I Hate Bon Jovi – Branding, Marketing, Design, and The Tyranny of Personal Taste



I Hate Bon Jovi. I Mean I Really, Really, Really Hate Them.

If hating Bon Jovi was a medical condition I’d have to carry an injector with me to keep me from going into anaphylactic shock every time “You Give Love a Bad Name” came on the radio.

I don’t hate the members of Bon Jovi personally. They seem like really nice and honorable guys. It’s just that their music is deeply offensive to my aesthetic sense.

Now I’m fine with my hatred of Bon Jovi. However it’s WHY I hate Bon Jovi that has always bothered me. Their songs are undeniably catchy. They got great hooks and they are excellent musicians. Bon Jovi himself is a good singer. His flawless angelic skin beams rays of pheromone injected charisma. Rippin’ solos, crunchy guitars, they got it all really. But I just can’t stand their music. Now I could go on about how painfully cheesy and cliché Bon Jovi’s lyrics are and how they form the basis of my contempt. But is that true? I like Ted Nugent just fine, but it would be hard to argue that “wang dang sweet poon tang” was any more or less poetic and original than “I’m a cowboy on a steel horse I ride”. So do I really have a problem with Bon Jovi’s prose or is this an after-the-fact justification manufactured in my mind to justify my Bon Jovi hatred.

The truth is, I don’t know why I hate Bon Jovi. And that bothers me. For if I don’t know why I hate Bon Jovi that means I have no idea why I like Metallica. It also means I have no idea why Duran Duran makes my skin crawl but Depeche Mode is just fine. Sure, if pressed I could cite all kinds of reasons, but none of them are quantifiable or applicable to other bands. They are not testable theorems. They’re just reasons I manufactured out of nothing to make my personal preferences seem intelligent and reasoned.

Bon Jovi as Mona Lisa by Clay Butler at Claytowne.com

I’ve Seen a Million Faces an I’ve Rocked Them All

Pearl Jam and Creed, and Nirvana and Bush, are good illustrations. I love Pearl Jam and Nirvana. Liked them right off the bat. Yet I couldn’t stand Creed and Bush from the moment I heard them. Now sonically, Pearl Jam and Creed and extremely close. Same with Nirvana and Bush. An alien from another planet or even a country fan probably could not tell the difference. An 11-year-old Jonas Brothers fan most likely would confuse them as well. Yet to my ears they are light years apart. My emotional response to the bands is profoundly different. Is it because that once I fell in love with Pearl Jam I had no more room to also like a very similar band? Did hearing Pearl Jam first preempt my ability to ever like Creed? Is it the slight difference in the timber of the lead singers? Their inflections in the pronunciations of their lyrics? The guitar tone? I have no idea. And that bothers me.

Shot Down in a Blaze of Glory

When I’m presenting options to a client or discussing branding strategies, I have, what I believe, are rock solid justifications for every decision I made. I take my job extremely seriously and my client’s goals and branding strategies occupy my thoughts continually. If we are good match, my client will largely agree with me. When they disagree, they too will have very good reasons to back up their opinions. But are we just kidding ourselves? Are there immutable laws of design that guide the universe or are we merely elevating our personal preferences and cultural conditioning to universal truth? I like to think it’s a bit of both.

Yes, we have preferences that we can never fully understand, but I assume there must be innate laws of aesthetics burned into our DNA that we can tap into. Without it I don’t think we could ever have developed a cannon of great art. Every culture has its giants; collections of literature, sculptures, paintings and music that are universally considered exceptional. The interesting thing is, if you look at the best art from China and compare it to say India, they both look amazing and they share many similarities. On the surface they may look very different, but the aesthetic principles are nearly identical. Even with humor this holds true. When you compare the classic jokes from each country they are amusingly similar, not only in subject, but in rhythm and structure as well. Seems a well crafted good joke is a well crafted joke. Cultural, religious and language differences aside, we all tell and appreciate jokes the same way.

I’m a Devil on the Run. A Six Gun Lover. A Candle in the Wind

So how do we know when our decision are based upon shared innate aesthetic principles and when they are personal preferences? I think the key is role-playing and objectivity. You need to assume the role of your customer. In your mind you must become THEM and understand THEIR motivations. For the question is not “What Bon Jovi song do I like?” it is “If I was a Bon Jovi fan, what song would I want to hear?” Because someone like me, who hates Bon Jovi, will pick the least offensive song according to MY tastes. However this will most likely be the worst choice as I would pick the most un-Bon Jovi song in their catalog. I can almost guarantee that my choice of the most pleasurable Bon Jovi opus is not the same as a serious Bon Jovi fan.

