Despite the fact that they haven’t had a radio “hit” in many years, U2 remains a solid concert act.
This spring, the band will go on tour performing their landmark The Joshua Tree album in it’s entirety. This is a watershed moment for U2.
They have finally realized that they are irrelevant.
That sounds critical, but it isn’t. Great brands (and bands) know and appreciate their place in the world. The Rolling Stones realized many years ago that they were a nostalgia act, and they stopped making new music. They stopped trying to be relevant. Their most recent album, Blue And Lonesome, was a hard core blues album that sold well (considering the genre). They also released Havana Moon this year, a live album from their famous Havana concert last year. Neither album attempted to produce mass-appeal hit songs. They played their hits, and they played the songs their true fans appreciate.
When The Rolling Stones play live, you get their greatest hits. They sprinkle in a few nuggets or seldom-heard tracks, but The Rolling Stones recognized many years ago that they were a nostalgia act. The moment they stopped trying to be relevant in the moment, everything got easier.
On the other hand, U2 kept trying to be relevant. Their Songs of Innocence album was pre-loaded to iPhone’s around the world, resulting in more negative feedback than positive reception. Despite creating music that was quite good, U2 suffered more from Songs of Innocence than they profited. The subsequent tour helped convince people (and critics) that the band still had chops, but the digital release strategy come across as desperation in an era where the band was fading from relevance.
Doing a tour in support of the 30th anniversary of The Joshua Tree is the best career move U2 could make in 2017. They are no longer musically relevant. They are a nostalgia act.
There is NOTHING wrong with that.
Great brands (and bands) know their place. U2 knows they are a nostalgia act that aging Gen-Xers will pay to see for many many years to come. U2 is the new Rolling Stones.
Tommy Bahama knows that they have a special place with 50+ men who dream of being beach bums.
LuluLemon understands their place with 30-50 year-0ld women who aspire to be more physically and spiritually connected.
Brands (and bands) who don’t understand and embrace their place in the world almost universally fail. It is a pretty simple formula:
1. Know who loves you
2. Create things the people who love you will love
Talk to your fans. Give your fans what they want. Stop trying to reach non-fans with material they are highly likely to ignore. It is a waste of your time and it devalues your brand in the eyes of the people who love you.
It used to be that scarcity drove up value. It was simple supply and demand. When something is rare, it is more valuable.
In music we can find endless examples. The posthumous brand values of artists like Michael Jackson, Bob Marley, and Elvis Presley are far greater than their brand values prior to their deaths.
After John Bonham died and Led Zeppelin disbanded, every Page/Plant interaction became a major event. Their 2007 reunion show at the 02 Arena in London became the live music event of the decade.
We have yet to experience it, but there is a good chance that each unreleased song from the Prince archives will become extremely valuable.
Low supply = high demand = even higher value.
Today it seems like that equation might be broken.
The Weeknd is one of the top-selling artists in the world. His first single appeared in the fall of 2012, just over four years ago.
Since that time, The Weeknd has released three studio albums, three mixtapes, one compilation album (featuring all 3 mixtapes), and a mind-boggling 26 singles.
In just over four years, The Weeknd has released 26 singles. That’s an average of 6.5 singles per year. Think about that for a second.
To put that in perspective, over the course of their career The Rolling Stones have released 109 singles so far. But they put their first single out in 1964… that was 52 years ago. That’s an average of just over 2 singles per year.
Aerosmith has pumped out 63 singles since 1973. That’s an impressive number, but it is only about 1.5 singles per year.
Bruce Springsteen has given us 69 singles since ’73, a production level similar to Aerosmith.
Madonna’s career has seen her release 83 singles since 1982, which is a solid 2.44 singles annually.
None of those legendary artists even come close to The Weeknd’s incredible pace of 6.5 singles per year.
The game has changed.
For those heritage artists, the game was about releasing the right number of albums and singles, and touring just the right amount. Artists timed their releases so that they could do an album, release multiple singles while touring to support the album, take a year or so off, and then release a new album. And it worked.
