April 24th, 2016 - Brand

Prince. Bowie. Merle. 2016’s been a hard year on our hearts

I was dreamin’ when I wrote this
So sue me if I go to fast
But life is just a party
And parties weren’t meant to last

– Prince, 1958 – 2016

As I rushed from meeting to meeting Thursday, I glanced at my phone and puzzled over a text from my kid.

“Prince died.”

My brain didn’t want to make sense of the blunt statement. Who? What? As the news sunk in, I swam in emotion. Lyrics tumbled around in my head as I was transported back to places, people and feelings I hadn’t recalled for years.

The trip down memory lane has continued with Prince on rotation for the last 48 hours. Purple Rain. 1999. When Doves Cry. Little Red Corvette. Darling Nikki. Raspberry Beret.

Songs etched in my memory. The words come back so easily along with the emotions of my young teenage self.

All this feeling has me pondering. Music. The melodies. The lyrics. A powerful combination that stirs us. And when you combine the power of the music with a personality of an authentic star, disciples are created.

Over the past four months, we’ve seen these disciples pay homage to their idols as one by one we have lost five music legends (whose combined body of work totals 25 Grammy’s, 4 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductions and 3 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Awards). Their fans shared honest and raw emotions at the loss of these talents who touched their lives.

I believe we’ve witnessed a potent testament to the fact that talent, authenticity and emotion are a recipe for greatness.

And in my world of branding and reputation management, it shows that a brand is created from the authentic character, integrity, quality and an emotional connection.

Yet when it comes to branding companies or products, people forget that this is what it’s all about. Pretty logos and fancy packaging fall flat without the influence of these key ingredients.

I’ve argued with clients in the past about the essence of a brand. And I’m sure I will continue to do so in the future. And when I do, I may just talk to them about Prince or Bowie. Or Glenn Frye, Merle Haggard or Maurice White… depending on their personal taste in music.


PS. I’ve been thinking of this blog for since hearing of David Bowie’s death in January. It percolates every time I see someone answering the Facebook challenge to list the albums/artists that have stuck with them over the years.

So today, as I stew in my musical emotions, I’ve come up with my own list and put the challenge out to all of you.

Think of it as homework, a little research into the power of brand and artistry.

Shannon’s Albums

The game calls for 12 influential albums, and one per artist, but I’m not a big rule follower. It seems that Prince’s passing has me thinking of my early years and those influences, so there’s a lot of music from that period on this list. Or maybe what you listen to then is what sticks with you the longest? I’ve tacked Adele 25 and Ed Sheeran X on the end.  Even though it’s newer music, it’s what I listen to with my daughter … her music. And they both feel like they’ve got some of those secret ingredients that make the music stick with you.

  1. Elton John, Greatest Hits, Volume 1
  2. Prince, 1999 & Purple Rain
  3. Michael Jackson, Thriller
  4. Violent Femmes, Violent Femmes
  5. The Pogues, If I Should Fall From the Grace of God
  6. Billy Idol, Don’t Stop
  7. Spirit of the West, Labour Day &Save This House
  8. Madonna, Like a Virgin
  9. Elvis Costello, My Aim is True & everything else he ever did
  10. Billy Bragg & Wilco, Mermaid Ave
  11. Iris DeMent, Wasteland of the Free
  12. Rufus Wainwright, Poses
  13. Adele, 25
  14. Ed Sheeran, X

With gratitude,

Shannon Larkins

Inspired by a little blackcoffee

Some of my favourite moments are spent in search of something beautiful while I drink my first cup of coffee and hear the house wake up. From there I move on to the paper and the news of the day. In this space, I’ll share some of those inspirations.


Shannon Larkins

Founder, Blackcoffee Studio

Over the course of 15+ years, Shannon has grown Blackcoffee Studio out of a love for building brands and reputations. She serves up Blackcoffee as a morning ritual while caffeinating clients and readers on the regular. You can find her at www.BlackcoffeeStudio.com


Blackcoffee Studio

Blackcoffee is a premium brand development agency, offering luxury brand experience to clients at home in Calgary, Canada and around the globe. Brands create experience, set you apart from the competition and drive growth. Anyone can bulid a business but only the exceptional can create a brand. Are you ready?

Shannon Larkins

Shannon Larkins

Hi I’m Shannon, founder of Blackcoffee Studio. A former reporter, spin doctor and politico, I now focus on using my powers for good.

I create mighty brands for clients and share their stories with the world. I’m also rather addicted to my nutty family, dogs with pushed in faces, Mexico and of course coffee … black.