The Only Constant Is Constant Change


Mike Shinoda, Steve Jones, and Chester Bennington

Mike Shinoda, Steve Jones, and Chester Bennington

In today’s business, change is everywhere.

We want to build consistent brands that represent something tangible to our customers, but at the same time we are presented with perpetual change in how our customers experience and interact with our brands.

I recently sat down with Mike Shinoda and Chester Bennington from Linkin Park to talk about their career and their new album One More Light coming out in May, and the new single “Heavy” which is climbing the charts right now.

Linkin Park has always been a band that defied definition. They were labeled nu-metal as they combined hard rock with hip hop and electronica. Over the years, they’ve added more pop elements, done harder rock projects, and experimented with Jay-Z on a mashup album of their hits. Each album has surprised fans because each album has introduced fans to new aspects of the Linkin Park sound.

I asked Mike if he felt that perpetual change and evolution was part of the Linkin Park brand DNA.

“Oh for sure. When I think of who a core Linkin Park fan is, I don’t think of age and I don’t think of gender, and I don’t think of style of music. I think of somebody who likes a lot of different types of music. There’s a community to Linkin Park. I feel like most of them are very diverse.”

Remember that your fans expect something specific from you. For fans of Linkin Park, experimentation and change is part of the expectation. But for many brands, change and experimentation is a risky thing. Most brands do not have perpetual change built into their DNA. Be very aware of what your customers expect from you, and act accordingly. If your customers expect you to be consistent, approach change with caution. On the other hand, if your customers are like Linkin Park fans and view change as essential to your brand, bring it on!

Linkin Park’s new song “Heavy” features guest vocals from Kiiara. You can hear the haunting track here:

Here is vintage Linkin Park, with their breakthrough hit “In The End”.


You can put the experiences of legendary rock stars to work in your business with Brand Like a Rock Star by Steve Jones. It is available with one click from Amazon.



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U2 Is Irrelevant


u2 pic


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

3. Repeat

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.

Elevate your brand to rock star status by reading Brand Like A Rock Star today. It is available with one click from Amazon. 

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How To Give Your Customers Everything

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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.

There have been many, many guitars smashed over the years. You can read all about each destroyed guitar here.

At first it was an accident.

Then it became a spectacle.

Now it is a symbol.

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 (

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.

Learn how to rock your customer’s world with Brand Like A Rock Star: Lesson From Rock n Roll to Make Your Business Rich and Famous. You can order it with just click here. It’s available in digital download or paperback.

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The Three Biggest Mistakes In Rebranding

rock star image hugh mcleod compressed

You hear the word used in business all the time.


And millions of dollars and years of human resources are poured into the majestic “rebrand” to turn things around, only to have nothing actually change.

That’s because so many “rebrands” fall victim to the same three mistakes, over and over.

Mistake #1: Believing Anyone Cares

We are pretty busy. We have families and jobs and bills and stuff, and we don’t really care much about your (detergent/restaurant/airline/car/shoes/whatever).

You’re on the inside. You care.

Your customers are on the outside, and they don’t care. You may think they care because they are in your email database and they shop with you, but chances are extremely high their level of give-a-shit is lower than you can imagine.

Mistake #2: Believing The Brand Is Visual

When you change your logo, you don’t change your brand.

Your brand is the emotional connection that your customers have with you. It’s how you make them feel. It’s how you delight their soul with your product. And your logo can have an impact on that, but it is a small part of the brand itself.

Your brand isn’t visual. Your brand is emotional.

Simply changing the visual aspect of your brand doesn’t rebrand you. You need to change the way your brand emotionally connects with customers in order to fully rebrand your company.

Mistake #3: Not Considering The Marketplace

Your rebrand exists in a bigger world. Your rebrand will take place in a crowded market, surrounded by competitors and potential competitors.

When you choose your new name, look, sound, smell, culture, and DNA, you need to consider the cultures around you.

Your competitors help define you.

Target isn’t “affordable quality” without Walmart being “save money”.

Chipotle isn’t “fast casual” without McDonalds being “fast food”.

When you choose your new path, remember the paths of those around you and consider carefully how they define your brand.

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Growing The Bieber Brand

Justin Bieber picture courtesy of

Justin Bieber picture courtesy of



The Justin Bieber brand hasn’t grown up nearly as gracefully as the Miley Cyrus brand, the Taylor Swift brand, or the Justin Timberlake brand. While those stars have successfully navigated their way from teen sensation to legitimate pop star, Bieber has struggled to gain respect and credibility.

How do teen idols evolve?

Miley Cyrus did it by being safely dangerous. She appeared in suggestive photo shoots, but stopped short of pornography. She smoked pot, but was never caught with hard drugs. She took nude selfies, but did so in the name of the Free The Nipple equality movement.

Justin Timberlake did it by showing off his mature versatility. After Nsyc, he had a string of solo hits. Then he showcased his singing, dancing, and acting on Saturday Night Live, earned some major acting roles, and teamed up with artists like JayZ to reinforce his credibility.

