Creating Art from Failure: The Design of the “Houses of the Holy” Album Cover

Great artists turn limitations into strengths. Case in point: the cover art for Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy, the subject of my latest post in a series that celebrates memorable album covers.

The story of this astonishing design begins in 1972, when Led Zeppelin, at the height of its creative powers, commissioned the Hipgnosis team, led by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell, to design the cover for the band’s new album. Led Zeppelin had already recorded a diverse body of songs for the new LP, ranging from the soaring “Song Remains the Same” to the quiet, romantic “Rain Song.”

But Thorgerson and Powell were given access to none of the songs on the album. The only creative direction the band gave Hipgnosis was that the title of the forthcoming album was Houses of the Holy.

This was no small assignment. Led Zeppelin was one of the world’s most popular and powerful bands, with an image steeped in dark mysticism. As Thorgerson would remember in For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis, “Something large, strong, powerful, awesome and mythic was clearly called for but what would that be?”

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Real-Time Marketing Gets Real

Only marketers who understand how to interact with the always-on consumer in real time will succeed. That’s the premise of a new book written by my iCrossing colleague Rob Garner, Search and Social: The Definitive Guide to Real-Time Content Marketing. Search and Social is the primary resource for helping CMOs become real-time content marketers with always-on consumers.

Garner is certainly not the first pundit to comment on real-time marketing (a brand being always present for the always-on consumer). Regis McKenna was writing about real-time marketing in 1995, as noted by Richard Fouts of Gartner. Continue reading

Bond Is Back

James Bond is back. And he brought his brand with him. Skyfall, the twenty third film in the 007 movie franchise, lands today in movie theaters across the United States after earning £50 million in 10 days in the United Kingdom (a U.K. record). In fact, Skyfall, the third Bond to feature Daniel Craig, began conquering audiences long before the movie opened. Skyfall has generated strong buzz through a masterful mix of PR and marketing that capitalizes on 2012 being Bond’s 50th anniversary on film. By celebrating both 007’s past and his future, Eon Productions, which has reaped $4.9 billion from the Bond movie franchise, has positioned Bond as a brand with timeless appeal.

You Can’t Buy This Kind of Advertising

You know can always tell when a phenomenon enjoys media saturation by walking through a busy airport terminal past the crowded newsstands, which give you a quick snapshot of pop culture from magazine covers vying for your eyeballs. Daniel Craig’s macho face is everywhere, gracing the covers of publications ranging from Entertainment Weekly to Vanity Fair. And the PR explosion has occurred at international, national, and local levels. In London, Bond graces the Continue reading

PSFK Challenges Brands to Do Good

On November 1, I was honored to appear onstage with Jermaine Dupri at the PSFK  Conference San Francisco 2012, where we discussed how Dupri’s Global 14 social networking site brings community back to social media. The entire conference featured designers, creative thinkers, and marketers who shared innovative ways to operate businesses and build brands. The underlying theme was that brands should seize the opportunity to do good, not just make money.

All the speakers demonstrated different ways brands can do good. Jason Oberfest discussed how Mango Health uses a gaming app to help people manage their health. Scott Bradbury of Brandstream asked marketers to “find art in everything you do.” Dupri and Joe Gebbia of Airbnb challenged everyone at the conference to embrace real community. Airbnb, the online site where people rent their personal residences to each other, creates relationships, not just temporary lodging.

Global 14 helps emerging musicians develop their careers and creates an environment for all members to share ideas, not just social updates. (“We have lost communication on social networks and have become a social notifying world,” Dupri said.)

Regina Ellis of the Children’s Cancer Association delivered the most powerful presentation, which concerned the business of spreading joy. She opened her talk by describing the loss of her own daughter to cancer — an experience that Continue reading