What The Rolling Stones Can Teach Us About Reputation


by MARIUS FLAGET, analyst ReputationInc Oslo

During the course of a career spanning more than half a century, The Rolling Stones have established themselves as the most iconic rock band in history. As they wrap up their current ‘No Filter’ tour, they are still, undisputedly, the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band with a reputation few, if any, can match.

So which reputational lessons can the Rolling Stones teach us?

Be consistent. In both sound and quality. Going to a Rolling Stones concert nowadays you know exactly what you’ll get: The songs, the lights, Keith Richards’ glad-to-be-here-glad-to-be-anywhere joke. Despite the repetitiveness and the never changing setlist, the one thing you know for sure is that the performance will be top quality.

Stay innovative, but don’t stray too far. The Rolling Stones have often experimented with their sound over the past decades. Sometimes very successfully as with their 1978 smash hit ‘Miss You”, and occasionally less so –  the album ‘Their Satanic Majesties Request’ of 1967 proved that a venture into psychedelics was not the way to go.

Tie your visual image to your product. Few things spell rock ‘n’ roll more than the famous lips and tongue logo of the Rolling Stones. Freedom, rebelliousness and sexual prowess, or the sound of rock ‘n’ roll itself, are all solid associations expressed both through the music and the logo.

Don’t lose control of your message. After flirting with satanic imagery and releasing the song ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ in 1968, things took a turn for the worse when the band decided to hold a free concert at the Altamont festival in 1969. Using the Hell’s Angels as security guards, the concert turned into an orgy of violence and the concert film even captures the stabbing and death of a fan. The next time the Rolling Stones released a single Mick Jagger wore a pink suit and gone was the satanic imagery. And for the last 30 years the band has always been careful to include the song ‘It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (but I like it) in every show. Perhaps to remind us all of who they were trying to be all along.

Limit exposure. As a premium product, Apple knows not to release too many iPhones. Likewise, The Rolling Stones are not known to tour too often. With a mega tour every third year and avoiding to much publicity as the band lies in hibernation, the band always leaves their audience wanting more (and the ticket prices in the high end).

Differentiate yourself from the competition. When the Stones started out there was only one other super group out there: The Beatles. As they had already been established as a family friendly group, the Rolling Stones were on purpose presented as bad boys. As the saying once went: “Would you let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone?”

Connect emotionally. Great brands tell a story. And few, if any, brands tell a greater story than the world’s greatest rock ‘n’ roll band.


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