Taylor Swift evolved from teen star to pop culture phenom through transparency. Because she wrote personal songs about her experiences, he fans felt like they watched her grow up, start dating, enter serious relationships, and feel the heartbreaks when they failed. She remained very wholesome and true to her brand through the evolution.

But Justin Bieber has stumbled repeatedly.

Instead of the “safe danger” of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber has been arrested for drunk driving and drag racing. His home was raided and police seized cocaine.

Instead of the true entertainer that Timberlake has become, Bieber has yet to score any respect for his talent beyond being a teen idol.

And instead of offering fans the transparency of Taylor Swift, Bieber spends plenty of time denying allegations. The drugs weren’t his. Bad milk made him vomit on stage.  He wasn’t drunk while drag racing. And instead of being human and real, Bieber has done strange things like travel with a pet monkey and wear a gas mask shopping.

But perhaps Justin Bieber is about to turn a corner.

March 7 he’ll appear as the guest of (dis)honor at a Comedy Central Roast. Previous roastees include James Franco, David Hasselhoff, William Shatner, and Bob Saget. They have also roasted troubled celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Pamela Anderson.

By appearing on a Comedy Central Roast, Justin Bieber is now being mentioned in the same breath as these established celebrities, as opposed to being lumped in with other teen stars.  He is going to be given an opportunity to laugh at his missteps and be laughed at for them. He will have a chance to come face-to-face with his own public image, and possibly through humor grow beyond it.

Once people develop a set of opinions about a brand, overcoming them can be nearly impossible. But as Miley, Timberlake, and Swift have proven, it can be done.

Whether Justin Bieber can use the Comedy Central Roast as a catalyst to growing his brand remains to be seen.

But it is a positive step in the right direction.


To grow your brand or evolve your personal brand, read Brand Like a Rock Star and Start You Up by Steve Jones. You can order with one click here. 

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The Difference Between Advertising and Branding





 Advertising is an interruption.

Branding is an invitation.

Advertising gets in the way of what you were otherwise listening to, watching, or reading, and attempts to convince you to buy something.

Branding, on the other hand, invites you to satisfy your soul through a product or service. Branding solves a problem for you. Branding speaks to your heart, knowing that the buying decision is made there… and not in your brain.

You generally avoid advertising.

You often share branding.

The advertiser wants to tell you about themselves. They want to tell you when they are open, where they are located, how helpful their service people are, and how great their prices are. They don’t care about you, as long as you are willing to listen to stories about them.

The brander wants to talk about you. They want to reflect your world with their product as a part of it. They want you to use their product to make your world better.

When branding is done properly, your customers (fans) don’t avoid it. They embrace it.

Watch this 90 second Apple branding piece.

It doesn’t tell you where to buy a Macbook Air. It doesn’t brag about the processor speed, memory size, or screen resolution. It doesn’t mention the price or the discount or the warranty.

In fact, it tells you absolutely nothing practical about the product.

Instead, it makes your heart sing.

It shows you how your world will be better if you buy it.

So simple.

Yet most small businesses think that branding like this is beyond them. They think branding is for Apple and Nike and Ford and McDonalds.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Branding versus advertising is a choice that you as a business owner make.

Your 30-second commercial on your local radio station can create the same kind of magic, creating a powerful and lasting bond between your company and your customers.

Or you can tell people all about you and hope for the best.

Order Brand Like A Rock Star with one click here in paperback or digital download from Amazon.

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Why You Should Hate Groupon

* This is an updated version of a popular post from 2012 in which I outlined why Groupon (and others like them) are killing businesses


I feel dirty.

Today, against my better judgement, I purchased something using Groupon.

I feel bad for the local business who just got completely and utterly ripped off by Groupon, and subsequently by me. As a marketing and branding writer and speaker, I am paid to help businesses succeed. So buying something from a service I ethically despise made me feel terrible.

Here are five reasons Groupon sucks:


1. They force your business to put a value on your product or service that is far below it’s actual value.  Once you’ve established that your $100 product is actually worth $25, you’ve screwed yourself out of any chance to charge $100 again with any credibility. In my case, I just bought a $1000 product for $199.  You can be damned sure that I’ll never pay $1000 for it again. Ever.

2. They reward bargain-hungry customers who have no loyalty to the business. Instead of giving your biggest discounts and best deals to your loyal customers, Groupon forces you to give your biggest discounts to those who have zero loyalty to you. The biggest discounts and rewards go to customers who will abandon you the moment your competitor offers a lower price. How do you think that makes your long-term loyal customers feel?

3. They give you the perception of increased business thanks to a rush of transactional customers who are only concerned about finding the best price. The moment you stop offering the very best price, these customers will go elsewhere and never come back… until you drop your prices again. Every time you try attract a customer like that, your profit margins go down. Never has a great business been built on the back of low profit margins.

