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Not Your Kind? Branding Lessons from Slipknot

Satanist aesthetics, derogatory attitudes and lyrics that refuse to shy away from the brutal vulgarity of modern life… Slipknot tick all the boxes for the latest underground cult. Yet they just played a television slot on Jimmy Kimmel in front of America’s prime time audiences, have 7 Grammy nominations to their names and are on track for a third smash hit album with the hotly anticipated We Are Not Your Kind.

 How the hell are Slipknot so successful?

Their branding and business sense has a lot to do with their continued success. Let us explain…

The Dos and Don’t of Branding like Slipknot

Nail Your Visual Identity

From the moment a bunch of masked men started making traction on the festival and gig circuits of the mid 90s, Slipknot had a very recognisable set of aesthetics that defined them to audiences – regardless of whether or not they knew their music. The masks, boiler suits and love of horror show iconography saw Slipknot gain recognition for their appearance as well as their hardcore live shows and pithy lyrics.

Whilst brands can learn a lot from the consistency and dedication Slipknot have for their visual identities, it isn’t without risk. A brand as divisive and shocking as Slipknot walks a tightrope between being a success and a gimmick. Also, the outright shocking nature of their image can cause people to turn from their music. Many want to hear the music (which is always pretty fucking good) but are put off by the image and associations of a bunch of men shouting in boiler suits.

Closet Slipknot fans, we see you.

DO:

Stay consistent to your brand aesthetics and make your assets recognisable with brand colours, fonts and visuals.

DON’T:

Isolate potential clients by creating a brand that is too niche or off putting. You want to share your values and invite people to work with you. You don’t want to force them to agree or isolate lukewarm leads.

Value Evolution

Like Maiden and Metallica merch, most schools have at least one kid with a Slipknot hoodie. Why? Because like other music greats, Slipknot offer a sense of identity, solidarity and a path that isn’t the mainstream. For a lot of angsty teens, Slipknot are a means of rebellion and expression.

What makes Slipknot a great branding example is how they take this teenage angst and evolve with their audience. There are many ‘grown ups’ who would put 2001’s Iowa on their ‘albums that defined me’ list. The original values of rebellion and anarchy have held strong. This means new fans are becoming Maggots (the charming name given to Slipknot fans) whilst long term fans get a hit of both nostalgia for their youth and a sense belonging from the new music Slipknot are producing.

Their values are shared, strong and established, without suffocating the bands creative expression. It is a perfect mix of traditional, long standing values and the space to evolve with the times.

DO:

Communicate your brand values so that clients who share them feel a sense of belonging and choose to work with you.

DON’T:

Become so entrenched in your values you cannot evolve with the times, your business or your clients’ changing needs.

Personal Branding

Ironically for a band that revolves around masks, the personal branding of Slipknot members, in particular front man Corey Taylor, has a lot to do with the success of the band itself.

photo by Gili Dailes

Taylor has an infamously large ego and even bigger mouth. He is outspoken, unapologetic and strangely charismatic for a guy that spits on crowds on the regular. There is little mystery around the man behind the mask thanks to social media and regular interview circuits, yet this works in their favour.

“You don’t have to like me, but you are going to love me anyway,” 

Corey Taylor

Personal branding can make or break a company if it is executed well. With the advent of the internet and social media, it is becoming harder for business owners to stay separate from their creations. So it may be in your best interests to own your personal branding and let it support the wider image.

DO:

Be aware of how your personal brand affects your business and take steps to stay separate if you don’t want to be the face of your brand.

DON’T:

Feel you HAVE to be the brand. There are still plenty of businesses that run without a face behind it/ in-front of it.  

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