What Iron Maiden Taught Me About Marketing

One of the earliest trailblazers of Heavy Metal from the NWOBHM (New Wave of British Heavy Metal) scene, Iron Maiden is still potent in the Heavy Metal fraternity and headlines metal festivals across the world even after more than 40 years. The first song I ever heard of Iron Maiden was Paschendale. The intro tapping lick by Adrian Smith captivated the rookie guitarist in me from the get-go and I have been a fan of the band ever since. Bruce Dickinson’s operatic vocals, the twin lead guitar sound, Steve Harriss’ galloping bass playing and Nicko McBrain’s fast single pedal drumming technique propelled Iron Maiden into mainstream success with albums like The Number of the Beast, Piece of Mind, Powerslave etc.

I would like to write an Iron Maiden appreciation article, but some other time probably.

In this article, I would like to write about the 3 Marketing lessons I learned from Iron Maiden. I think having Bruce Dickinson is the biggest leverage for the band, because who wouldn’t want to have a member in the team who is a singer, songwriter, musician, airline pilot, fencer, entrepreneur, author, broadcaster, and Ph.D. in music?

Eddie the Head

When you ask a metalhead to imagine skeletal figures, the most common answers you’ll get are Megadeth’s Vic Rattlehead, Motorhead’s Snaggletooth and Iron Maiden’s Eddie. Among all the famous band mascots, Iron Maiden’s Eddie the Head remains the most noticeable character.

The reason Eddie came into existence is that Rod Smallwood (Iron Maiden’s manager) needed “that one figure who utterly stamped his presence and image on the band in a way that was obvious enough to make a good album cover.” (Source) After Derek Riggs’ creation – Eddie the Head made his first appearance on the debut single “Running Free,” Eddie’s been on all album covers and has taken semblances of a cyborg, an Egyptian Pharaoh, an alien, a cyborg to name a few. And this single brand identity has helped Iron Maiden sell truckloads of merchandise like t-shirts, posters and action figures.

Skip to 3:14 to see Eddie as a cyborg.

The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg

Iron Maiden released their 14th  studio album titled A Matter of Life and Death. Prior to the album release, Iron Maiden released The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg – the first single off the album. A website surfaced telling the story of Benjamin Breeg. The biography told of a person named Benjamin Breeg who was born in 1939 in London, England. He lost his parents in a house fire in 1947. Growing up in orphanages, he developed an interest religion with the intention of becoming a clergyman. He became an accomplished painter and would recreate paintings of the things he would see in his nightmares. After traveling the world from 1960-70, he took up a job at International Institute of Paranormal Investigation and wrote 6 books on occult practices in countries he traveled. The website which was set up allegedly by his cousin said that Benjamin Breeg disappeared in 1978, and no one knew his whereabouts.

His cousin asked to get in touch with him if anyone had any information about Benjamin Breeg. One man from Romania set up a meeting with Benjamin Breeg’s cousin on August 14, 2006, coincidentally the same date as the release of The Reincarnation of Benjamin Breeg. The website featured an image that was allegedly painted by Benjamin Breeg that looked like Eddie the Head which was a dead giveaway for the Iron Maiden fans.The whole gimmick turned out to be a brainchild of Steve Harris. Anticipating the buzz that would take place to find out who Benjamin Breeg is, Iron Maiden launched a website containing a completely fictional biography of Benjamin Breeg.

Image Source: Wikipedia/7 digital/Creative Commons

The cover for the single displays Eddie the Head digging up Benjamin Breeg’s grave and the tombstone reads a Romanian text, which is translated as “Here lies a man about whom not much is known.

Be Quick or Be Dead

Though it is not confirmed if this tactic was used or not, it is an astute move on Iron Maiden’s part nonetheless.

The music industry is plagued by piracy. I have been guilty of it, but since the launch of iTunes in India, I have started buying the albums the legit way. Metallica had filed a lawsuit against Napster (a peer-to-peer file sharing network) in 2000 to curb piracy which received them negative publicity. Iron Maiden tackled this situation differently. They used the download data of BitTorrent to plan their tours. The key findings showed that North and South America were the main locations which downloaded their music via torrents.

Image Credits: TorrentFreak

Studies have shown that pirates spend more money on concert tickets and merchandise. So, instead of running after the pirates, Iron Maiden identified an opportunity. They toured cities that had the highest illegal downloads, turning non-paying fans into paying fans.

So, what are the lessons I learned from Iron Maiden?

  1. Importance of Brand Identity: Brand Identity is what turns your product into a brand. It can take the form of a name, logo, tagline, brand character. Having a solid entity that you can identify with your brand will create a strong brand recall and a positive brand association
  2. Pre-Launch Buzz: Having a kickass product is of no use if your target audience is not made aware of it. Plan a pre-launch buzz campaign that will knock the socks off of your potential buyers
  3. Shrewdness: There can always be unusual avenues we might overlook to use Analytics to gather data for the Market Intelligence system. So, it’s always good to be more clever when working on Analytics.

Up the irons! \m/

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