Today’s artists live in a world of instant gratification. They compete with artists everywhere on the globe, creating and releasing new music incessantly. They exist in an environment where you can create and release a song, get millions of streams and downloads, and then decide if you even want to do an album or tour. They collaborate and co-create in an unprecedented way.
Today’s artists also live in a cycle of perpetual media exposure. If you’re not doing something noteworthy, you’re irrelevant.
Is your business staying top-of-mind?
Being top-of-mind today means being perpetually present in your marketing, having a constant social dialog, and continually evolving your products and creating new products.
You never want to flood the market to the point of devaluing your product, but in today’s world you cannot sit back and be invisible, hoping your die-hard fans will crave your product in six months or a year. You need to be evolving, growing, changing, and adapting.
The Weeknd has released 26 singles in four years, and that’s the new normal.
Drake has released 85 singles in his nine year career. That blows The Weeknd out of the water! Drake is averaging almost 18 singles per year.
Drake’s girlfriend Rihanna has released 64 singles since 2005, just short of 6 singles per year.
Kanye West has released 110 singles since 2003, just about 8.5 singles per year.
The game has changed.
Will you change with it?
By the way, the new album Starboy by The Weeknd is nothing short of amazing. You really should listen to it. The man is prolific because he’s brilliant.
This is the story of how one song helped create nearly 1300 new songs, and what your business can learn from the art of sampling and remixing.
There are significantly good odds that you’ve heard Clyde Stubblefield’s work, yet you probably don’t know who Clyde Stubblefield is.
Although Clyde played drums on dozens of James Brown songs, it is a short drum break about five minutes into the song “Funky Drummer” that made Clyde Stubblefield legendary. That short drum break is one of the most sampled pieces in hip hop history.
“Fight The Power” by Public Enemy might be the most high-profile and impactful use of Clyde’s work, it is by no means the only song that samples that drum break.
LL Cool J used it in “Mama Said Knock You Out”.
Run D.M.C. borrowed it for “Run’s House”.
Prince borrowed it. Sinead O’Connor used it. Madonna’s “Justify My Love” sampled it.
Nas, Rakim, 2 Live Crew, Scarface, Big Daddy Kane, Jay Z, and Kool Moe Dee all used that very same drum break in their music.
Nearly 1300 songs took a brief sample of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer” and used it to create something entirely new.
That’s the sampling economy at work. It has driven hip hop and EDM for decades, and the lessons of the remix are vital to modern business. After all, there are only so many “new” ideas. There is a finite number of chords, notes, progressions, and words. At some point, doesn’t everything become a remix of something else?
“Thrift Shop” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis was one of those 1830 songs. It was a #1 hit and sold over seven million copies in the U.S. alone. During the fall of 2012 and winter of 2013, “Thrift Shop” was the song you couldn’t avoid even if you wanted to. It was everywhere. Robert Copsey, a reviewer with Digital Spy, gave the song a 5-star rating and called it “original and musically daring”. And it was original and daring! With it’s funny lyrics about shopping for used clothes, “Thrift Shop” eschewed the typically self-aggrandizing hip hop attitude.
Can a song that is “original and daring” rely on a sample from a 30-year old song and still be “original and daring”?
According to British DJ and producer Mark Ronson, absolutely. In order to be original and daring, you need to bring something fresh to the table. Great artists take a small piece of something created previously, and they – as Ronson says – flip it. They make it uniquely theirs. According to Ronson, the argument that using samples isn’t original completely misses the point. “We live in the post-sampling era,” Ronson said in a 2014 TED Talk. “We take the things that we love and we build on them. And when we really add something significant and original and we merge our musical journey with this, we have a chance to be part of the evolution of that music that we love and be linked with it once it becomes something new again.”
