If you enjoy this post, please consider clicking here and subscribing to receive “Brand Like A Rock Star” updates via e-mail. I’ll never spam you or share your information. But I will send random subscribers free copies of the book when it is published as a small gesture of thanks. Now on with the show…
Rock stars don’t start out trying to appeal to everybody. But so many brands do. They don’t see the value in niche.
The irony is, if you try to appeal to everybody, you’ll end up appealing passionately to nobody.
In brand research, there is a dreaded group of responses about brands and products called “generic positive”. It is the kiss of death. It is the verbatim answers like “it’s okay” or “I like it”. Brands who get high “generic positive” scores generally don’t do very well.
The problem is that people can’t tell you WHAT they like about it. They just kinda think it isn’t altogether bad. If people can’t say exactly why they like you, you are probably pretty easy to replace.
Rock stars are popular because they do something specific and unique. They appeal to a very small group of people, in the beginning. Through hard work, luck, sacrifice, and marketing, their music reaches a larger audience. And if they are smart, they don’t compromise their music.
Their once tiny audience becomes larger as word spreads.
Soon that niche band is playing for tens of thousands of people.
Consider one of the most enduring and popular figures in modern music, Robert Nesta Marley.
When Bob Marley started out, reggae music wasn’t even on America’s radar. And throughout the 60′s as Bob’s career took off in his home country of Jamaica, the rest of the world paid little notice. Despite Chris Blackwell’s Island Records promotion of reggae music in the UK, the genre remained very much a niche interest. Bob Marley & The Wailers were the big fish in a very tiny pond. He drew massive crowds in Jamaica, but was a relative unknown off the island.
Reggae broke through into the mainstream in the early 70′s thanks to two factors. First, the Jimmy Cliff movie “The Harder They Come” generated significant buzz. Second, in 1974 the song “I Shot The Sheriff” (written by Marley) became a worldwide hit for Eric Clapton.
As reggae grew in popularity, so did Bob Marley. Fans discovered his new music, as well as a back catalog of songs they had never heard before.
And as Bob Marley’s star grew around the world, and he remained true to his reggae roots, his popularity amongst his earliest supporters grew even more. Marley rose to a religious-like status in Jamaica for his commitment to the Jamaican culture, Rastafarianism,and social justice.
Bob Marley could have compromised to try and become a bigger star. But he didn’t. And that’s part of the reason he became such a huge star.
It sounds like a contradiction.
Start out with a small audience, and be true to them all the way.
As you become bigger, continue to stay true to what you stand for.
Resist temptation to change what you do in order to appeal to more people.
Imagine what a disaster it would have been for Bob Marley to record a disco song in the late 70′s simply to appeal to the American mass audience! His true fans in Jamaica would have never have allowed it! There would have been rioting in Nine Mile, Jamaica.
But you see it every day with major brands.
Kentucky Fried Chicken can’t resist the chance to try and appeal to health nuts with grilled chicken.
McDonald’s couldn’t resist the chance to try and appeal to pizza lovers by offering the ill-fated
McPizza in the 1990′s.
Jeep is having a hard time resisting the chance to appeal to more urban buyers who want a car with a Jeep label, so they’ve created the Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot.
All bad moves, destined to weaken great brands who stand for something. And all in the name of appealing to more people.
Ironic.Bob Marley’s little niche brand is making over $10 million a year long after his death.
Maybe rock star John Mellencamp said it best… “You’ve gotta stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything”.