What your brand can learn from Trainspotting

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As the familiar groove of Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life creeps into the mix, the train departs and a band of misfits appear: after twenty years, Spud, Renton, Sick Boy and Begbie, last seen in Danny Boyle’s cult transformation of the Irvine Welsh novel Trainspotting, have returned.

Few films have had the seismic cultural impact on listening habits as Trainspotting. In an world still reeling from Nirvana’s Nevermind, the soundtrack for Boyle’s 1996 adaption simultaneously revealed the punk icons that inspired Kurt Cobain, demonstrated that Britpop existed beyond Oasis, and most significantly, introduced electronic music to a worldwide audience via Underworld, opening stadium doors for fellow artists like The Chemical Brothers, Fatboy Slim and The Prodigy outside their native UK.

It’s clear that much of the extensive cultural capital amassed by the film can be attributed to its iconic soundtrack, curated by the music-obsessed director himself. Here are some of the lessons the original Trainspotting soundtrack gave us in building a sound that elevates your brand.

Music shapes your brand

“It’s one of the deepest pleasures for me. It helps shape the film in so many ways… it informs the film completely” – Danny Boyle

Whether it’s in-store, television or radio advertising, or your online presence, the sounds your customers hear help build the character of your brand, in the same way as your visual branding does.

As another of our favourite filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino, elaborates: “One of the things I do when I am starting a movie, when I’m writing a movie… I go through my record collection and just start playing songs, trying to find the personality of the movie, find the spirit of the movie.

For your brand to stand it out it needs a personality, and music is a critical tool in shaping this personality.

Take risks

Described by the Guardian as “most experimental and sonically extreme hit single of the 90s”, Underworlds Born Slippy. NUXX was relegated to b-side status and widely ignored until it was uncovered by Boyle in a record store and used for the climax of the film.

At a time when electronic music barely registered outside of Europe, the use of Underworld’s soon-to-be club anthem shows that it can pay to look beyond mainstream charts and radio playlists when developing your brand sound. With more music available at consumers than ever before, time, effort and passion is needed here.

Be diverse, be timeless

It’s no accident Trainspotting connected with an audience beyond what the media dubbed “the ecstacy generation”; Boyle’s soundtrack spanned decades, joining the dots between ambient atmospheres, electronic dance and synth pop whilst connecting  contemporary Britpop such as Blur and Sleeper to the proto-punk of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed.

As with your brand message, it is critical that your brand sound resonates with the audience you seek. As Boyle says to Indywire: “songs are amazing things to use because they bring baggage with them. You know them from your own experience, from long ago”. Just make sure your music is bringing the right kind of baggage.


I always believed music is with us all the time… It’s just part of us” – Danny Boyle

In the same way an audience connects with a film’s soundtrack, your consumers will connect with yours. Music acts as a powerful mnemonic trigger– something Boyle leveraged to great effect in the T2 trailer when Iggy croons “here comes Johnny Yen again…”- and just as the infamous call of “Lager, Lager, Lager” reminds an entire generation of our favourite Glaswegian anti-heroes, your brand sound will help your audience recall your brand- provided you’ve picked the right music to reach them.

There’s a great run-down on some of Danny Boyle’s other musical moments here.

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