Ironically, “Thift Shop” was replaced at #1 on the charts by a song called “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell, a song that very prominently borrowed upon an older recording. The family of the late Marvin Gaye publically stated that they felt “Blurred Lines” used the sound and feel of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up”. Thicke acknowledged that “Blurred Lines” was influenced by songs like “Got to Give It Up”, but that his song was not plagiarized. Numerous artists agreed, noting that borrowing “sound and feel” could easily be called inspiration or influence instead of theft. The court didn’t agree. In a very controversial verdict, a jury awarded Gaye’s family $7.4 million in damages for copyright infringement. In addition, the writing credits were changed to add Marvin Gaye, resulting in long-term royalties to Gaye’s estate.
While it remains a grey area where respectful sampling ends and copyright infringement begins, there is no question that we live in an era of unprecedented access to the technology to easily sample almost anything. We also live in an era of changing values and opinions, with a generation of hip hop and electronic music artists coming of age in an environment where sampling is a perfectly acceptable form of creative expression.
As an entrepreneur, you can create amazing new things by sampling… taking old things and repurposing them in a unique and fresh way.
Drift Eyewear is a boutique eyewear company based in Chicago. The company uses reclaimed wood to hand-craft designer frames. From wood found at the bottom of the Mississippi River to maple taken from a retired skateboard, Drift finds the materials and inspiration for their frames by repurposing existing wood and creating a completely new product. Is this any different than a modern artist being inspired by and sampling the work of others in order to create something entirely new?
In 2008, Ray DelMuro purchased a small bottle-cutting kit and started creating drinking glasses from old wine bottles. The drinking glasses led to housewares, planters, carafes, votive holders, and much more… all crafted from recycled wine bottles. And Refresh Glass was created.
Today, you can sip from Refresh Glass at Spago in Las Vegas, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, California, J&G Steakhouse in Scottsdale, Arizona, and many other fine restaurants around the world. Refresh Glass does custom work for fine dining, casual restaurants, weddings, and individual homes. Every piece of glass is recycled from a rescued wine bottle. Refresh Glass is on a mission to rescue 10 million bottles, and they keep track of their progress on their website. At this point they have turned over 900,000 wine bottles into brand new products.
While there is plenty of ambiguous territory in the world of copyright infringement, most of the successful brands engaged in sampling, repurposing, or upcycling, are not stealing anything.
They are using elements of something from the past, like driftwood or a wine bottle, and making something entirely new. This is the very same process that musicians use to sample elements from forty years ago, turning them into brand new songs that we fall in love with. Just like musicians who sample, these entrepreneurs are passionate about what they create, they bring something new to the world, and they genuinely see and value the impact their new creation leaves on the world.
While it should go without saying, I’ll say it anyway. If you plan to build a business based on sampling the work of others, consult a smart lawyer who knows the inner workings of copyright law.
By the way, Clyde Stubblefield isn’t credited as a co-writer or musician on ANY of the songs that sampled his drumming from “Funky Drummer”. He hasn’t seen a cent in royalties. The sampling economy is fine, but don’t we have an obligation to reward, or at least acknowledge, those from whom we borrow?
We were all shocked to learn of David Bowie’s death this weekend following an 18 month battle with cancer, a battle he kept hidden from the rest of us. As the sense of disbelief begins to give way to acceptance, I am realizing just how much David Bowie taught me about marketing, branding, and business.
1. Consistency doesn’t mean always being the same.
David Bowie taught me that consistency is about always living up to the expectations of your fans. Most bands do that by always recording similar songs in a similar way with a similar look. David Bowie did it by always reinventing himself. Every time Bowie reappeared with a new album, including the one released a few days before his passing, he amazed his fans with his new look, sound, fashion, feel, and persona. Great artists, and great brands, create a sense of excitement amongst their fans for what they might possibly create next.
2. You are a combination of everything you do.
David Bowie taught me that looks can influence sounds, and the impressions that people get are the culmination of everything you do, how you look, what you say, and who you associate with. Ziggy Stardust had a look, as did the funky Philly soul-inspired “thin white duke”. The darker Berlin Bowie had a fresh look, and it gave way to the fashionable “Serious Moonlight” Bowie. Each phase of David Bowie came with a sound, look, and texture. You could see the music. You could hear the look. It all came together.
