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.

Pete Townshend, The Who, Uncategorized 561 Comments

The Evil Genius of Abercrombie & Fitch

a and f ad

Roger Daltry sang “I hope I die before I get old” in the song “My Generation”. It was 1965. The outcry was intense.

Now Abercrombie & Fitch CEO Mark Jefferies says A&F only targets thin, “cool, good looking people”, and the same kind of outcry ensues.”We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends,” Jeffries told “A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”

Jefferies might be an asshole. His company might represent all that is wrong with our vain society. But he’s not stupid when it comes to building a well-defined brand.

Smart brands clearly state their core values and adhere to them every single day.

Weak brands state their core values ambiguously, or even worse… don’t have any core values at all.

Jefferies has pissed-off and alienated plenty of people with his comments.

When a company tells you don’t want your business, why are you pissed off?

He doesn’t want your business, so don’t give him your business. I know I won’t. As a 42 year-old bald guy, he doesn’t want me. Fair enough.

The very smart Erika Napoletano said it well on her YouTube channel yesterday. “This is what brands should be doing,” she said, while eloquently calling him a “douche nozzle”.

Chik-Fil-A has clearly stated they are against same-sex marriage. How anyone could be against equality is beyond me, but I applaud them for having values… even moronic ones. I won’t be caught dead buying anything from them, and that’s my prerogative. You make your choice. Vote with your wallet.

On the other hand, Whole Foods clearly supports sustainable farming and renewable energy. If you don’t think those issues are worth the extra cost of food at Whole Foods, go somewhere else to buy your groceries. Do what you want. Vote with your wallet.

To be a rock star brand, you need to have values.

Just stand for something. Anything. Have the balls to say it clearly so that everyone understands what you’re all about.

After all, Roger Daltry didn’t sing “I hope I get to feel young and energized for a really long time.”

Smart brands have clearly stated values that they adhere to every single day, whether you like those values or not.

As Gene Simmons once said, channeling George Bernard Shaw, “the fastest way to success is to offend as many people as possible at once.”


Abercrombie & Fitch, Chick-Fil-A, The Who, Uncategorized, Whole Foods 252 Comments

You Need An “EST”

The Who was billed as “the loudest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world”.

James Brown was “the hardest working man in show biz”.

In business, and in music, the brands that occupy one of the extremes of the spectrum are the ones that get noticed.

Smart brands own an “est”.

Drive down the highway, and you can’t help but notice the Smart Car (smallest) and the Hummer (largest). We see the brightest (the yellow Corvette) and the darkest (a matte black Porsche). But the dark blue Honda Civic goes by unnoticed.

Hardest. Loudest. Softest. Easiest. Hardest. Newest. Oldest. Tallest. Shortest. Hottest. Coldest. Fastest. Slowest. Priciest. Cheapest. Fattest. Thinest.

What end of the spectrum do your customers acknowledge that you own?

If you aren’t the “est” at something, there’s a good chance you are getting lost in the boring, invisible, crowded middle ground. The world is littered with quality products and companies who were afraid to stand for something and stand out for something.

Brand Like A Rock Star is a book that can help you define your brand, tell your story, and share it with the world so that your company ROCKS in 2013. It examines the core marketing strategies of rock ‘n’ roll legends and shows you how to put them into use in your business right away. You can order it now by clicking here. It is the rockin-est business book you’ll ever own.


James Brown, The Who 1,082 Comments

Accidental Magic: Three Keys To Rock Star Creativity

The normally shy and reserved guitar player came alive when he hit the stage, playing his instrument with incredible passion. His band was still young, playing in small clubs to small crowds, but he played as if the world was watching.

Near the end of one of their concerts, he lifted the instrument high above his head in triumph.

And put the neck of the guitar right through the ceiling.

Pulling it out, he discovered that not only had he broken a hole in the ceiling, but also the neck of the guitar. Captivated by the energy of the moment, and knowing his expensive guitar was already wrecked, he threw the guitar down on stage over and over again, shattering it into pieces.

The crowd went wild. And entirely by accident, Pete Townshend found the thing he would become famous for as the guitar player for The Who.

