You have to admire the intense fever pitch buzz EMI have created around the marketing of the Gorillaz third album. Their “Stylo” video and various atmospheric teasers released around the Plastic Beach album launch generated over 1 million YouTube hits within a week of release, so what is behind the cult popularity of this anti-pop virtual band?
I came across a cracking article by Johan Ronnestam on Douglas Atkin’s – ‘The Culting of Brands. But real world examples are neglected, and I could see every one of Johan’s points at work in Gorillaz cult marketing experience:
Difference – Distance your cult from the establishment
The idea for Gorillaz was formed by Jamie Hewlett and Daman Albarn in protest to the cartoony images of the Pop Idol establishment coming into prominence at the time. Gorillaz are the twisted reflections of Simon Cowell’s creations, the antidote to the current epidemic of meaningless empty drivel in in popular music. Pop, yes, but they are about as far out on the fringe as they can get. They hammer home their exclusivity with claims of “the world’s first virtual hip hop band”
Connectors – Recruit successful, attractive and respectable souls
Gorillaz have nailed this requirement hands down. Not many cartoon bands can count the likes Madonna, Bruce Willis, Snoop Dog, Sean Ryder and Lou Reed among their entourage.
Exclusivity – Not anyone can join
We always want what we can’t have. The power of fear of loss and exclusion wasn’t ignored with Google’s Gmail invites. In the literal sense, if you do not have membership to the Gorillaz club (£26 fee), or an 02 mobile contract or a Glastonbury ticket – then the chances are you won’t be even be getting a look in at tickets to any live performances.
In the not so literal sense, you either “get” Gorillaz, their eclectic collaborations and musical style or you do not.
Solidarity, a clear sense of belonging to a group & the paradox of making joiners feel that they become more individual
The Gorillaz’ edgy, dark image and sub plot is far too challenging and edgy for mainstream to buy into. This is also reenforced with Gorillaz club and whether your in the “we get it” gang.
Ideology – A clear belief system
When Gorillaz were nominated for the prestigious Mercury Prize award, it was politely turned down. Taking part in a hyped industry publicity event would have gone against Gorillaz ideology. They create an intense buzz just fine on their own, and don’t need any noise from the “finger on the pulse” gang.
An Enemy – To define what you are not
Every cult brand needs an enemy. Challenger brand Apple’s (technology of the liberal arts….apparently) enemy is Microsoft (big, bad monopolistic capitalism). Gorillaz’ enemy are the plastic, manufactured pop characters of the mainstream media, they’re not fans of the Mercury Music award panel either.
Contact – Splash your ideas onto the right people
Gorillaz hijacked the homepage Guardian music for the album launch, ensuring exposure to their fringe culture loving core audience.
With the likelihood of Gorillaz replacing U2 heading lining this year’s Glastonbury, Murdoch and his animated band can expect yet another jet boost into super stardom.