Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? If you haven’t we highly recommend you put it on this weekend’s to do list. The streamlined biopic of the band Queen and lead singer Freddie Mercury is beautifully done. But there are messages in it that we can all learn from, especially when it comes to business strategy.
The movie follows the band from when they first formed to the Live Aid concert in 1985 at Wembley Stadium. It charts the relationships between the foursome and their loved ones. The triumphs, tribulations and emotional turmoil that went with them. Freddie Mercury, played expertly by Rami Malek (of Mr Robot fame) is very much at the centre of the movie. However, as one might expect, the music is the ultimate star.
The real star of the movie
One gets the impression that despite Mercury’s frontman position; his glamorous, at times controversial, and larger than life stage persona, the band was very much a family. It seems they made decisions that were not based on commercial gain, but a love of what they did. This is a theme that finds itself reiterated throughout.
The movie certainly reminds us that Brian May in particular, was set for an entirely different career path when Queen first met. He was set to be an astrophysicist. It also goes to great lengths to illustrate the band’s independent decision making. They are portrayed as dedicated to their craft and their own vision for their music and image.
In a scene which it is believed was manufactured, Mike Myers plays the fictional manager Ray Foster from EMI. Evidently, he is representative of the music industry mentality at the time. He staunchly refuses to release the band’s controversially long and genre-defying single, Bohemian Rhapsody. He says it’s too long and too different to anything else on the market. The band’s response is unilateral defiance. The basis of that defiance is a refusal to have their music put into a box or follow a formula.
Knowing your strengths and who you are
In the movie, Freddie is asked to explain what makes Queen different. He responds:
“We’re four misfits who don’t belong together, we’re playing for other misfits. They’re the outcasts right at the back of the room. We’re pretty sure they don’t belong either. We belong to them.”
Of course, we don’t know the extent to which Queen was guided by its management or not in those early years. But let’s assume the vision that Freddie, Brian, Roger and John had was genuine. And that the spirit of the movie, overseen by members of Queen itself, is also true to their ideologies.
It seems Mercury and his bandmates had a clear vision of two things. They knew who they were playing for, and who they wanted to be. The details of that, such as the creation of each song, seem to have come to them organically through their creative process. Nonetheless, they are lead by these two things, rather than record sales and financial targets. The result of course, is that they were monumentally popular and successful.
Is that method a 21st century fairytale? Queen are not the first people to follow a passion or purpose and come out on top. Just think about Steve Jobs (on a quest for innovation) or Mark Zuckerberg (desperate for a date… at least the way The Social Network tells it). Either way, it’s a purpose and a razor sharp focus on it above all else. It is an approach that we see in many a game changer, although these days we would probably call them disruptors.
In words attributed to British television presenter Sir David Frost: “Don’t aim for success if you want it; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally.”
Passion, purpose and business strategy
This self awareness, and the resulting ability to think outside our own industry is something we can all learn from.
All too often we’re focused on what other people are doing as a measurement and roadmap for how our own companies progress. We are defined by the things that we already know. Or the controlling factors such as money. That’s not to say that those things aren’t valuable. They are fundamental and galvanising. But they are tools and measurements rather than vision and purpose.
Not every business has the glamour of a legendary band like Queen. But done the right way, every business has the capacity to have that kind of inspiration and integrity in the way it works. The real message is that looking at business or marketing strategy within the confines of the status quo and nothing more, does not a game changer make.
We’re certainly not suggesting that you fire your managers and grow your hair out (although whatever gets you going). We’re saying take a fresh look at your approach and ask yourself – what would Freddie Mercury do?