There are two kinds of people in the world. A good friend of mine calls them “keys” and “locks”. “Keys” are people who open doors for you and in you. They make what you do better. “Locks” attempt to shut you down. They don’t get it.
Rock stars find collaborators who are “keys”.
If you want your business to be successful, you need to do the same thing.
One thing rock stars are famous for, and hip hop stars even more famous for, is their entourage. Rock stars surround themselves with people who enrich their lives. They eliminate people who don’t. The result is an environment where great things happen. Legendary songs are written. Magic happens.
Certainly business success isn’t as simple as just surrounding yourself with good people, but I can guarantee that it will be a hell of a lot harder to build a winning brand if you surround yourself with nay-sayers, negativity, and pessimists.
“Locks” are out there. They are inevitable. You need to deal with them swiftly and decisively. Get rid of them. If you can’t get rid of them completely, illegitimi non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.
You probably remember last year, when Kanye stormed the stage after Taylor win the Best Female Video award. Kanye grabbed the microphone from a stunned Swift and said that the award should have gone to Beyonce. In the ensuring days and weeks, West felt an extreme backlash and disappeared from the spotlight.
Taylor Swift, meanwhile, has continued her meteoric rise and recently released the first single from her new album. That song, “Mine”, is already a major hit on the pop and country charts.
Swift has endeared herself to fans through honest songs that are close to her heart. She’s openly joked that it is hard to find people to date her because of her reputation for writing songs about her heartbreaks.
Brands that connect on a personal level always win.
When I ordered my last iPod through the Apple website, I had a quote from John Lennon engraved on the back. It was a quote I chose, and the engraving was free. There is no iPod quite like that one anywhere on earth. Today my iPhone has a selection of apps that are personal to me. My friends and coworkers have a different selection of apps, all personal to them.
Many sports manufacturers allow you to personalize your gear, creating equipment in your team colors or your personal favorite colors. There will be no equipment exactly like yours anywhere.
Through social media sites you can now create an internet experience that is personal to you. You can wake up to an on-line newspaper that is customized to your personal tastes, interests, and sources.
Smart brands today are like Taylor Swift. They engage their fans on a personal level. They communicate in connective language, not transactional words. By revealing themselves to the world on a human level, they give us the chance to bond with them. After all, people don’t bond with products or companies. We bond with other people.
If you expect your brand to connect with people, you need to find a way to make it human.
The day after making the unwise decision to storm on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards and steal the microphone from Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech, Kanye West was scheduled to appear on the first episode of the new 10pm Jay Leno Show.
With almost 18 million viewers, it appears the Gods of Timing smiled on Jay Leno once again.
Flashback to 1995. The week before the release of his movie “Nine Months”, Hugh Grant was busted for lewd conduct in a public place when LAPD caught him engaged in the act with prostitute Divine Brown.
Grant was already booked on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Despite urges to cancel, Grant kept the interview. The result was a moment that defined Jay Leno’s show and set the stage for Grant to continue to have a succesful show biz career.
As Grant got comfortable on the couch, Jay turned to him and asked one simple question.
“What the hell were you thinking?”
Grant paused, and then replied “I think you know in life what’s a good thing to do and a bad thing, and I did a bad thing. And there you have it.”
That willingness to take responsibility and accountability allowed audiences to forgive Hugh Grant, and his career wasn’t derailed.
Can the same be said for Kanye West’s apology on Monday night?
Kanye did seem sincere, and was near tears at one point.
But the difference was that Leno had to coax it out of him with a seemingly contrived and somewhat insensitive question about how Kanye’s late mother would have reacted to his actions.
The result will likely be the same. Kanye West will be forgiven and move along with a succesful career.
Being responsible, and responsive, has never been more important.
In ’95 when Hugh Grant had his moment of indiscretion, there was not an internet (at least as we know it today) and definitely no Twitter or blogosphere to cover every breaking story. There was no way for public outrage to be so easily expressed and swayed.
Remember the Tylenol poisoning scandal of 1982? The product was literally killing people and nobody knew why. Instead of telling the world that it wasn’t their fault (and it wasn’t), Tylenol went forward with an aggressive campaign to pull all of their products from stores, hospitals, and clinics.
Even though only Extra Strength Capsules were poisoned, they removed everything with their name on it.
Even though only Chicago residents had died, they removed everything worldwide. No exceptions.
Tylenol held regular press conferences to update their customers and they were present during the police investigation.
Tylenol then took an industry lead in developing tamper-proof packaging and “gel-caps” that were more secure against tampering.
After the scandal, Tylenol dropped from the category leader to a 9% market share of the pain relief market.
Within a year, they were once again the market leader.
To this day, the person who tainted the Tylenol and poisoned 7 people to death was never caught. And to this day, Tylenol once again controls about 35% of the pain relief market in North America.
The lessons of Kanye West, Hugh Grant, and Tylenol are wise to keep in mind when your brand faces a crisis.
* Be transparent – talk honestly about the issues and don’t try and hide behind others.
* Communicate – use the incredible social networking tools at your disposal to talk to your customers.
* Take responsibility – failure is a temporary state. By admitting to mistakes and failures, you actually have the opportunity to gain trust in the long run.
* Take charge – be Tylenol and lead the way in creating systems to prevent future failures.
Here’s an example of taking responsibility from Maple Leaf Foods, a Canadian meat company that was responsible for a tainted meat scandal last year that killed several people.
Partnerships like this are a strong currency of credibility. Having the right strategic partners gives you an “in” that you might not otherwise have.
Finding partners isn’t tough. But finding the right partner for your brand is a major challenge.
Thanks to Dave Matthews, millions of unlikely prospects will be exposed to Kenny Chesney. And if you are not a country music fan, Kenny Chesney is a pretty mainstream entry point. Suddenly you find yourself realizing that DMB, Wilco, and Phish are only slightly removed musical cousins of Zac Brown, Keith Urban, and Jack Ingram.
Rihanna and Kanye add a mainstream to Jay-Z, who has always held a great deal of street credibility but has gone without a mass-appeal top 40 hit for a few years. What Kanye’s recent negative exploits will do for this song remain to be seen, but the distinctive voice of Rihanna (who gets a sympathy vote for her trials with Chris Brown) really brings this hip hop song into the mainstream.
And you can’t underestimate the value that Chad Kroeger’s name has had on the careers of Marianas Trench and Theory of a Deadman. Nickelback is arguably the biggest hit-making rock band of the decade, and when you have that kind of endorsement it certainly opens plenty of doors (and ears).
What strategic partnerships could you forge to give your brand credibility?
Who could you team up with to open new doors?
Where are the mutual benefits to be found in working with someone else?
The Harley-Davidson partnership with Ford Trucks is a good example. Harley doesn’t make trucks, and Ford doesn’t make bikes. Harley stands for something. Ford Trucks believe they stand for something similar. So the partnership makes sense for them.
Back when The Simpson’s movie came out, 7-11 partnered with Fox to rebrand a bunch of stores as “Kwik-E-Marts”. Did it damage the 7-11 brand? Not at all. Having the guts to poke fun of convenience store stereotypes actually resulted in tremendous publicity for the chain and for the movie. Perect partnership.
Just remember: your brand’s reputation is all you’ve got. Put too much of it in the hands of someone else, and you risk losing all you’ve worked for.