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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Color Study Changes Devo's Iconic Hat

One of my favorite bands from back in the day, Devo, has finally put out a new album after 20 years. Never what you'd call a traditional band, Devo decided to employ focus groups and color studies to make many of the decisions for them. The album is aptly titled, "Something for Everybody". The biggest outcome was a change to their iconic red hats which have now changed to blue. Frontman, Mike Mothersbaugh, had this to say on the color study:

We've employed focus groups to help us choose a color. There are advantages and disadvantages we've found. We've gotten letters from people that said that they had problems with red hats. The color red, they felt, was unsafe. So the energy dome, I'm pretty certain it's going to change color.

The color study not only gives you your Devo color but asks such thought provoking questions as “Which color for the car makes you dislike this man more?” or "If you were a color, you'd mix yourself with which of the following colors?” You are sometimes given a choice of 6 colors and your choice is pasted into the picture.

Fans and the public also decided which tracks made it onto the album and gave costume decisions as well. On the idea of using focus groups, Mothersbaugh comments:

We always felt that we never got used to our full extent. We had ideas about TV programming before there was an MTV. We were creating products in that medium six or seven years before that, but we weren't marketing students, we sounded like crazy artists.

In the last four years, I've worked on films and I've watched focus groups and sat in on them. They've made decisions that made me change music, even if I didn't agree with it. But they allowed the directors and producers, who were hyper-focused on certain problems and couldn't see the bigger picture, to have a fresh view.

Warners allowed us to choose Mother to do the marketing, which was great, because record companies can have 200 bands and if half a dozen are successful, they high-five each other at the end of the year. Ad agencies, they have a few clients at a time and they can't let any of them not be a success.

It was a fun idea, poking fun, and it eliminated any arguments within the band, because we could all put up our choices for things like the album title and put them to a focus group. We let the public choose the title.

Take the Devo color study yourself if you need a few minutes of entertainment:

On the Colbert Report last week, Stephan Colbert donned one of their new hats and commented that he felt the new outfits had a certain Kim Jung Il look! But as always, what I love about Devo, whether band members are working on their own unique projects or working together, is they are still managing to evolve and keep us entertained after 30 years.


Nicky P. said...

Oh lord. I remember the first time I saw them. It was a music video, but yes, before MTV. I don't think my liitle Modesto head could compute what was going on.

Devo's dead, long live Devo!

DesignTies said...

Super-interesting post!! I love that the fans had so much input into the decisions that Devo made about their hats AND their music :-)

I remember when you were lucky if you sent a fan letter to a star and a PR person sent you back a picture with a stamped autograph -- now with social media, fans can be part of the process!! Totally cool!!

Whip it!! ;-)


P.S. Thanks for checking out my guest post on Hue :-)

Unknown said...

Funny - I had seen the color study a few months back and even mentioned it on by blog, but had NO idea why they were doing it. Now I know. A new hat color? Thanks, Marie! (Isn't that color study hilarious? So random.)