So many great songs, scientific discoveries, human advancements, and fantastic achievements happened entirely by accident.

Yet in business, we strive for perfection and we chastise mistakes.

We are so busy working that we seldom take time to mess around and no nothing.

Very seldom do you take a leap forward while you are stuck inside your box.

But when you are free to screw up, experiment, and just try stuff… magic happens.

Three Keys To Rock Star Creativity

1. Free yourself to fail. Never criticize anyone (including yourself) when mistakes are made with good intentions. Only malicious mistakes deserve criticism. Everything else is to be praised.

2. Set aside time to do unproductive things. The work will be there when you’re done goofing off.

3. Force yourself out of your box. By going on stage, Pete Townshend was forced to leave his shy and reserved box behind and stand outside of his comfort zone. Always live your life one step outside of your comfort zone.

The marketing book Brand Like A Rock Star is one click away in paperback or Kindle download. Click here to order it today and start to make your marketing rock right away.

Pete Townshend’s new book Who I Am comes out today. It is his personal story and includes very intimate glimpses into life as one of the biggest rock stars on the planet. What was his strangest acid trip? What male rock star did he want to have sex with? Order Who I Am by Pete Townshend to find out.


Pete Townshend, The Who 208 Comments

Green Day’s Brilliant Brand


Developing story: Following the publishing of this post, Billie Joe Armstrong apparently entered rehab. While that doesn’t change my point, I do wish him nothing but the absolute best in his battle against addiction. I still believe that his actions were a smart way to reinforce his band’s image. Hopefully as a sober performer, he will retain the same vitriol towards authority.

You’re a veteran punk rock band, hired by one of America’s biggest media corporations to play their music festival. Then, just before you are set to go on stage, you find out that your 45 minute set has been cut to 25 minutes in order to allow another act, Usher, more time on stage

What would you do?

In a rare and refreshing show of modern rock ‘n’ roll swagger, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong brought back images of the Sex Pistols, The Who in their heyday, and The Clash. As the stage clock showed one minute left in their set, Billie Joe abruptly stopped playing and unleashed a profanity filled tirade toward the organizers of the event, capping it off by smashing his guitar, flipping his middle finger, and walking off the stage.

How awesome to see a brand (Green Day) that so clearly understands its values and so brilliantly seizes an opportunity to showcase them in a way that gets them massive coverage… at a time when they are about to release three back-to-back-to-back new albums within a few months of each other.

When your brand’s image is anti-authoritarian, rebellious, and destructive, you should be exactly that.

If Taylor Swift had learned her set was being cut short, she would have been much wiser to take her frustrations out through her management team in a private meeting with the concert organizers. It isn’t in Taylor’s girl-next-door image to act like an assh*le.

But it is perfectly in line with Billie Joe Armstrong and Green Day’s image to rise up against authority, fight for their cause, and take no bullsh*t from anyone.

Those who boycott Green Day because of this would probably never buy their albums or concert tickets anyway.

And those who love Green Day because of what they stand for now have another reason to love them even more.


The take-away?

When you are known for a certain set of values, never be afraid to stand up and represent those values in a very bold and public way.

Know and understand your image, and seize every opportunity to further enhance and showcase that image.

You can enjoy Billie Joe Armstrong’s intensity in the video below, but be warned that the language is raw and NOT SAFE FOR WORK.

And to order your copy of Brand Like A Rock Star (including a chapter about the Sex Pistols and punk rock), click here to buy it from Amazon with one click, in either paperback or Kindle.

Green Day, Sex Pistols, Taylor Swift, The Who 5,644 Comments

The Indestructible Brand


First things first: the book Brand Like A Rock Star is now available online. No more waiting. You can order it right here as a paperback or Kindle version. It starts appearing in stores on Saturday. Now on with the fun…

Jay emailed me this week asking “Is Pan Am an indestructible brand?”

After the debut of the new TV show Pan Am you might wonder if it isn’t indestructible!

Despite four financial collapses, bankruptcy, terrorist attacks, crashes, and perpetual abuse of the name since its glory days faded in the 1970s, it still carries tremendous allure.

