Most generally recognized for his tenure because the bassist for Rock N Roll luminaries like Rob Zombie and Ozzy Osborne, Rob “Blasko” Nicholson’s pension for cool extends far past the music trade. Turning his tenure on the pinnacle of heavy metallic into roles as a strategic and artistic chief, together with changing into the Leisure Advertising Overlord at Liquid Loss of life, Blasko brings a lifetime of outsider perception, and counterculture philosophies to the branding dialog.
Along with his music profession self-described as “behind him”, Blasko related with our managing editor to debate his dedication to constructing cool manufacturers, the ability of simplicity, what drives counterculture, and why authenticity, consciousness, and motion are essential elements of any profitable fringe model.
Brandingmag: When was the primary time you grew to become conscious of branding and what have been the primary manufacturers that actually impacted you?
Rob Blasko: Folks like us, Noah, we navigate life by what we predict is cool. After I was seven, I made my mother drive me to the file retailer to purchase a KISS file. And it was as a result of I believed KISS was cool. However she’s like, we now have data right here. Right here’s Joan Baez. Right here’s Peter, Paul and Mary. All the folks stuff of that period. And I used to be like—that’s not cool to me. I don’t establish with that. KISS was cool. Peter, Paul, and Mary, not cool.
You turn out to be conscious of branding if you’re making a choice primarily based on what you assume is cool.
I establish with not simply BMX, however particularly a Diamondback. Driving BMX was a necessity as a child to get from level A to level B, however what’s cool? Huffy ain’t cool. I desire a Diamondback. I desire a pink line. Skateboarding is cool. However what was the best? Powell-Peralta, Alva, Dogtown–these have been cool manufacturers that I recognized with that make you conscious of branding as a result of it form of turns into a part of your DNA–outwardly representing who you’re as a person. When do you discover branding? As quickly as I recognized one thing that was cool versus not cool after which instantly grew to become a client of that–to outwardly establish with my environment–that is who I’m as a person, that is what I establish with. And I need everybody round me to know. That approach you’re both immediately my good friend otherwise you’re not my good friend.
Bm: It’s attention-grabbing as a result of there’s a factor that occurs, for some folks, the place we need to routinely transmit to the world who we’re. You realize, like, I need to appear like the music I like. Then, manufacturers in these area of interest worlds nearly turn out to be the gatekeepers. The primary gate is figuring out about them. The second gate is to tug off getting it, trigger it’s simply out of attain sufficient that getting it says one thing about who you’re. Having lengthy hair in highschool is simply onerous sufficient to tug off that, in the event you do it, it says so much about who you’re. For some motive, we awoke at some point and determined that we need to look how we really feel.
RB: Sure. Having lengthy hair, having coloured hair, carrying a sure T-shirt, being a sure approach, these have been selections you made that you just knew might probably get you beat up or at the least in a struggle. It’s possible you’ll win. However, in the event you’re keen to defend a mohawk, then likelihood is you’ve been in a couple of scraps. Current day, there are quite a lot of outward dealing with selections you possibly can make to establish your self and likewise put your self in hurt’s approach–concurrently. You will have lots of people that simply need to Homer Simpson into the bushes and never be seen. You don’t see me. I don’t ruffle feathers. There’s nothing unsuitable with that call. However I grew up in a time and in a approach the place we recognized ourselves individually as just a little area of interest subculture to draw extra of the identical in order that we might construct a neighborhood of like-minded folks that like the identical issues.
Bm: It turns into a homing beacon. How do you see the dynamic between counterculture and monoculture now? Is monoculture lifeless, or are subcultures gaining floor?
RB: Luckily, we progress. Expertise progresses. Generations progress. The way in which my technology skilled leisure and countercultures is totally different than, say, this technology, proper? I’m Gen X. Gen Z has a totally totally different expertise. Gen X, by way of monoculture, we skilled issues concurrently. There was the water cooler. There was the factor that you just talked about since you knew that everybody else was watching the identical factor on the similar time. There was some consolation in that.
These days there’s a little bit of an choice paralysis by way of the place the competitors is. In your telephone, you’ve got this selection paralysis. Your competitors is an infinite quantity of choices on Spotify, on YouTube, in video video games, on Instagram. The eye for the patron, the viewers, the fan, what have you ever, is so thinly unfold that it justifies why all the things is such restricted quick content material. That’s why shorts are standard. That’s why TikTok is standard. And you’ve got these actually chew dimension nuggets of content material, and that’s the way in which this technology consumes content material. It’s most likely by no means been more durable to get heard and get seen due to the quantity of competitors on one machine. It’s overwhelming when you concentrate on it. To have the ability to rise above that may be a actual problem.
Bm: One answer for the noise is this concept of constructing cult manufacturers, or a cult following. After I was youthful, I might hear artists like Nick Cave described as a cult artist. Now manufacturers need that. Success for many individuals is having this die onerous advocate, or fan base. Within the music world, you’ve clearly performed with bands who’re revered cult favorites. Rob Zombie followers purchase all the things he does. They’re all in. So how has your expertise been taking what you’ve discovered within the music world and making use of it to manufacturers?
RB: Yeah. Additionally, too, the very clear distinction that must be made, that once we’re speaking about cults and cult manufacturers, we’re not speaking about, like, the Manson Household. A cult model is extra of a sense. All of us have this sense that claims ‘I need to discover it first, and I need to be the primary one to share it with my pals.’ The primary adopters have a way of possession, if you’ll, and likewise a way of duty to evangelize the model. Every time cult manufacturers turn out to be mass, they have an inclination to lose the early adopters, as a result of then it turns into much less cool when everybody is aware of about it. It’s cool on the early levels.
