Why do gimmicks sell?

Recently, I’ve been looking more at salability, marketing, and PR: what is it that attracts people to a product or person, what gives something consistent feedback, how do you make the product or person successful? I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, a professional. And these are merely a small collection of the observations I’ve made recently (and will, no doubt, not be agreeable to some people), but I am intrigued by the idea of looking into this further.

During my observations, I’ve become more aware of this ‘gimmick’ lark. Having an image that attracts a person, and this doesn’t even have to be an original gimmick. Take pop music, for instance. You could probably list a vast number of artists that, at the very least, draw on another artist’s previous looks or style. Many new artists will even list these former works as being ‘influences’, which makes the imitation flattery.

As an example, I recently came across a band called Ricky Rebel Rocks (electro pop-rock, I believe is his music genre). Looking at images for his Manipulator album (also the title for his new single); the first thought I had was: “he looks like Lady Ga-Ga and Britney Spears’ love child”. Ricky lists artists such as Madonna, Bowie, and Prince as his influences. And I can certainly see where those influences have found him. He actually has quite a likable quality to his voice (which you’ll hear on some of his live performances, if you choose to listen). But, I think what many people have a Marmite moment to (Vegemite to you ‘foreigners’), is his incredibly camp stage presence. He flirts, he’s incredibly cheesy, he booty bounces and grinds… coupled with lots of simple lyrics, and pretty warbling. Strangely, I actually find the whole thing rather endearing. Some of the songs I’m not such a big fan of, but it was watching the video for Straight Jacket that caught my attention, and I’ve begun to warm to the whole thing overall despite it not being my normal choice of music. It’s all just a bit of fun!

Whilst Ricky still only seems to perform locally (L.A) at the moment, I can really see his pop-y style, L.A good looks, and sense of fun really begin to push him on the up-and-up. Is this down to image, or is this down to very cleverly playing for a certain demographic? And will this alone keep him where he no doubt wants to be?

We then have artists that tend to hold their work up as the sole reason for them to perform. It’s raw, it’s emotional, it’s real. But will it sell? There are so many talented artists out there with beautiful voices, wonderful lyrics, and have that “girl/boy next door” quality. But many of them seem to go undiscovered, unless they resort to shows like x-factor, Britain’s Got Talent, The voice… as an example. Despite being incredibly talented, they’re tangible and, as an average person, you can relate to them. A few of these types I’ve come across recently are artists (not all in the public eye yet) such as: Jodie May, Lucy Spraggan, Butterfly Boucher, Becky Higg, and so many more…

I refuse to watch things like ‘The Charts’ and ‘Top of the Pops’ (if that’s even going anymore). I hate this endless parade of “popular” music; often carbon copies of something else, with very little ‘real’ content to offer. Actually, I don’t think it’s so much the pop, but more people telling me what everyone else likes, so therefore I must too. I’ve since realised that it doesn’t really matter what the genre is, I’ll either like it, not really bother with it, or I’ll hate it with a vengeance.

So what does give a band/artist staying power? If image pulls them in, is it that image what keeps them? I’m inclined to think not. Pop (this can also include some of the new-ish rock bands as ‘popular’ music) is often something that seems fad-like. One hit wonders, and overly eccentric acts, tend to be interesting for a short time, but grow old fast. I’m sure they’ll still have their hardcore followers (some of the 80’s/90’s pop acts I remember still have a small group of followers wanting them to continue or reform).  But bands that consistently seem to evolve, grow, change, develop, and satisfy their audiences… well, they seem to be those that concentrate more on their craft. The work they produce as well as their image. Bands like: Smashing Pumpkins, Avenged Sevenfold, The Cranberries, The Who, Madonna, Blondie, and so on…

It appears that, no matter how much raw talent you have, you still have to work on yourself as you would a brand – you have to pimp yourself out to the masses. You have to have an image, a persona, a product, or gimmick that will pull people in… this doesn’t have to be anything particularly flashy, but something that sets you apart in some way. That makes people want to know more about you and what you do.

Once you’ve found a way of pulling them in, you then need to keep them there – interact! My pet peeve is people who go on and on about being ‘for the fans’, and yet rarely seem to be interested in what their fans have to say. Us ‘fans’ buzz off acknowledgement, even if it’s just to click ‘like’ or ‘favourite’ on a post. A little gift for us, so to speak. The people who will buy your music, your book, your merchandise, go to your shows, and sell you to others. That’s right: a loyal fan, that feels valued, will continue to push you. They will post links, recommend shows, tell their friends… and so on. They’ll promote you for free.

[edit: addition] If we go back to the Ricky Rebel example, one of Ricky’s diehard fans, Rachel, seems to be on a one woman mission to ensure he takes over the world. She has a blog and twitter page devoted to him, becoming so much a part of his PR and creative processes, that his new management team (PDR Talent) have actually pulled her on board. I’ve recently just seen YouTube video with her offering to drive a vehicle for fans to follow Ricky to shows. Who could ask for a better fan? And let that be a lesson to you!

You can’t underestimate the value of positive interaction with loyal fans – they are the ones that support your career afterall.

Related Reading:

Mainstream success

What record labels are looking for

Defining your style

How to get signed

The real cost of signing to a major record company



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2 responses to “Why do gimmicks sell?

  1. Great post! Another trick I’ve noticed is someone tricks three or four people into falling for them, and then those people go off and do the promotion for the artist. That’s the way to do it.

    • Tricks? That sounds harsh. haha. But yes, it does help to build up a following and they will no doubt want to “help” by promoting. Particularly if it’s a very well placed request. Twitter helps a lot for this, from what I’ve noticed.

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