Every young boy (and even some girls!) growing up in the 1960s wanted to be the Captain of a Pan Am jet.  For a 60s girl, it was a dream job to be a Pan Am stewardess. Flying was romantic and exciting, and Pan Am stood for all that was great about the era.

Pan Am didn’t just fly airplanes. They flew Clippers. They didn’t have a terminal building at JFK Airport in New York, they had a Worldport.

Today the functioning Pan Am brand clings to life as a railway in New England. Yet the brand’s cache makes owning the name profitable. Licensing of the logo on merchandise, in movies, on clothing, and in TV shows, makes owning the name worthwhile, even though it no longer functions as an airline. Pan Am exists primarily as a trademark today!

But to answer Jay’s question, I don’t think the brand is actually indestructible. Great brands have a purpose, and that is to make money for shareholders. Pan Am failed in that regard, and hasn’t flown since December 3, 1991 when Pan Am Flight 436 landed in Miami. If you fail at your primary business objective, you fail the brand test. You are destructible.

But what is really cool about Pan Am, as Jay pointed out, is the incredible power of what the brand stands for to this day:

Romance | Exploration | Adventure | Intrigue | Destiny | Luxury | Excellence | Freedom | Escape

When you stand for things like that, you can build a powerful magnet with your brand. Despite Pan Am’s disappearance as an airline, we still associate all of those wonderful images with the name. If you stand for emotionally powerful ideals like that, we will remember you forever.

On the other hand, if you stand for “low prices”, we will only remember you until a lower price comes along.

Rock stars use the power of emotion to draw us in. You never forget how Pete Townshend smashed his guitar on stage night after night in the name of rebellion. You never forget how John and Yoko’s stayed in bed for peace. You never forget the lyrics of the Bob Seger song that was playing on the car radio while you were in the back seat growing up too fast. Powerful emotional ideals indeed. 

The lesson of Pan Am is to stand for powerful emotional ideals, not empty advertising cliches. You may never build an indestructible brand, but you might just come close.

By the way, remember what was in the background when The Beatles landed at JFK in 1964?







John Lennon, Pan Am, The Beatles, The Who, Uncategorized 154 Comments

Steve Jobs: Replacing Apple’s Lead Singer


Steve Jobs has a history of stunning the world, but this time around it wasn’t a new tablet computer or smart phone that helped him do it. It was instead the shocking announcement that he was stepping down as CEO of the world’s most successful company.

Few business leaders cast as long a shadow as Steve Jobs. He is the human face of Apple. His status is cult-like. While Apple will no doubt carry on, it won’t be easy to replace a leader who is so deeply connected to the brand.

Could The Rolling Stones replace Mick Jagger? They wouldn’t even try.

U2 would never play a show again if Bono left.

The Who couldn’t replace Roger Daltry, even though I wouldn’t put it past them to try (based on their history of replacing mortally departed drummers and bassists).

In fact, when you think about it, remarkably few big-name bands have replaced high profile lead singers at the peak of their career and continued on with any measurable success.

Van Halen managed to successfully replace David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar, but they’ve never been the same since Hagar’s first departure.

AC/DC did it when Bon Scott died and they recruited Brian Johnson, although Scott wasn’t a tremendously high profile frontman.

Alice in Chains appears to have pulled it off, replacing Layne Staley with William DuVall, and recording a successful comeback album in 2010.

Classic rock bands like Styx, Journey, Foreigner, and others continue to tour with new lead singers but each band is a shell of its former self.  Judas Priest tried and failed. So did Iron Maiden.

So will the new Apple be able to pull off a lead singer change the way Van Halen, AC/DC, and Alice in Chains did?  Or do they risk falling into the abyss of once-great classic rock bands who relentless pursue faded glory?

You can order the new book Brand Like a Rock Star now by clicking the link below. If you’re on the fence, download a chapter for free and sample it first.


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Talkin’ About My Generation

Roger Daltry belted out those lyrics over 45 years ago, tapping into the psyche of a generation of post-war children coming of age and feeling like the older generation just didn’t get it.

Well there’s a new generation coming of age, and they think you just don’t get it.  The British company PDH Worldwide put together this video to give you a look into the mindset of your consumer in about ten years.

