While the old adage that all PR is good PR may sit true for some, this was not the case for rock musician Marilyn Manson who said that his career was “shut down” in the aftermath of the Columbine High School shootings in 1999.
Manson was blamed widely in the media at the time for the massacre in Colorado, when two students murdered 12 classmates and one teacher, leading to venues refusing to book his shows amid damaging headlines.
“When Columbine happened it really shut down my career entirely to the extent that [even] casinos refused to book my shows,” he told an audience at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.
“Strangely enough it’s almost unprecedented that not only did I not do anything, they were not fans of mine, but when I sat and watched it on TV initially they said they were wearing Marilyn Manson make up and t-shirts. We found out later that they weren’t but once the wheel started spinning…”
Manson put a cease and desist order out on all the press – he had trademarked the name Marilyn Manson years before – but the headlines had already halted his career.
Asked whether in the era of social media and fame-hungry celebrities that all PR is good PR Manson replied; “I don’t think that PR is the same as it used to be because that means public relations… I think that having an avatar doesn’t make you have an identity and having a persona online doesn’t make you a personality either.
On maintaining a consistent brand throughout his 24-year career Manson said that because audiences and consumers are more cynical due to their access to information online, he, along with brands in a wider sense can’t afford to be fake.
“You can’t sell something to somebody that is fake they just don’t want,” he said. “The only difference between me on stage and off stage is that when I’m off stage I’m talking to people I know and telling them about personal things and when I’m singing it’s [to] people I’ve never met before.”
Manson also discussed how to stay true to your beliefs as a brand but continue to evolve. He said that too often marketers want to appeal to loyal fan bases but he prefers to pull in new audiences and change perceptions.
“I want people who have never heard of me before or didn’t like me before to like whatever I make every time I make my music.”