I think you also need to pull back and see it from a “scientific” point of view. If I was a record company executive, would I have the objectivity to sign Bon Jovi, even though I hated their music?  I would hope so. My job is to sign profitable talent that can perform well in the marketplace. I’m not there to please myself. From an objective viewpoint, you could convincingly argue that their songs are very well crafted, their hooks are strong and they have an undeniable mass appeal. So logically you should sign them.

This is the essence of good marketing, of good design, and of good branding. Tapping into your personal preferences for inspiration and originality but never losing sight of the innate aesthetic sense and the expectations of your target market

You don’t have to personally like everything you do. It’s OK to think a tag line you wrote is a bit dull, that your illustration is trite or that you would never use the product you are marketing. The real question is “What would my inner Bon Jovi think”. If he thinks it rocks, well then…whoa, oh, we’re half way there!

File Under: Marketing and Cultural Considerations – Universal Principles of Design and Aesthetics – Avoiding Designing to Your Personal Preferences – Marketing to The Masses

14 comments


  • Haha… i’m a fan of BJ but that article still makes me laugh… i’m a fan of ‘Cheese’ and BJ have it in abundance.. Perhaps your creative ability goes beyond branding alons, we need a creative blogger, perhaps you should drop us a line.

    March 2, 2010
  • sara

    who cares what he says in songs. It don’t mean shit. I am a fan on bon jovi.

    June 11, 2010
  • diana

    my opinion is that every human is different, so you don’t have to understand why you hate bj,probably is something in their style that bothers you, you just don’t like their music,don’t complicate yourself ;) i love their music because it represents the way i see the world or a piece of my feelings, but if i was another person with another personality i probably hate them… good luck ;)

    August 29, 2010
  • RC

    They just suck period. Their music is an insult to any shred of brain activity. Don’t get me wrong, I love lots of “cheesy” bands, but these guys are awful and JBJ is the most smug, arrogant person I’ve ever seen. These guys are marketers and businessmen. If he could make more money selling shower curtain rings he would.

    November 10, 2010
  • yaiibonjovi

    this is a shit… i love to BON JOVI is a big band of hard rock… this article is a SHIT!

    This is nonsense, BON JOVI AND JON BON JOVI are great,

    put something productive and stop criticizing

    January 20, 2011
  • Karelle

    I don’t understand your opinion but i can say that BON JOVI is the best band ever. After 27 years, we have the proof dude.

    January 26, 2011
  • Hilarious picture. Lighten up people :P

    May 2, 2011
  • Debbie

    I’m a huge Bon Jovi fan and have been for 25 years but I still giggled at the article and the picture hahahahahahaha. Good work, oh and “HOW DARE YOU” lol

    May 10, 2011
  • sophie

    seriously dude, Bon Jovi are the greatest band in the world, and honestly for they were shit, they wouldnt still be around on the high level that they are on! i seriously dont know what your problem is, bon jovi’s songs arent cheesy at all! they actaully mean something, instead of all this shit that is on the music channels today! i’m a 16 year old girl that think Bon Jovi is the geartest band in the world, so they cant be shit if there is youngsters listening to their music! your opinion means nothing!

    June 29, 2011
    • Clay (The BDD Dude)

      Thanks Sofie. Your defense of your favorite band is quite admiral but also hoot as you’ve unintentionally validated my premise, which, if you read the article, actually had nothing to do with Bon Jovi specifically. Bon Jovi was just a vehicle to discus larger issues of marketing, the creative process, and how we often formulate justifications for our opinions in an attempt to elevate them to fact.

      June 29, 2011
    • abbi

      omg i have the biggest obsession with bon jovi they are amazing.

      and shopie your 100% right if they were crap they would no be around:)

      November 30, 2011
  • I’m not going to lie, I almost spit out my drink when I scrolled down and saw the pic. I think I prefer that version of the painting!

    August 21, 2011
    • allyjovi18

      I agree. I think THAT should be the Mona Lisa instead.:)

      *jonjovilova*

      April 8, 2012
  • Mallory

    I feel like some people may have missed the point on this post….or not read the whole article. haha

    Great read and it’s very true that sometimes you don’t agree with the direction or product of a client, but if it makes them money, you don’t have to agree, you just have to deliver. You have an awesome blog here Clay!

    August 1, 2012

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