of confusion and disorientation ‘You Spin Me Right Round,’ by, and this is no joke, Dead or Alive. I mean come on! All 80s anthems that fit the bill perfectly. But no. The quirkiness, the left of centre-ness of it, is what makes it so much more ear-catching and deliciously clever.

Brand Association

4. The Compelling Back Story

 

OK, so I think we’ve established the track choice nailed the mood. It was spot on.

But this is not just surface deep. The moment every smart phone wielding Netflix fan born after 1990 took to Google, they were hooked. Of course they were.

Because Kate Bush is an elusive, reclusive, magnetic and enigmatic figure. She was ‘woke’ when that just meant your mum burst into your room at 8.45am and dragged you unwillingly from your dream about Mr Jones the new, very young, very fit games teacher. You’ve only got to look at the afore mentioned Delia Smith interview.

What I mean is Kate Bush represents the kind of upside down you want to get trapped in. When you dig, there is so much about her that is cult-like in a good way. The vegetarian, original indie-pop queen sang about Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights for heaven’s sake. ‘Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy. I’ve come home, I’m so cold.’ Does it get any more alternative and intriguing?

She’s the kind of person you can go on a Wikipedia journey with and wake up 4 days later wondering why you have 497 missed calls and completely missed a whole Instagram update.

So, some depth and meaning to the brand association, that adds value on a longer-lasting more compelling level to everyone involved, is where the gold is.

4. The Compelling Back Story

 

OK, so I think we’ve established the track choice nailed the mood. It was spot on.

But this is not just surface deep. The moment every smart phone wielding Netflix fan born after 1990 took to Google, they were hooked. Of course they were.

Because Kate Bush is an elusive, reclusive, magnetic and enigmatic figure. She was ‘woke’ when that just meant your mum burst into your room at 8.45am and dragged you unwillingly from your dream about Mr Jones the new, very young, very fit games teacher. You’ve only got to look at the afore mentioned Delia Smith interview.

What I mean is Kate Bush represents the kind of upside down you want to get trapped in. When you dig, there is so much about her that is cult-like in a good way. The vegetarian, original indie-pop queen sang about Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights for heaven’s sake. ‘Heathcliff, it’s me, I’m Cathy. I’ve come home, I’m so cold.’ Does it get any more alternative and intriguing?

She’s the kind of person you can go on a Wikipedia journey with and wake up 4 days later wondering why you have 497 missed calls and completely missed a whole Instagram update.

So, some depth and meaning to the brand association, that adds value on a longer-lasting more compelling level to everyone involved, is where the gold is.

Brand Association

What does all this mean for you and brand association?

Short answer? It’s a very good thing. Just make sure it’s a good fit.

When thinking about associating your brand with something or someone else, ask yourself the following questions…

  • Will it elevate my brand in a positive way?
  • Will it say something positive about my brand and how I want to be perceived?
  • Will it add to my story and the clarity of my message?
  • Does it align with my values and what’s important to me?
  • Is it memorable and interesting? Will it cut-through?
  • Does it have depth and greater meaning?

And my final comment is this. Brand association is a powerful tool in your brand toolbox. Use it wisely. It can be both hugely beneficial but can also see you crash and burn in spectacular fashion (that one’s courtesy of the other 80s classic, the unrivalled Top Gun movie). Did you see what I did there?

THE CREATIVE CLIQUE
Get on the receiving end of email insight and inspo for your creative business - Join the Clique

SOCIALS
Instagram / Facebook

CONTACT
Email becky@bechughes.com

© BECKY HUGHES 2022   |  PRIVACY