4.They create a rush of artificial business that, quite often, overruns your ability to care for customers in the manner you are accustomed. Because of the inevitable drop in customer service, you piss off your regular customers who give you the bulk of your business. This is especially true in service industries like restaurants, spas, and places where spaces are limited. Regular customers who love you can’t get in, or don’t get the high level of service they expect, because you’re too busy accommodating people who bought through Groupon.

5. They are crack cocaine; highly-addictive with a short-lived bump. Once you’ve experienced the high, you want it again. And again. And the only way to get it is to keep going back to your dealer to hand over your profits to them. Pretty soon, you’re broke. And there’s no rehab for bankrupt businesses. If you do a Groupon run today and see a short term bump in sales, what will you do this time next year when your year-to-year tracking shows a huge sales week? You’ll run back to Groupon so that your week matches last year. And repeat.

Rock Star brands would never work with corrupt concepts like Groupon.

Can you imagine Apple offering a Groupon discount on the iPad?

Can you even dream of Harley-Davidson offering a Groupon discount on a Fat Boy?

Can you fathom Starbucks going to Groupon to sell more Vanilla Bean Frappacinos?

Groupon and their clones are not valid advertising options. The only thing being advertised is low price. Is that what you sell?

They are not great ways to bring in new customers who will eventually pay full price. They don’t attract that type of customer.

They are not a viable way to build a long-term business. They rely on you making less money. Is that your business plan?


Instead of the short-lived rush of a hundred new bargain-hungry discount shoppers, start building a rock star brand.

Rock Star brands don’t compete on low prices alone.

Rock Star brands provide value to their customers, because true value transcends price.

Rock Star brands turn those customers into fans who keep coming back.

Rock Star brands deliver the kind of emotional satisfaction that customers want to pay for!

Learn how to build a Rock Star brand by reading Brand Like A Rock Star, available now for digital download or home delivery.


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How To Make Price Irrelevant

oilers teddy bear

How do you make price irrelevant to your customer?

You sell something to their heart.

The heart doesn’t think in numbers.

If you create an amazing product that I love and your marketing repeatedly shows my heart why I love it, my heart will decide to buy it.

If my heart decides to buy it (and not my head), the price will be secondary. It might not even matter at all.

When my oldest son Isaac was just three years old, I took him to his first NHL hockey game. We went to see the hometown Edmonton Oilers play the New Jersey Devils. After the game he gripped my hand as we walked through the crowds to the exit, and out of the corner of his eye he spotted a souvenir stand and pulled me towards it.

“That bear must be lonely,” he said, pointing at a glass case with a stuffed teddy bear wearing an Oilers jersey. “He’s all alone.”

The kid was right. There was only one Oilers bear left. And after those words melted my heart, the bear was coming home with us. He was lonely no more.

And the price didn’t matter.

My heart was going to have that bear no matter how much it cost.

Isaac is now 19, and he still has “Oily” the bear.

If you speak to your customer’s heart, everything else falls into place., and very quickly the heart convinces the head that the price is worth it.

Instantly download or order your copy of Brand Like a Rock Star and Start You Up with one click right here! You’ll learn the marketing secrets of rock music icons, and how to put those secrets into play to build a stronger business and personal brand.


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Rock Star Personal Branding on MSNBC


Today on MSNBC I was fortunate to be invited to join Tamron Hall on NewsNation to talk about the power of personal branding, and how it can advance your career and business.

Here’s that interview!


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Lesson #1 in Business: Nobody Cares


We love songs because we are inspired by them. We’re emotionally engaged by them. We care about them.

We care because they’ve touched us in a powerful way.

But until the moment when the music hits your heart, you don’t care.

Here’s the cold hard truth about your business: nobody really cares.

The sooner you accept that reality, the sooner you can get around to inspiring us to care.

That’s what marketing is for… to inspire us to care.

We will not be inspired by mere information. Advertising that makes us aware of your business doesn’t make us care.

Never mistake awareness for interest.

A million people can be aware of your business, and choose to shop elsewhere because you haven’t given them a reason to care.

We care about things that matter to us, and everything else is noise.

You make your business matter by touching our emotions in your marketing.

How will I feel when I become a customer?

Apple makes me feel like I can use technology to change my world.

Nike makes me feel like I can become a better version of myself through physical activity.

Jeep makes me feel like I can go anywhere, take my own path, and not let anything stand in my way.

Grey Goose makes me feel like I have sophisticated and discriminating tastes.

Harley-Davidson makes me feel like a bad-ass who doesn’t follow your rules.

How will your business make me feel?

It’s time to put aside the typical marketing BS and use your advertising to emotionally engage us.

Here is how a Canadian restaurant chain uses emotions (belonging, patriotism, family, love) to engage their customers. They don’t talk about how much the coffee costs or how great it tastes. They don’t talk about themselves. This is powerful marketing.

The branding book Start You Up is now available to help you create a powerful personal brand that can build your business and your career. You can order it with one click right here.


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