The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Why Being Dangerous Is A Business Strategy …

There’s a brilliant documentary on the band The KLF.

For those who don’t know who they are/were, they’re a band formed in the late 80’s who wrote some of the early 90’s biggest selling singles.

Except, if truth be told, The KLF were more artists than musicians.

I don’t mean that in terms of them having many different business interests …I mean it in terms of them expressing their creativity in ever-more dramatic, provocative and intriguing ways.

From burning a million pounds to sampling without permission to firing a machine gun full of blanks at an audience live on television to delisting every song they ever made … and a whole lot in-between.

It’s a truly fascinating documentary, where you realise that everything they did – while not planned – was definitely deliberate.

But there’s one quote about them that stood out for me.

Not just because it captured who they were, but because it revealed what is missing for me in so much of the work the industry is producing.

I love that.

I love it so much.

But sadly, many in my discipline of strategy – and all the self-proclaimed marketing gurus – have killed that in the quest to flatter their own ego.

And it gets worse.

No, I’m not talking about the clients who value function, logic and attribution over shaping or changing cultures opinion, attitudes and feelings – though I could definitely talk about that – but the agency creative departments filled with people who want to make ads rather than use creativity to push boundaries.

The KLF may have been seen by the industry as anarchists … but for a band who had a few – albeit massive – hits in the 90’s, their work still is remembered, stands up to scrutiny and can be directly associated with cultural change which is more than pretty much anything our industry, or most industries for that matter, produces these days.

Of course, given the untold billions brands spend to have culture know them, value them and want them … this is pretty ironic.

Oh I get these brands still make a ton of money.

More than even The KLF could burn.

But this isn’t about distribution, habit or media spent, but influence, change and ambition.

This doesn’t mean the talent isn’t there to make something like this happen.

It is.

But it means nothing if the role it’s used for is to give clients what they want rather than what culture can never forget.

24 Comments so far
Leave a comment

What a way to end the week.

A stomping read about an ingenious band with a documentary I’m going to watch tonight. Thank you Rob. The “give them what they’ll never forget” quote is perfect.

Comment by George

It is the best quote I’ve heard in so long.

Comment by Rob

best fucking thing to ever be on this blog after my comments.

Comment by andy@cynic


Comment by Bazza

People talk about them burning a million pounds but companies burn way more than that with their crappy ads.

Comment by Pete

Great point.

Comment by George

That’s brilliant. And The KLF did it in a way that probably made them more than that back through additional sales, awareness and desirability.

Comment by Rob

anticapitalist capitalists.

Comment by andy@cynic

Similar to when Bezos bought Whole Foods and the Amazon share price went up so much it ended up costing him nothing.

Comment by Bazza

Oh I remember hearing that. An investment that actually proves to be an investment. Who knew? Ha.

Comment by Rob

You’ve written post about a band that isn’t queen. Fuck.

Comment by Billy Whizz

It won’t happen again.

Comment by Rob

who wrote this? theres no fucking way you did campbell. its far too fucking interesting to be anything you came up with. and no mention of queen. proof you had nothing to do with it. that quote is stellar. should be printed on the wall of every agency and client everywhere.

Comment by andy@cynic

I was thinking the same.

Comment by Bazza

I love KLF and the documentary looks amazing. Do you know where I can see it? Thanks Robbie.

Jemma xo

Comment by Jemma King

I think it’s on Amazon Prime.
I thought of you when I watched it.
You’ll love this article which gives a background to the doco:

Comment by Rob

Thank you.

Comment by Jemma King

that article is good. what the fuck is going on campbell? only taken you 20 years of writing shit to get to decent.

Comment by andy@cynic

Even nature messes up sometimes.

Comment by Rob

Takes me back to the days when planners used to write posts about The KLF.

Comment by John

Hahahaha … asshole.

Comment by Rob

An excellent read Robert. As others have said, the quote you highlight is excellent.

Comment by Lee Hill

I think your point is more profound than to just be about advertising. Much of today’s politics (in the UK, at least) seems to be about giving voters what they want – promising to be the party that voters really want – rather than showing them a different vision

Comment by Rich

”Not planned but definitely deliberate” is the best summation of the KLF performance style I’ve read. I also like you call them artists not musicians.

Comment by Higgy

Leave a Reply