The coolest (and scariest) line in this piece – for me – is “Mass blocks kill brands overnight”.

These days we can watch in real time social media plays a key role in taking down oppressive governments in Egypt and Libya, among other nations.

If people are able to organize in order to topple governments, how hard would it be for them to organize to topple your brand?

Not so hard.

Perhaps unfortunately, nobody is that passionate about your brand.  They probably won’t target you when they are done ousting Ghadafi.

What social media presents is both an opportunity and a risk.  The opportunity is to connect, share, discuss, and embed. It is in applying your brand towards building stronger communities and stronger connections between people.  The risk is that everything you do will be scrutinized. Every mistake will be noticed. If you break the trust, it won’t be long before a “mass block” will kill your brand.

That future is coming, and it isn’t far away. Rock star brands of today are well on their way to developing those types of powerful, targeted, connected, and two-way relationships with the customers. Are you?

PS – If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I usually publish once or twice a week and will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page. I would also be totally humbled if you forwarded this piece on to other people who share our common passion.
~ Steve

Egypt, Libya, Roger Daltry, Social Media, The Who 426 Comments

Music: The Secret Entrance To The Mind


Valentine’s Day… the perfect day for a reminder about how much brands should be deeply in love with music.

Music is a magic potion. It is a back-door entrance into the mind of your customer. Using music, you can bypass the logical and analytical left side of the brain, and enter into their consciousness through the mystical and musical right side of the brain.

Things you would never say in public can be heard every day in song.

“Hey Joe, I said where you going with that gun in your hand?
I’m going down to shoot my old lady.
You know I caught her messin’ around with another man.”
- Jimi Hendrix

“But she never lost her head, even when she was giving head.
She said hey babe… take a walk on the wild side.”
- Lou Reed

“Ahh Who the f**k are you?”
- The Who

During the 1984 presidential election campaign, Republican Ronald Reagan contacted Bruce Springsteen about possibly using “Born In The USA” as a campaign theme song. Springsteen, a well-known liberal, said no. One has to wonder why Reagan’s people would ask about using a song that is sung from the point of view of a returning Vietnam veteran who is clearly bitter and angry toward the disappearing American dream.

“Born down in a dead man’s town. The first kick I took is when I hit the ground.
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, ’til you spend half your life trying to cover it up.”

Music is magic. All Bruce Springsteen had to do was scream “Born in the USA” at the top of his lungs and those who wanted to hear a pro-American anthem heard it. The bitter undertones were heard, but hidden. The lyrics embedded themselves in the mind of the listener but never revealed their motives. That’s music at work.

Today a lot of people will be singing love songs to each other. For rock star brands, any song that gives you a secret entrance into your customer’s psyche is a love song.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I only publish once or twice a week on average and will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

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Super Branding Lessons From The Who

Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend are 64 and 65 years old.  Two founding members of their band are long since deceased.  It takes six musicians today to recreate the sound that four energetic young men created a few decades ago.

Yet The Who rock on.  They played the Super Bowl on Sunday afternoon in Miami, and in their short 13 minute set they were able to teach other brands three valuable lessons.

1. They lived up to expectations.  Instead of trying to showcase new music or put new artistic spins on familiar songs, the band roared through classic songs like “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Who Are You”, “Baba O’Riley”, and “Pinball Wizard”.  They didn’t change a thing.  Rock star brands always live up to the expectations of their customers.

2.  They looked the part.  Pete Townshend’s classic windmill guitar playing and Daltry’s mod jacket and scarf combo kept up appearances.  Even drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) wore the classic Union Jack shirt that The Who has used so often as their logo backdrop.  Rock star brands know that all of the senses go into creating a brand’s aura.  Even though The Who is an audio brand, the visual needs to match of else the whole thing falls apart.

3. They saved the best for last.  Full credit for the set list, ending with the theme song from CSI: Miami, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  The song ended with Roger Daltry’s iconic scream, followed by massive fireworks.  And then it was over.  Rock star brands put an exclamation point on their brand, just as The Who did by playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” last, and loudest.

The Who 220 Comments