3. Never be afraid to surround yourself with greatness.
David Bowie taught me to surround myself with genius, even if it is intimidating. Who did David Bowie work with over the years? The most famous Bowie duets are probably “Under Pressure” with Queen and “Little Drummer Boy” with Bing Crosby. He also hit #1 with Mick Jagger doing “Dancing In The Streets”. His hit “China Girl” was written by Iggy Pop. He worked with Pete Townshend, Nile Rodgers, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Tina Turner, Pat Metheney, Annie Lennox, Brian Eno, John Lennon, David Gilmour, and many many others. David Bowie loved working with great people, knowing they helped him be his best.
4. Success doesn’t happen overnight.
David Bowie taught me that it takes hard work, and first tries often fail. From 1962 until 1969, David Bowie was in several bands, released numerous singles, recorded several albums, and appeared in TV commercials. Yet he was going nowhere until “Space Oddity” went Top 5 in the UK in 1969. Bowie wouldn’t have another hit until “Changes” in 1972. Although we think of Bowie as a dominating force in music, the early years of his career was filled with false starts, near misses, and flops. Winners don’t give up easy.
5. Do things that get people talking about you.
David Bowie taught me that having people talk about you is probably more important than what they say about you. Time after time, despite what people might have said about him, David Bowie made a statement with his music and his art. Even in death, David Bowie made a statement. His “Lazarus” video features him in a hospital bed, eventually retreating into a dark closet. The haunting lyrics sing “Look up here / I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen”. David Bowie left this world with people talking about him once again.
Although I grew up on 80s Bowie, it was only the starting point. I went back and discovered his incredible catalog of songs from the 70s. There are few songs better than “Heroes”… “Spaceman” impresses me for than “Space Oddity”… listening to “Young Americans” is like watching a movie… and “Ashes to Ashes” is genius.
During the summer of 1984, you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. To me, a 14 year-old kid, that song was a young rebel’s anthem. It embodied everything I wanted to say to the establishment!
Just as fall arrived and I was heading back to school to be under the control of teachers, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” peaked at #21.
Despite a very respectable catalog of heavy metal music, Twisted Sister never had another Top 40 single.
It would have been easy for Dee Snider to simply disappear into rock ‘n’ roll nostalgia as yet-another one hit wonder.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Dee Snider became the host of MTV’s Headbangers Ball and later very publicly testified in front of the Senate in order to protect musical integrity and save albums from having parental advisory warnings. Very quickly, Dee Snider became known as an intelligent voice of reason in hard rock.
Dee went on to write horror movie scripts, compose music for TV shows, and become the host of a nationally syndicated radio show called House of Hair. He has hosted various TV shows, appeared on several reality TV shows, created voice overs for cartoon and video games, and stars in Dee Snider’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas Tale, a theatrical production at the Winter Garden Theatre in Toronto.
Dee Snider is a fantastic example of an artist who has expanded his brand far beyond the 1984 chart success of “We’re Not Gonna Take It”. Nearly 32 years later, he remains a relevant artist and entrepreneur.
And his iconic hard rock song continues to capture the rebellious imagination of every 14 year-old boy.
How did Dee Snider evolve his brand so well, when so many others failed?
He created a powerful audio and visual image, and embraced it.
The Dee Snider of the “We’re Not Gonna Take It” video has a little more hair and make up than the Dee Snider of today, but he’s still a long-haired heavy metal singer. While other people tried to change when “hair bands” apparently went out of style, Dee celebrated it with his House of Hair radio show.
He took on new projects that contributed to his image.
Hosting a TV show called Dead Art about the beauty of old cemeteries was a perfect extension of his heavy metal image. His Halloween project, Van Helsing’s Curse, went from a concept album to touring production narrated by Snider. Snider has even brought his heavy metal approach to the holiday season with his Christmas production.