Whenever you begin attempting to create a cult model, you’re attempting to resolve an issue for a specific area of interest of individuals.
With Liquid Loss of life, it was categorized as a cult factor at first as a result of we recognized the early adopters, nevertheless it shortly spiraled out from there. We didn’t assume that water in a beer can with a cranium on it was going to attraction to a suburban mother out of the gate. Proper? It wouldn’t have. It is sensible that it does now as a result of their children are figuring out with it as a result of it makes them really feel cool–it’s cool to drink Liquid Loss of life. Then the mother and father are like, ‘It’s simply water, so who cares? No matter, proper? I’m not terrified of it anymore.
Bm: It’s the early counterculture adopters that carry it to tradition.
RB: I’ve been interviewing quite a lot of younger founders and CEOs to know what makes them tick and the way they’ve constructed their companies which can be on the perimeter. There’s a few by way of traces and similarities, pillars that come up over and over. It’s authenticity, consciousness, and motion. All these folks have this form of intuitive sense of those three issues. Authenticity is an enormous one. In the event you’re going to start out a model, it needs to be an genuine extension of who you’re.
If it’s not genuine, it gained’t join.
Liquid Loss of life discovered a really energetic market of bottled water, they usually recognized that there was no cool model within the area in any way. Water is a multibillion greenback enterprise. So might you have a look at any companies like that and go like, oh, effectively, the place is there one thing that isn’t cool? Let’s particularly make a model that’s cool and insert ourselves in that dialog. By way of the model itself, it’s an trustworthy extension of the authenticity of the proprietor. He’s a righteously tattooed, metalhead, punkrocker, skateboarder. That preliminary identification was that cult viewers–that’s all these issues, that’s who recognized with it first.
Subsequent is consciousness. Now that it’s genuine, how can we construct it up? All of those folks have been conscious of their environment. How can we get it to the subsequent stage? What are the issues which can be in our community? Who’s in our community? How is it that we will construct this model and entry the issues which can be in quick attain. That’s the place it ranges up.
The third half is motion. These are all action-oriented folks. What number of issues are you aware that simply by no means see the sunshine of day? As a result of it dies in the intervening time it must be actionable. Everybody’s received a fucking good concept, proper? How many individuals have been like, ‘Man, I had that concept. I by no means noticed it by way of.’ There’s simply no observe by way of, as a result of observe by way of requires sacrifice.
There’s all the time a motive why issues can’t occur. However I’ll let you know, as cliche because it sounds, in each interview with one in every of these folks, it ends the identical approach. I’ll say ‘Hey, it sounds such as you simply believed in your self.’ And each time they’re like, ‘Sure. I simply believed in my concept. I simply believed in myself. I put it on the market and it’s working.’
Bm: On this trade we love the large concept, nevertheless it’s making an concept work that’s so helpful.
RB: It’s not the concept, it’s the execution.
Bm: As a result of there are solely seven storylines. There’s solely so many characters. A Kung Fu film and a Western are functionally the identical–simply executed in a different way. This is likely one of the the explanation why I consider counterculture thinkers are so helpful in branding—they inherently perceive it’s about executing–getting within the van, enjoying the present, making the movie–it’s about doing it.
RB: That’s precisely proper. It’s additionally reframing the dialog in quite a lot of methods the place it’s not a buyer, it’s a fan. It’s not a client, it’s your viewers. It’s not advertising. It’s leisure. Actually bringing folks into your world and making them really feel a part of it. I believe that provides so much to the general success of manufacturers.
Bm: The manufacturers who do it effectively are likely to remind me of bands.
RB: There’s one factor that I’ll say about bands by way of what I’ve seen of profitable bands that I really feel like is a by way of line–that in the event you can determine it out, likelihood is you most likely will probably be profitable. It’s a really onerous equation. You’re troublesome to outline and you’re troublesome to duplicate. That means that you just don’t sound like anybody else. The mashup of issues that you’re is troublesome to outline. Then on the flip facet, as a result of it’s so distinctive, you’re troublesome to duplicate. Certain, folks can strive, however since you’re so distinctive, it simply appears like a shitty rip off.
Bm: True of bands and types. Being troublesome to outline and onerous to duplicate is cool. The Diamondback, Powell-Peralta, Ozzy.
RB: I need to know all the things there may be to find out about what’s cool. Why folks establish with cool, what client habits is round cool. What makes somebody really feel cool. These are all issues that my enterprise is geared in direction of. It’s what has pushed me as a fan, as an viewers member, as a client my total life. Kiss file, BMX bike, skateboard, garments I put on, what I do, the place I am going. Will I do what’s cool? Sure. Will I do what’s not cool? No. It’s that straightforward.
Bm: Do you’ve got one takeaway lesson out of your nook of area of interest cool that you just assume the bigger branding world might or ought to study from?
RB: Break the principles. Have a look at it from a distinct perspective and perceive what’s distinctive, and what the world wants from a singular perspective. I believe that’s type of it. Manufacturers have to take a look at issues from a distinct perspective, and push themselves just a little additional exterior of the consolation zone as a result of there’s quite a lot of noise you’ve received to chop above these days.
Cowl picture supply: Andrew Stuart