He may seem like a rather unusual industry guru, but in the last few weeks we’ve seen what I think is a brand and content marketing masterclass from Liam Gallagher, which led to the former Oasis frontman topping the UK album chart with the third fastest-selling LP of 2017.
During the week of the launch, As You Were was outselling the rest of the top 20 combined and by the time all was said and done, it had shifted over 103,000 copies. To put that in context, that’s double the number Oasis’ Definitely Maybe did in its first seven days and triple Liam’s last Beady Eye release BE.
But what’s the marketing secret behind this success? How did Warner Bros take what could have been seen as an exercise in nostalgia and make it seem fresh and interesting? What big data, audience analysis and storyscaping tactics were employed to optimise reach and scalability across all verticals? Well thankfully, it was simpler than that. They let Liam do all the work instead.
1. Set the brand style
“I just want you to know, it’s my time.” – All My People / All Mankind
So, just to clarify that last statement, I’m half joking. I’m sure there was a marketing team that helped get this album to the top of the charts, and I’m sure they’ve been patting themselves on the back ever since. And they should, because it’s clear they did the smartest thing possible. They took a step back to get a clear look at what they were selling and what made it stand out from its competitors… then let that be the focal point of the brand.
Let’s start by making the obvious comparison shall we. The week before Liam dropped his album on the world, his brother Noel released a teaser for his own new ‘solo’ (does anyone actually who the High Flying Birds are? Is one of them Paul Weller?) project Who Built the Moon? The 2:30 Floyd-esque trailer seemed to promise conceptuality and psychedelia in abundance, with animations that seemed to sit somewhere between Kubrick and Jodorowsky (worth noting also that the first single from it is called Holy Mountain).
Now let’s look at Liam’s starter for ten, starting with the artwork. I don’t know the exact fonts here, but they might as well be a combination of Arial Black and Light, and I think that sends a clear message. These are the fonts that say: ‘We’re not trying to fool anyone. You know what this is’.
Apart from that (save for a pixel-thin border) there’s just a black and white photograph of Liam slap staring down the barrel of the camera with all the arrogance and rock star entitlement he’s been shoving in our face for the last 25 years. There’s a simplicity here that stands as a stark contrast to Noel’s approach, one that makes it feel like one of the Gallaghers is hiding behind a mess of overthought design, while the other is out in plain sight.
And while the only real notable ‘style’ of the sleeve is a slight discolouration and texture that seems to hint at aged vinyl, even this subtle design trick is another indicator of what is being sold. This light touch is Liam yelling his intent for the record. Like an old Beatles record locked away in your mum and dad’s attic for the last decade or so, this is a classic. A record you’ll return to for many years to come and will stand alongside classic first solo outings like those of Lennon, McCartney and Harrison.
2. Warm up the audience
“I’m sure it’ll be fucking amazing. But it just won’t be more amazing than mine.” – Liam on Noel’s upcoming album
Now this is where things get really interesting. While Noel’s marketing machine has been gently humming along with a taster of some elaborate new music here and some high contrast supporting artwork there (and all trickled out through a dry and corporate official Twitter account), Team Liam took a different approach.
They could have come up with something clever, artsy and overthought, but instead they realised that their strongest asset was the product itself. And not only did they let him crack on with the business of simply being Liam Gallagher, they creamed some of his best bits off the top for a seeding campaign that reminded everyone why they fell for him in the first place.
The general consensus has always been that Noel is the songwriter and Liam is just the frontman. In my opinion, that’s a crushing understatement of Liam’s vocal ability and what he brings to every song, but the fact is that we always expected that the older Gallagher would end up with the more established career. So, if we love Noel for his musical prowess, why do we love Liam?
Well, we love his attitude. We love his cocky northern swagger and his acerbic wit. We love the fact he can go off the rails and punch a cameraman. We love that he nicked Idris Elba’s hat because he touched his hair. Like him or hate him, he’s the real deal. He says what he means and he means what he says. And he says a lot… so why not use that?
Spotted around the corner from home. This is some great marketing. As you were x pic.twitter.com/O5LqGrCFQ1
— Michael Hartt 🌈 (@whatamindblast) September 30, 2017
3. Keep it authentic
“I’m older now, gonna show you how for real. Gonna spit you out of my motormouth.” – Universal Gleam
It’s all very well having a product that’s authentic, but how do you amplify that? How do you bring that authenticity to life and use the brand tone to create something in the real and digital world that helps you promote it to the masses? Well in this case, you just ask yourself: ‘What would Liam do?’
He’d put a giant poster outside Old Trafford
Liam (like his brother) is a lifelong Manchester City fan and, for those of you who don’t know, the Victoria Warehouse in Manchester (or Salford if you’re a City fan) sits directly opposite Manchester United’s ground.
So, when the reds’ fans rocked up to Old Trafford to see their team take on Crystal Palace on the last week of September, they were greeted by a massive billboard poster – in the glorious sky blue of his beloved team – right outside the stadium.
as you were MCFC x pic.twitter.com/KsjKAdEtr5
— Manchester City (@ManCity) October 2, 2017
He’d tell you about the state of the record industry
When it comes to interviews, Liam is absolutely untouchable. Over the years he’s spun countless examples of verbal gold and if you ask him a question, expect the response to be honest and devastatingly funny.
When BBC Music Backstage Pass followed him to a festival in Paris, they ended up with a promo clip that racked up up 8.2m Facebook views and over 320k Twitter engagements. Not only that, but it was a featured story just about everywhere, from Metro and NME to Mashable, Vulture and Adage.
Liam Gallagher making tea is the best thing you’ll see today. As you were. pic.twitter.com/JaAB0p6Qr2
— BBC Three (@bbcthree) September 20, 2017
He’d introduce a new catchphrase… that would become a meme
Remember when all you needed to ape Liam Gallagher was to wear John Lennon glasses and tell everyone how ‘mad for it’ you were? Well today’s Liam is less about what he’s going to do and more about what he’s done and what he thinks.
He jumps in, makes a statement, then jumps out and let’s you carry on with your business. As you were x. But in the digital world, a catchphrase has more cache… and it doesn’t take much for it to become a meme. And if that meme happens to include the name of your forthcoming album, great.
Thought of the day.Is ever really too late for social fucking media training as you fucking were LG x
— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) October 2, 2017
— Noel Mellor (@thenoelmellor) October 2, 2017
4. Celebrate your success
“There’s no time for looking back, thanks for all your support.” – I’ve All I Need
The dual personalities of Liam Gallagher poured out of the first two singles and it wasn’t difficult to see where a lot of the energy was being directed. If Wall of Glass was a stark warning to a pompous rival that change was in the water (“You were sold a one direction, I believe the resurrection’s on and you were wrong”) then For What it’s Worth felt very much like an olive branch to that same person (“Let’s leave the past behind with all our sorrows, I’ll build a bridge between us and I’ll swallow my pride”) that wanted to take a portion of the blame.
If there’s an epilogue to all this, beyond the massive success of the record itself, it’s the validation it brings for what may be a secretly dichotomous character. But if there is a side to Liam that’s scared of failure, apologetic for past mistakes or even uncertain of his own abilities (particularly when being compared to Noel), I can’t help but feel we won’t see it again for some time.