I joined the Columbia House Record Club 38 years before Helix Media Marketing was founded. But our brand’s visual identity was born that day.
Upon our founding, we instantly chose the name Helix Media Marketing in part to evoke the structure of DNA. Our Discover Your Marketing DNA process takes a deep dive into our clients’ unique propositions that truly set them apart. We then create their video stories and written digital marketing content focused on these differentiators, their DNA.
But we also needed an influential logo and font that genuinely reflected our brand. In early 2019 we and our in-house graphic design team tried many iterations, never quite finding the right inspiration. Here’s how we finally discovered it.
Columbia House Delivers
I’m Will Honan, co-founder and CEO of Helix Media Marketing. In early 1981 I was going on eleven and my musical experience was understandably limited.
I’d had my “Beatles moment,” having worn out the 1967-1970 record, better remembered as “The Blue Album” by anyone growing up with parents who had spent the 60’s as teenagers or twenty-somethings. Though it would be a few years before I devoured their entire catalog, I was captivated for reasons that need no explanation here.
I’d recently inherited a used copy of KISS Alive!. I’m not sure what the parents thought about “Hotter Than Hell,” “Rock Bottom,” or “Cold Gin” blasting in my bedroom, but the music, makeup, costumes, and fire-breathing led me to believe at the time that KISS must be the baddest, most heavy band on the planet and not, as I would realize later, a marketing machine designed to sell endless merchandise.
Like millions of kids, I was lured by a flier in the back of a magazine that offered eleven records for one cent (with a twelfth “free!”). I picked from the seemingly random array of choices without much thought, taped my penny to the postcard, and sent it in.
A few weeks later I was thrilled to find a box of twelve brand new LP’s in the mail. Never mind the fine print that committed me to automatically buying many more records at inflated prices. My parents could worry about that.
I was introduced to the ritual of delicately peeling the plastic from the album, carefully examining the sometimes intricate art, and inhaling the unique smell of printed cardboard combined with fresh vinyl. Only then would the shiny record be delicately placed on the turntable.
I can’t even recall all of the artists among those seeds of my budding music collection. STYX The Grand Illusion, Foreigner 4, and Journey Escape were sufficient introductions to moderately heavy pop-rock.
I worked my way through some less inspiring offerings. Rick James Street Songs, Working Class Dog by Rick Springfield, and the silly Village People Can’t Stop the Music (I certainly wish I could have stopped that music) come to mind.
About halfway through the pile I came upon The Who Live at Leeds. Unlike most of the other elaborate cover art, this was packaged in plain brown cardboard with a simple ink stamp title.
I dropped the needle on the record and everything changed. It was like being hit by a freight train. It was completely dynamic. It was pure power that made KISS sound like Village People in comparison.
Wild, cascading drumming; thunderous, fast, precision bass playing; aggressive, rhythmic, dramatic guitar that still had melodic nuance; brawny vocals that ranged from primal screaming to tender melody; Beatlesque harmonies; mini-operatic moments followed by raging blues-rock. And it was live. I instantly became a Who fan for life.
It’s no newsflash that swaggering and powerful singer Roger Daltrey, complex guitarist and composer Pete Townsend, stoic and virtuoso bassist John Entwistle, and maniacal and eccentric drummer Keith Moon are individually considered among if not the best at their individual instruments. Or that collectively they are one of rock’s most influential bands.
And they are widely considered both the greatest and loudest live act of all time. More on that in a minute.
For me, like many, it was more than just the music. It was the presence; Daltrey swinging his microphone, Townshend windmilling on his guitar and then smashing it into oblivion along with his amps: Moon wide-eyed with energy and exploding his drums; “The Ox” Entwistle standing stone still, fingers flying around his fretboard.
It was also about The Who's charisma, mystique, and identification with the "Mod" subculture, its clothing, and lifestyle. It was about Vespa or Lambretta scooters. It was about the Royal Air Force roundel symbol and the band's logo.
The thrill of discovering The Who propelled me into a continuing lifelong obsession with music, its common threads, derivations, and styles; its relationship to pop culture, fashion, storytelling, and lifestyle; its DNA.
Beginning with The Who and fellow British Invaders The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Kinks, I followed what was, for me anyway, a unique strain of British music DNA across the decades. This led me to The Clash and Sex Pistols, to The Smiths and The Cure, to The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, to The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, and beyond.
My tastes have not been limited. At times Led Zeppelin is everything. I’ve delved deeply into the culture of heavy metal, hip-hop, and just about every other genre. I go through long Bob Dylan phases.
I saw the Grateful Dead several times and continue with the endless odyssey that is their live recordings. We’ll discuss their influence on our creative process later.
The Stone Roses put out my favorite album of all time and changed my wardrobe. But that’s a story for another day.
In the end, though, it always comes back to The Who. They are my desert island band.
Discovering Our DNA
One day as we searched for the right inspiration for our design, seasoned marketing executive and Helix Media Marketing Advisory Board chair Mike “Dilo” Dilorenzo said to me: “Whatever you come up with you have to love it, and remember how much you love The Who.”
Yeeaaaahhh…! (a Roger Daltrey scream). It was like dropping the needle on Live at Leeds that first time; we'd found our logo inspiration!
Helix Media Marketing Brand
Our mission includes building community. Community is a circle.
The inner section is a hydrogen atom. Hydrogen bonds DNA, our brand signature.
The proton represents our clients and the electron represents their customer audiences, brought together through our community-based stories.
The outer circle and the proton represent a camera lens and eye, our primary medium being video.
The Beatles and The Stones
Our branded video signature is inspired by a combination of two elements. The opening chord of The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, perhaps the most discussed single element in music history, and the opening notes of Monkey Man by The Rolling Stones.
Have a look and listen:
The Greatest Band of All Time
"There’s certainly no better record of how this band was a volcano of violence on-stage, teetering on the edge of chaos but never blowing apart."
"No band ever moved a mountain of sound around with this much dexterity and power."
"The future for rock as it became, in all its pomp and circumstance, began right here."
"It’s so molten with energy at times it resembles heavy metal and the atomic blues..... absolutely non-stop hard rock".
-Biographer James Marsh
“It is not only the best live rock ‘n’ roll album ever, but the best rock album period."
Pete Townshend turns 75 today. And Live at Leeds turns 50 this week. We highly recommend this full retrospective on the album complete with audio and video.
Helix Media Marketing is forever grateful to The Who for the inspiration that helped us create our brand logo. And if there was any doubt, here's proof that The Who is the greatest band of all time, and the best 14 minutes you will spend all day.