He has let his fans behind the curtain.
From the 1980s when he read his lyrics and their meaning to the Senate, to his family’s reality TV show Growing Up Twisted, Dee has famously let his fans see the real him. His radio shows have allowed him to reveal himself regularly, and his fans feel a true connection to who Dee Snider really is.
Dee Snider, at 60 years old, is well-removed from his band’s one big Top 40 hit. But if you look at the Top 40 chart from the summer of 1984, there are few artists who have persevered, adapted, and built their brand better than Dee Snider.
One of rock’s most iconic images is that of Pete Townshend of The Who, his guitar raised above his head like an axe, seconds away from smashing into the stage into pieces.
Why does Pete Townshend smash his guitar at the end of a concert?
Pete’s first victim was a 1964 Rickenbacker Rose Morris. At a concert at The Railway Tavern in the band’s early days, Pete accidentally cracked the headstock of his guitar on the bar’s low ceiling. He was angry, and smashed the rest of the guitar in disgust.
The next night, the fans were waiting for another guitar to be smashed.
Pete Townshend wasn’t wealthy enough in those days to smash a guitar every night, but within a year or two he would be. And his fans would be waiting for the ritual.
Over the course of the band’s 50+ years together, it has become symbolic with an incredible concert. Pete Townshend smashing his guitar is a way of telling the audience that he has played the life – literally – out of that guitar. Pete leaves behind those shards of metal and wood as a message that he’s given you all that he, and the poor guitar, can possibly give.
If you’ve seen Pete Townshend smash his guitar, chances are good you’ve seen someone give everything that they have to their fans.
That’s customer service.
In business, you will likely only ever get one chance to perform for your fans/customers. Will you give them all that you have to give? Will you smash your guitar, over and over, and walk off the stage knowing that you could not possibly have given your customer any more?
Customers expect great service today. The bar has never been higher.
If you aren’t smashing your guitar before you leave work at the end of the day, maybe you need to think about how passionately you serve your fans.
And now, enjoy a collection of smashed guitars courtesy of Pete Townshend (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkndvF5B41w)
Oh and by the way, the guitar in the image above was destroyed on November 7, 1973 at a show at the Odeon Cinema in Newcastle, England.
Just over a year ago, it looked like his career was over almost as fast as it began.
In 2014 alone, the teen star was accused and/or charged with driving under the influence, possession of drugs, vandalism, dangerous driving, assault, and resisting arrest.
His songs, once guaranteed chart toppers, were met with relative indifference from everyone aside from his hard core fans.
After a five year rocket to fame, Justin Bieber was crashing to earth.
Today, his new song “What Do You Mean?” is the most played song at American Top 40 radio. In fact, it the de facto #1 song in the world, topping the Spotify Global Top 50 chart. And as much as many elitist music snobs would hate to admit it, “What Do You Mean?” is a finely crafted piece of pop music that deserves the status it has achieved.
How did Justin Bieber save his career?
It was a simple five-step process, no doubt engineered by his manager Scooter Braun.
1. He went away. For many months, we saw very little of Bieber. He wasn’t on TMZ and Perez Hilton wasn’t talking about him. After years of over-exposure, we got a well-deserved break from Bieber.
2. He grew up. When he did emerge, he did it in the most mature of ways. He subjected himself to relentless mocking as the subject of Comedy Central’s Roast of Justin Bieber. The roast was hilarious, and Bieber took it like a man.
3. He took responsibility. At the end of the roast, and many times since, he has publicly stated his regrets at his childish past and acknowledged that so much money and fame can have a detrimental impact on a teenage kid’s behavior.
4. He quietly came back with some credible friends. Bieber’s musical return wasn’t on his own song, but rather doing vocals on the song “Where Are U Now” by Jack U, a duo featuring DJ’s Skrillex and Diplo. Under the cloak of their credibility, Justin Bieber quietly reappeared.
