Band extension

The top-selling group Keane hired image consultants before they'd even released a single, writes Ian Burrell

Beautiful, fascinating, honest, youthful, innocent, passionate, expansive. These are the seven buzz words - or "characteristics" - that were carefully selected to shape the identity of Keane, widely regarded as the outstanding British band of 2004.

Beautiful, fascinating, honest, youthful, innocent, passionate, expansive. These are the seven buzz words - or "characteristics" - that were carefully selected to shape the identity of Keane, widely regarded as the outstanding British band of 2004.

Boring, safe and middle-class might have been included in that list if some of the band's critics had got near it, but Keane are hardly likely to care - their decision to hire a branding company before they had even released their first single has paid off handsomely. The band currently tops the British album charts, yet again, on the back of a double triumph at the Brit awards earlier this month.

Keane's successes are all victories for Moving Brands, the company they hired in 2002, even before they signed to the independent record label Fierce Panda. Moving Brands was tasked with giving Keane a "coherent identity", from its CD covers and videos to its websites, posters and T-shirts.

Ben Wolstenholme, the company's creative founder, agreed to work for the then penniless band for free, so impressed was he by the demo CD he had been presented with by Keane's manager, Adam Tudhope. Wolstenholme remembers: "As a punter, I just loved the music. I was listening to Muse, The Strokes, Radiohead - and then when I got this, it became the thing I was into."

He decided to invest his time in the band and went to work with James Bull, Moving Brands' creative director. They sat down with Keane and drew up the list of buzz words. "We literally went through an identity process with them, establishing characteristics," he says. "The three that remain the most important now are 'fascinating, innocent, expansive'."

For Wolstenholme and Bull, it was important that Moving Brands had responsibility for the whole Keane presentational package, unlike other bands who risk muddling their message by allowing one agency to lay out their website and others to design the album covers and the merchandise. The music alone is no longer enough, it seems.

Wolstenholme says: "There are increasingly different channels on which music is distributed, and it is really important that the Keane experience is undiluted by anyone else interpreting the brand."

One person the pair are prepared to work alongside is their long-time friend and fellow former graduate of Central St Martins College of Art, Alex Lake, who has been Keane's photographer from day one. Whenever photographs of the band appear on official products, they have been taken by Lake.

The photographs will almost always depict Tim Rice-Oxley and the other Keane boys at work, either in the studio or on stage. Again, this is all part of the careful, deliberate branding of the band.

Not only have Lake's photos been integral to the Moving Brands scheme; his much-admired skills as an illustrator have been deployed as well. "We really love this idea that we can create a look and have it run consistently across everything," Wolstenholme says. "When we did the first single, we were already thinking of other ways it could reiterated."

Right from the beginning, he says, Keane themselves "understood the value of having a consistent anchor". When the band left Fierce Panda and signed for Island, Keane insisted that they should retain control over their branding. Their new record company said they should at least put the work out to tender. Moving Brands were obliged to re-pitch for the business, and were successful.

The colours used are important, too. They have to be "flat" and "rich" and "have depth", Bull says. For the British version of their chart-topping, award-winning album Hopes and Fears, the band asked Moving Brands to computer-generate for them their own shade of sludge green, after rejecting every pantone of the colour previously available to them.

"They wanted something with a more classic feeling, to go with the music," Bull says. "That colour could be on the shelf for 10 years and not date; it could be from the Sixties or from the Nineties. We have always been trying to create a classic, timeless feel."

The same could be said of the simple, now distinctive Keane logo (or "wordmark", as it is known), which was chosen after initially showing interest in an abstracted letter K, resembling a "less than" sign. For the album, Moving Brands also created a "crest", based on the hammer functions of Rice-Oxley's Yamaha CP70 electric piano. The wordmark and the crest are both crucial "anchor marks" in distinguishing Keane product.

Photographs of the band (who, it is fair to say, are not the most photogenic in the history of popular music) don't appear on the front of CDs. The pictures are tucked inside, in the sleeve notes, for the fans to pore over once a purchase has been secured.

And the band's followers are especially devoted. They should be: Moving Brands has been nurturing the fan base, using the internet to secure a database of hardcore aficionados and then treating them with cleverly branded postcards - containing lyrics and the "wordmark" - to alert them to forthcoming releases. These fans have also been sent a limited-edition box in which to store their Keane seven-inch singles, a canny exploitation of an ancient format to attract an internet-savvy customer base.

"Keane have diverse fans," says Bull. "City guys buy them, indie kids buy them, my mum buys them." This explains why Moving Brands has designed similar-looking display adverts for the band and placed them on the pages of the Daily Star and amid the share prices of the Financial Times.

Recent Keane releases have seen Moving Brands switching to a slightly more narrative-led design. The fourth single, "This Is the Last Time", featured a silhouette of a bloodied and dying bull, an image considered both beautiful and sad. But the muted colours, the wordmark, the absence of band picture - all recalled previous releases. "Darkness with a bit of light is generally the theme," says Wolstenholme, adding that the Hastings-based band have deliberately avoided any pretence of urban roots.

For Moving Brands, which operates out of London's fashionable Shoreditch media village and specialises in taking branding from its traditional static print format to the new-media-friendly moving identities known as mnemonics, the Keane experience has been instructive. The company, founded seven years ago, has assembled a client base that includes Vodafone, British Gas, the media buyers Carat and Kevin Spacey's Old Vic theatre.

As Keane set about conquering America, Britain's most beautiful, fascinating, etc, etc, etc musical combo will not want to give up their branding gurus just yet.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Robbie Savage will not face a driving ban
football'Mr Marmite' faced the possibility of a 28-day ban
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
Nearly half of all young people in middle and high income countries were putting themselves at risk of tinnitus and, in extreme cases, irreversible hearing loss
It was only when he left his post Tony Blair's director of communications that Alastair Campbell has published books
people The most notorious spin doctor in UK politics has reinvented himself
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in ‘I Am Michael’
filmJustin Kelly's latest film tells the story of a man who 'healed' his homosexuality and turned to God
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst - High Wycombe - £30,000

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Junior Business Systems Analyst role...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Sauce Recruitment: New Media Marketing Manager - EMEA - Digital Distribution

£35000 - £45000 per annum + up to £45,000: Sauce Recruitment: The Internation...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing / PR / Social Media Executive

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A thriving online media busines...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower