Last weekend marked the end of the four-month David Bowie Is exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. A comprehensive traveling exhibition that explored “the creative process of an artist whose sustained reinventions, innovative collaborations, and bold characterizations revolutionized the way we see music,” the Bowie experience has more than a few takeaways for marketing rockstars like you.
The Mother of Reinvention
Part of the exhibit canvassed Bowie’s myriad personas, from Aladdin Sane to Ziggy Stardust, underscoring the late artist’s vast appetite for the new and novel. As curator Geoffrey Marsh told Artspace: “People say it’s nostalgic and I don’t think it’s nostalgic at all. I think what he’s really saying in it is that as you get older, if you just hang around your memories, you just end up as a relic on the side and if you want to actually do anything creatively you’ve got to dump all that.”
Agreed — change is good. Your experiential marketing shouldn’t be a stroll down Memory Lane but an onramp to new horizons. Everyone is constantly evolving — if your experience remains conceptually static, your audience will outgrow you. Be like Bowie and stay ahead so that you’re leading rather than following the pack.
Part of Bowie’s persistent brand DNA is a strong sense of inclusion, a sentiment embedded in his lyrics and elaborate onstage experiences. Who else could cry, “Gimme your hands, ’cause you’re wonderful!” in a striped jumpsuit and platform boots and truly mean it? You — that’s who. You’d don’t need the costume, just the heart. As Earth’s resident space alien, Bowie didn’t alienate. Your tradeshow experience shouldn’t either. Bring your attendees in to share a pas de deux — don’t “wow” them away with an imposing or intimidating concept. Big or small, make your experience “human scale,” right-sized for the emotional moment you want to create.
Can You Hear Me, Major Tom?
Bowie inspired people to “shape their own identities while challenging social traditions,” observed curator Marsh. Indeed, Bowie was good at awakening the interior aspirations of his fans. Likewise, you want to tap into your audiences’ inner superstar and stir something within them so that they too want to do something extraordinary. Whether it’s “floating in a tin can” or “jamming good with Weird and Gilly” consider how your experience will move your audience to meaningful action and how you can facilitate their next steps.
You can help them. And we can help you. Together, we can be heroes, just for one day.