5. He created something amazing. The song “What Do You Mean?” is a perfect pop song for 2015. It combines the tropical feel of OMI’s hit “Cheerleader” with light EDM production and an irresistible hook. You can hate Justin Bieber, but if you like pop music in 2015, you can’t hate “What Do You Mean?”.
Even his recent most controversy (those naked pictures taken in Bora Bora) were deftly handled by Bieber and his team. His privacy was grossly violated, yet he handled it very well. And having your goods exposed to the world is very adult problem to deal with!
The brilliant rebuilding of Bieber’s career is a great template for brands and businesses. When you need to rebuild a brand, you can use the same five step process.
1. Go off the radar for a while.
2. Regroup/evolve/grow up.
3. Publicly account for your past and declare your future.
4. Reappear alongside credible friends.
5. Give your fans something amazing.
Think of great brand comebacks…
Apple, from the return of Steve Jobs in 1997 to today.
General Motors, from their government bailout and bankruptcy to today.
Old Spice, from their days as Grandpa’s cologne to “the man your man could smell like”.
All of them required the brand to disappear, regroup, publicly come out, gain credibility slowly, and then give us their very best.
Almost every time, rebuilding the brand requires the same process… whether it is a punk-ass teen idol or an after-shave that your Grandfather used to use.
No company has singlehandedly screwed over more small businesses with the myth of discounting than Groupon and their copycat sites.
I hate them all.
But if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. There is a fantastic golf course near my house that I love to play. It’s not overly expensive at $80 a round, but when you add in a power cart and some drinks it’s easily a $100 day. They sell memberships for around $1500 per season, which isn’t unreasonable at all.
But I play there all the time for $40 a round, thanks to a Groupon knock-off site. Every week or so they offer an $80 package that includes 18 holes of golf for two, a power cart, and two bottles of water.
As an avid golfer, I am a perfect candidate for a membership at this club. But I will never buy one.
At $40 per round, I would need to golf 38 times per year to make a $1500 membership worth my while!
I don’t have the time to golf 38 rounds each summer! Maybe if I lived in Florida or Arizona that would be realistic, but in Canada I would have to golf twice a week all summer and I would probably still not get 38 rounds in.
So instead of having my $1500 in their pocket, the golf course gets $20… after they’ve split their $40 in revenue with the coupon site bottom feeders.
These sites will boast about bringing in new customers that businesses can turn into loyal fans. But there are a five main problems with that logic:
1. Your discount deal-of-the-day reveals to your customer what your product or service is actually worth, and they’ll never again want to pay full price. Even if you’re using it as a loss-leader, the customer’s perception is that the discount price is the value of the product.
2. These types of customers are transactional. They are not relational. Transactional customers go where the price is best, and the only way to keep them is to keep lowering prices. They are the reason Walmart is a giant. Relational customers follow quality and service.
3. The rush of coupon-wielding transactional customers puts pressure on your business to keep up, often making the experience worse for your loyal customers.
4. When your loyal customers discover that these transactional coupon customers are getting a better deal, they’ll feel ripped off. They are the ones that come back and keep you in business, and they deserve the best prices!
5. Once you’ve experienced the short-term rush of selling all of these discounted products, you’re faced with the reality of trying to do that again the next month. And the next year. It is like a drug, and the only way to get high again is to score another hit.
Lower profit margins and the crack cocaine of transactional customers do nothing to build long-term successful small (or large) businesses.
Great businesses are built on stellar products demanded by consumers who, thanks to smart marketing, rightfully believe that product will enrich their lives.
Great businesses are built on the larger profit margins that come from customers who trust you, believe in your product, and are happy to pay a premium for it.
So you think your business has good customer service?
Do you serve your customers as well as Dave Grohl serves his?
Last month in Sweden, while playing the band’s 1997 hit “Monkey Wrench”, Foo Fighters leader Dave Grohl fell off the stage and broke his leg. It wasn’t a small break. Dave seriously smashed up his leg!
