Why The Beatles Endure

By Edward Adler | March 26th, 2024

The greatest PR and marketing machine in history

The Beatles statues on the Liverpool waterfront, for article on why the Beatles endure

On Jan. 30, 1969, the groundbreaking British rock music band The Beatles staged their last public performance, but The Beatles endure. What is the reason for the band’s continued success? Longtime PR marketing executive Edward Adler weighs in.

It was 60 years ago that The Beatles debuted on the Ed Sullivan show and six decades later they are still at the forefront of popular culture, making news, appealing to multiple generations, and continuing to gain new fans every day.

As a lifelong marketing and PR professional, I’m in awe of their staying power and how The Beatles brand is perhaps the most amazing marketing and PR phenomenon the world has ever seen. They have left an indelible mark on both the music industry and popular culture.

And their staying power is not only as a group but by their unprecedented solo careers after the band broke up. John, (“Imagine”), Paul (“Maybe I’m Amazed”), George (“My Sweet Lord”), and Ringo (“Photograph”) all had many number one records and classic albums post Fab Four. So much of that work has been considered pop music gems.

Yes, there have been other iconic music artists over the decades that still are relevant today. They influenced the culture with long impactful careers. Frank Sinatra, Elvis, Michael Jackson, Prince, The Rolling Stones, and Madonna all have longevity and influence. Pundits today say Taylor Swift’s influence on her generation and her decade-long musical evolution is Beatle-esque. People are even speculating how she can influence the 2024 presidential election. But will people still be listening to her 60 years from now? That jury of course is still out, but I predict that her music does not have the unique staying power of that of The Beatles.

Beyond their music, The Beatles had a profound cultural impact that extended far beyond the realm of music. They were at the forefront of the cultural revolution of the 1960s, influencing everything from fashion and hairstyles to politics.

John Lennon was skewered for prophetically saying The Beatles “were more popular” than Jesus, but when he tragically was shot and killed in 1980, his persona stayed forever young, and The Beatles massive popularity and legendary status grew even bigger. George Harrison’s image and his historical impact as a musician and artist also blossomed after his tragic death at 57 from cancer.

The Beatles endure in 2024

In 2024, The Beatles won a Grammy for “I’m Only Sleeping” as the best music video. Paul McCartney has a very successful photo exhibit of their first visit to the U.S., and the exhibit will be at the Brooklyn Museum this summer, after successful runs in London and Norfolk, Virginia. Both Starr and McCartney continue to tour. The only painting that the four Beatles ever created together was just auctioned off by Christies for $1.7 million.

The Beatles returned to the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart when “Now and Then” debuted at No. 7 on Nov. 18, 2023, their 35th top 10, the most among groups. New technology rescued a demo tape by John Lennon that Yoko Ono gave to Paul many years ago. He used current technology to isolate John’s voice, adding instrumentals and vocals saved from George, and adding his and Ringo’s current additions. “Now and Then” is a beautiful haunting work and an example of how Beatle’s music can still sell.

In February 2024, it was announced that Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes will make four movies based on each of the four Beatles’ lives and release them in 2027. Social media is ablaze with speculation who will play each Beatle.

In March 2024, an animated film produced by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s son, Sean Ono Lennon won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short. The film, “War Is Over!” was inspired by the music of John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

The Beatles, Boomers, and The Ed Sullivan Show: Where Were You on Feb. 9, 1964?

Enduring fandom

I listen to a SiriusXM show on The Beatles channel every week called “Fab Fourum.” During this call-in interview show, people of all ages call to interpret Beatle music. Oldsters share stories of when their life touched a Beatle. They reminisce about random meetings like delivering pizza to Paul or the man who sold George cheese and wine in his shop in L.A. Or they debate what “Norwegian Wood” or other songs are about. Beyond music, there are endless memories of seeing the Beatles at Shea Stadium or watching the group when they first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.

What is truly confounding about the Fab Fourum shows is that the audience is not just aging baby boomers pining to recapture the past; there are a good number of callers from 10 to 40 who were introduced to the music and the band by their parents or grandparents. Listening to the show it becomes clear that The Beatles are a true multi-generational phenomenon. How did this all happen, and how have they remained so fresh well past the expiration date? Of course, their music is brilliant and complex and, like Beethoven and the classics in music and Van Gogh and other masters in art, The Beatles have stood the test of time.

The reason The Beatles endure

In a social media and digital world, where marketers and public relations people fight to keep the brands in front of people even for a short time, The Beatles’ brand just refuses to die and wane but continues to grow. How has this happened and why, after all these years, are they still in the forefront of popular culture?

The Beatles created and have preserved an iconic brand that was instantly recognizable and associated with their music. Their team licensed their name and images for a wide range of products including clothing, Beatle wigs, and toys. Products are still part of the strategy today to keep the Beatles top of mind. From iPhone covers to retro T-shirts, Beatles products still sell. This helps to further solidify their brand and generate additional revenue streams beyond music.

The early Beatles’ PR team were masters of publicity. They orchestrated countless media appearances, interviews, and photo shoots to keep the band in the public eye. A fan club was created that sent out Beatle information regularly to members, a direct precursor to social media. The relentless publicity helped to build anticipation for their music and fueled their rise to superstardom.

Today Paul McCartney at 81 keeps the Beatles PR machine running. In addition to being our most brilliant living musician, he is a PR genius who has devoted so much of his time to burnishing The Beatles image and history to keep it at the forefront of popular culture though books, podcasts, talk show appearances, and innovative social media marketing of past and current music.

The Beatles were one of the first bands to achieve truly global success. Their music transcends cultural boundaries and resonates with people of all ages and backgrounds. Way before MTV created music videos, promotional films for songs like “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” and “All You Need is Love” helped to boost record sales and generate buzz around their music.

They not only revolutionized the music industry, but The Beatles have set the standard for how entertainment and other types of brands could leverage marketing and PR to achieve unprecedented levels of success and influence over long periods of time. And it is a brand that their team keeps protecting. Not surprisingly, the brand keeps glowing and growing.

Edward Adler, a long-time PR executive, is a partner at a global strategic communications firm.

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