Layla

by Ben Perreira

Eric Clapton had to make a decision about Layla. No, the decision was not whether or not he would chase his buddy’s wife; he was already going to do that. He had to decide how listeners would experience the song. He chose to make it a rock song that was fit its era – post-Beatles and Stones heyday, just after the death of Hendrix, pre-funk. The song was epic.

Then in 1992 he participated in an MTV Unplugged session, recording a live acoustic version of the song that showed another side of its beauty. The song sounded very different, but it remained epic, even beating out Nirvana to win a Grammy.

The lesson befitting this particular blog is that great taste can have many permutations. Artists decide to represent their craft in a way that makes sense in a particular context. Both representations of Layla were spot on for their eras.

Brands must do the same thing. As media becomes more fragmented, more democratized and more rapidly accessible, brands have the opportunity and the mandate to be creative in how they tell their stories. They cannot expect one story to have universal appeal when that one story can be so easily turned off, or ignored in favor of another screen. Eric Clapton didn’t ruin Layla by playing an acoustic version. Far from it – he evolved to implant himself into the culture that included 1990s grunge and a worthy foil to the oncoming onslaught of boy bands. 

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