There was no question that Dave was going to have to get medical attention, and quickly. But there were tens of thousands of Foo Fighters fans who had paid good money to see their favorite band, and Dave wasn’t going to let them down. So he asked drummer Taylor Hawkins, an incredibly talented musician in his own right, to fill in while Dave got his leg looked at. Dave picked up the microphone as he lay in agony and spoke to the crowd…
Hey, ladies and gentlemen. I love you, but I think I just broke my leg. I really broke my leg. Right now, I’m gonna go to the hospital. I’m gonna fix my leg. But then I’m gonna come back, and we’re gonna play for you again. I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.
And that’s exactly what happened.
An hour later, Dave Grohl was wheeled onto the stage in a wheelchair with his leg in a cast, and he picked up his guitar and performed the Queen/Bowie classic “Under Pressure” as a duet with Hawkins behind the drums.
The fans who were in Gothenburg, Sweden that night saw a performance they will never forget. Not a single fan, I guarantee you, went home unhappy. And yet the main attraction, Dave Grohl, wasn’t there for much of the show.
Here are four quick and powerful Dave Grohl lessons in customer service:
1. The customer matters most. Your personal pain and suffering don’t matter to them. They paid for an experience, and they deserve to get that experience and then some.
2. There is always a solution. Even in the worst of circumstances, there is always a way to make it right for the customer. Don’t stop until you’ve found it.
3. How you overcome obstacles will define you. Another flawless concert doesn’t make headlines around the world. Your customers will remember you for how you handled their situation when things didn’t go right, not for the ordinary transactions that go on without a glitch.
4. Customer service is teamwork. If Dave Grohl isn’t able to ask his extremely talented and capable drummer to fill in for him, he cannot leave for the hospital without cancelling the show. Because Dave Grohl has created a team, he can leave and know that the show is in good hands.
I recently connected with a local franchisee of an internationally recognized brand, let’s call him “Jim”, who told me about his “marketing” plan.
Each year, that major international brand spends many many millions of dollars advertising their brand. They do extensive research into their target consumer’s thoughts, values, habits, and preferences. Based on that research, the brand buys national and regional ads on radio, TV, and digital. The ads are creatively well crafted, delivering a message designed to connect with the target consumer’s values.
This individual franchisee also has a local advertising budget that he himself uses to purchase additional advertising for his local store.
So far, so good.
But here’s where everything goes horribly wrong.
The ads that Jim creates locally sound nothing like the national brand’s advertising. The voice is harsher, the music bolder, and the style and tone is completely different. Not only that, but Jim also uses his own local advertising budget to purchase ads on the radio station he personally likes (the all sports station), instead of the one that the national franchise purchases based on their demographic research.
Jim’s “strategy” is that his local ads reach a different type of consumer, broadening his appeal. He feels that that by purchasing ad time on a different radio station, he is reaching consumers that the national brand was overlooking.
But what is really happening is that Jim is wasting his money.
Worse than that, Jim is slowly chipping away at the equity the national franchise has worked so hard to build.
With every ad that doesn’t sound or feel like the national brand, Jim is hurting both the national brand and his local franchise. And with every ad placed in scattered fashion on the sports station, Jim is diminishing the brand’s ability to achieve frequency.
One of the core principles of building a great brand is consistency, like AC/DC.
AC/DC has recorded 17 studio albums. They have recorded 24 different songs that have the word “rock” right in the title of the song. AC/DC doesn’t record love songs or songs about political strife. They record three-chord attitude-filled songs about loud music, beautiful women, fast cars, and strong drinks.
Angus Young has worn a school boy outfit for every AC/DC concert since anyone can remember.
They have used that same iconic font on every album and tour poster and CD.
AC/DC is zealously consistent.
We can learn from that.
Your advertising message needs to be consistent. At every touchpoint with the consumer. Your look, sound, feel, scent, taste, and aura must be the same. Everywhere. Always.
Brands are built by consistently inspiring the same emotions in your customers time after time, delighting them and reinforcing what you represent to them every time they interact with you or your message.