From Goldfrapp to Pink Floyd: How Great Album Covers Tell Visual Stories

Album cover design is alive and well in the digital era. However, the role of the album cover has changed. The days are long gone when album cover art served to attract your eye amid a sea of vinyl in a record store. Now album covers, both virtually and in analog form, are part of an artist’s broader visual palette. For example, the cover of Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP, designed by Jeff Koons, permeates all aspects of her brand, including her Little Monsters website, social spaces, merchandise, and concert staging.

ARTPOP

Album covers are actually perfect for today’s visual era. Album covers tell visual stories that express the music on the album, capture the personality of the artist, and grab your attention. I recently created a presentation that shares several examples of memorable album covers from 1957 to the present day. My presentation, Visual Storytelling through Memorable Album Covers, covers a wide range of artists from Goldfrapp to Pink Floyd. The examples skew toward the late 1960s and 1970s because that time was the golden era of the album, when artists and musicians collaborated on groundbreaking designs. But as Visual Storytelling through Memorable Album Covers shows, album covers remain a powerful expression today. I will periodically update the presentation to show you how modern-day album covers are still provoking, expressing, and telling visual stories.

I would love to see your examples, too. Please let me know about album covers that have made an impression on you and why. I’ll return the favor by creating a new collection of visual stories told through album covers.

The Good, the Bad, and Justine Sacco

justine-sacco-africa-aids-tweet-600x450

Only on the Internet.

As you probably know by now, on December 20, a PR executive named Justine Sacco became an unlikely news sensation when she tweeted a tasteless remark about AIDs, Africa, and race as she boarded a plane in London for a lengthy British Airways flight to Cape Town, South Africa. When she arrived in Cape Town Saturday morning local time, she discovered that the social media world had exploded with outrage over her single tweet while waiting for her flight to land. News media ranging from Mashable and The New York Times to The Huffington Post had covered the firestorm. She also brought out the good and bad in brands and everyday people.

The Bad

Her inexcusable remark was not the first tasteless tweet she had written, raising the obvious question of how someone in a high-profile PR job could exercise such poor judgment and how her employer, conglomerate IAC, could have overlooked her history of embarrassing Twitter behavior. But she wasn’t the only one behaving badly: in-flight WiFi provider Gogo attempted to turn the news into a real-time marketing opportunity by issuing the following tweet:

Gogo

Jason Del Ray of AllThingsD correctly lambasted Gogo for taking real-time marketing to an all-time low. Note to companies: it’s just not a good idea to turn negative news into brand-building opportunities. Common sense, right? Apparently not for Gogo or for a host of other brands who also committed similar missteps in 2013. (Gogo subsequently apologized.)

Continue reading

Micro-Content and Visual Storytelling: Gary Vaynerchuk and Mike Corak Discuss 2014 Social Media Trends

Socialcons

Successful brands will figure out how to customize micro-content — especially visual stories — across disparate social networks. That’s a key take-away from the Econsultancy December 17 webinar, “The Top 8 Trends in Social Media: Opportunities for 2014.” conducted by noted entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk and Mike Corak of agency Ethology.

Corak, Ethology’s executive vice president of strategy, served up several trends that will shape the way marketers use social media in 2014. Among them:

  • Marketers will integrate their branded content more effectively across the social world.
  • Image/video networks such as Vine will grow, but marketers will be challenged to continue to find compelling visual content to suit the needs of visual platforms.
  • Google+ will grow given its importance as a search engine optimization play — but its social value will remain in question.
  • The collaborative economy will continue to grow.

Continue reading

“We Are a Catalyst”: Jeremiah Owyang Discusses Crowd Companies, His Bold New Venture for the $110 Billion Collaborative Economy

OwyangCC

If you have ever rented your home or apartment to make extra income while you were on vacation, or if you’ve used a markplace like Lyft to rent a car from someone just like you, then congratulations are in order: you’re contributing to the rise of the $110 billion collaborative economy.

lyft-diy_905

As consumers become more cost conscious and environmentally aware, we’re increasingly sharing goods and services with each other instead of buying new products from brands — behavior that Danielle Sacks of Fast Company labeled as the “sharing economy” (aka the collaborative economy) in 2011. And brands want a piece of the action, too. On the one hand, a new breed of start-ups such as Airbnb and Lyft have quickly established themselves as popular marketplaces to link people who want to rent to each other. And legacy brands such as BMW and Patagonia are helping consumers either rent (in the case of BMW) or buy gently used products (in the case of Patagonia) from each other.

2012-03-30-blogpic1-patagonia-second-hand-win-win-590x425

To help brands embrace the collaborative economy, entrepreneur Jeremiah Owyang has launched Crowd Companies, a council of heavy hitter companies ranging from Ford to Whole Foods. Members of Crowd Companies are committed to helping brands learn new ways to collaborate with their customers instead of selling to them in the traditional way. Where appropriate, the council may foster partnerships among brands and start-ups to co-innovate. The council is akin to a think-tank and educational resource, earning its revenue from membership fees and from speeches and workshops. The organization is owned entirely by Owyang, who is also an active participant in the collaborative economy in his personal life, as he has discussed on his own blog.

Owyang recently took time to share more insight into the launch of Crowd Companies and the significance of the collaborative economy. As he points out in the following Q&A, the collaborative economy is not necessarily new — but the uptake of digital technology, in particular, mobile apps, has fueled an explosion of collaborative behavior among consumers. In fact, as Owyang says, the word “consumer” might become a thing of the past in the new world of economic collaboration. Here’s what he has to say:

How do you define the collaborative economy? How big is it, and why is it here to stay?

The collaborative economy is an economic model where people, corporations, and startups are creating products and sharing them. The traditional model of corporation-to-consumer is not the only model.

You’ve been an active participant in the collaborative economy in personal life. How did the collaborative economy first capture your interest?

We’ve all been active, as we’ve been using social media to source ideas, get confirmation, or share thoughts — so in some ways, the collaborative economy is not new. I’ve been using TaskRabbit for a few years, and before that renting via VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), and before that eBay; so some of these technologies are not new. However, recently, with the adoption of mobile and location apps, we’re seeing greater velocity in the uptake of these tools. We can get access to idle resources in our own neighborhood (such as cars available on Uber) or even activate thousands of idle workers on CrowdFlower to solve complex problems.

Continue reading

My Cold-Weather Rock and Roll

Jim Morrison, retro. RET

Winter has tightened its grip on Chicago. On a Friday afternoon in early December, the temperatures feel like they are dropping by the minute. The sun escapes the chill of the day early, leaving behind long shadows and an occasional gust of cold wind. This is the time for staying inside and listening to cold-weather rock and roll. Cold-weather music feels heavy like a wool blanket. Cold-weather rock songs can sound as dark and foreboding as a January night or as quiet as a snowfall, but in either case, they make you want to retreat from the outside world. “Gimme Shelter” is cold-weather rock. “Miss You” is not. Led Zeppelin’s fourth (untitled) album is cold-weather music, but Houses of the Holy by and large belongs to summer. Here are some of my favorite cold-weather albums — the music of my world now:

All_Things_Must_Pass_1970_cover

All Things Must Pass. In my mind’s eye, George Harrison writes somber, majestic songs like “Beware of Darkness” on a cold November afternoon while cloistered in the shadows of his Friar Park estate. Never mind Continue reading

How Internet Pranksters Such as Elan Gale and Randy Liedtke Take Advantage of Our “Me, Too, Me, First” Culture

ElanGale

Truth is the first casualty in the digital war for attention.

Throughout 2013, a rash of hoaxes perpetuated online have reminded us of the fragile nature of credibility in the digital world. So many attention-grubbing pranksters have hijacked digital media that CNN has declared 2013 as the year of the hoax. But 2013 is just the tip of the iceberg. Hoaxes perpetrated by entertainers, everyday people, and brands threaten to disrupt the Internet on a constant basis. Just within recent days, a rash of self-promotional hoaxes have bamboozled the news media, tarnished a national brand, and shamelessly capitalized on the death of a global hero to sling mud at a celebrity. In all cases, hoaxers are taking advantage of the “me, too, me, first” culture that pervades the digital world. It’s time to slow down and exercise some good old-fashioned critical thinking.

Continue reading