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 180 Comments

I Hate Ted Nugent


That headline isn’t 100% accurate. I don’t hate Ted.

I have a love/hate relationship with Ted Nugent.

I hate Ted’s asinine opinions (here is a link to stupid sh*t Ted has said). To me, Ted represents the very worst of fear-mongering and angry politics. He says cruel and hurtful things that set back progress. On a personal level, I hate what Ted Nugent says.

But professionally, I love what Ted Nugent has done with his brand. There is no doubt about what Ted Nugent stands for. His brand is amazingly well-defined, especially when you consider his relative musical irrelevance. Ted Nugent hasn’t had a hit song since 1980′s “Wango Tango”! Yet thirty two years after that record came out, he still manages to find ways to define his brand clearly.

Ted Nugent is like Chick-Fil-A.


The Chick-Fil-A chain has their fast-food chicken outlets in 39 states. The company has never shied away from their founder’s religious views. As devout Southern Baptists, the Cathy family closes their stores on Sundays, has placed religious reading material in their children’s meals, and includes “to honor God” in their corporate mission statement.  COO Dan Cathy recently stirred controversy when he said “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

Yes, in 2012 Chick-Fil-A is against gay marriage.

Just as I hate what Ted Nugent says, I personally hate what Chick-Fil-A stands for.

Yet I am tremendously impressed with their ability to stand up for what they believe in, state it clearly, and use it to define their brand.

The press coverage of Chick-Fil-A has been intense. The recent “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” drew thousands of customers to their stores, creating long lines of like-minded diners who came out to show their support to Chick-Fil-A and the company’s views. On the other hand, LGBT groups are planning a Chick-Fil-A “Kiss In”, with a mission to show visible same-sex affection inside Chick-Fil-A stores.

While I don’t agree with Chick-Fil-A’s views, I do admire their ability to use them to define their brand.

Does your business have values that define you and set you apart from your competitors?


What do you stand for?

What do you do (or don’t do) that defines you?

What values would you be comfortable walking business over?

Your values don’t have to be as extreme or controversial as Chick-Fil-A’s or Ted Nugent’s. They just need to exist.

Whole Foods values sustainable farming. They would walk away from business that didn’t reflect those values.

Volvo values safety. They wouldn’t create an unsafe car in order to make a quick buck.

Rolex values quality. They wouldn’t create a low-end watch just to cash in.

Start building a stronger brand right away, using the core marketing strategies of rock legends like AC/DC, U2, Jimmy Buffett, The Grateful Dead, and KISS. Download or order Brand Like A Rock Star right now!


Chick-Fil-A, Rolex, Ted Nugent, Volvo, Whole Foods 186 Comments

Why Would Anyone Want To Be A Rock Star?


NOTE: This post originally appeared  on March 13, 2012 as a guest blog post at in response to a piece they had written about the book Brand Like A Rock Star.


A few months ago, Eric Dodds of the awesome Brains on Fire Blog wrote a piece that was inspired by my book Brand Like A Rock Star.

Being a Brains on Fire fan, I was eager to read the blog post. But as I read it, to my disappointment it became evident that Eric wasn’t writing about my book. He was writing about the title. And he made a good point. Why would anyone strive to be a rock star today?

Hell, if any single industry could be accused of clinging to an old-world business model while the new world evolved before their very eyes, it is the music industry.

Rock stars are notorious for their self-destructive habits, self-delusional perceptions, and self-absorbed behavior.

And the non-creatives in the rock star biz – the suits – are just greedy bastards hell bent on turning art into money.

It begs the question that Eric asked… why would anyone want to be a rock star?

The answer is simple.

Because when you rock, the world pays attention.

And nothing is more important to marketers today that getting attention. Nothing.

Without attention, you have no awareness.

Without attention, you have no engagement.

Without attention, you have no click-throughs. No sales. No ROI.

Attention is the water in a just-add-water recipe. All of the other ingredients in your campaign are nothing if you don’t add attention. When KISS walked out on stage in 1974 wearing bizarre comic book make-up and started to blow stuff up on stage, the world paid attention. While plenty of people hated KISS, plenty more loved them.  assionately.

When Lady Gaga appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2010 wearing a dress made from raw meat, the world paid attention. Gaga has her detractors, but her clan of “little monsters” is far more powerful.

Getting our attention doesn’t always have to be flashy and controversial, like KISS and Lady Gaga.

Powerful brands like Chipotle and Whole Foods got our attention by committing themselves to causes we can rally around, like sustainable farming, organic foods, and clean power sources.

Old Spice got our attention by making us laugh and by giving us content we wanted to share with our friends on social networks.

Whether through humor, causes, or controversy, all of these brands recognize that without attention, they cease to exist.

A rock star lives on center stage with a powerful spotlight shining down, thousands of fans eager to sing along and experience the raw emotional power of hearing the songs they love sung live and in person.

When you rock, the world pays attention.

And that’s why, no matter what you do in life and business, you want to be a rock star.



Brains on Fire, Chipotle, Hugh MacLeod, KISS, Lady GaGa, Old Spice, Whole Foods 366 Comments

Going The Distance: Finding Your "est"

If you’re passionate about great bands and great brands, please click here to subscribe to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. You can also join the discussion on Facebook.

If you’re passionate about great bands and great brands, please click here to subscribe to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. You can also join the discussion on Facebook.

You don’t remember the normal… the average… the everyday.

KISS? We remember KISS because they went the distance and gave us something we’d never seen before. Sure, other bands wore make-up, but not like that. Other bands had themes, but nothing like KISS.  Other bands had pyro, but not like that!

Jimmy Buffett? We remember Jimmy because he lives and breathes the beach-bum lifestyle in every way. He even had to leave his hammock in Key West to move to Nashville to start his career, and gets back to the tropics at every possible opportunity.

We remember bands and artists who are the most extreme of their type. We remember the people who push the envelope and define their genre.

Rock star brands are precisely the same.

Whole Foods didn’t open up an organic food section in a traditional grocery store. Whole Foods went the distance and opened up an organic foods store that grew into the largest of its kind in the world.

Enzo Ferrari didn’t make a few sports car models to go along with more mainstream cars. Ferrari made only high-performance sports cars that became some of the fastest and most-expensive cars on earth.


Rolex doesn’t make a $100 entry-level watch. Their luxury watches aren’t a division of what they do. Rolex makes nothing but luxury watches. You’ll need to drop about $5000 to even get in the game if you want one.

You don’t have to be the fastest, most expensive brand to stick out from the crowd.  You could actually get the world’s attention by being exactly the opposite.


The least-expensive car in the world got noticed. The Tata Nina, made in India, made headlines around the world for its $2500 price tag.

In what meanigful way does your brand go the distance?

Are you the fastest? Slowest? Newest? Oldest? Friendliest? Longest? Shortest? Fattest? Thinnest?

You need an “est” or you risk simply blending in with the boring crowd around you.

Start with your own “est”, and your brand will come together around it.


Ferrari, Jimmy Buffett, KISS, Rolex, Tata Nano, Whole Foods 171 Comments

The Beach Boys: Great Brands Sell Escapes, Not Products

If you’re passionate about great bands and great brands, please click here to subscribe to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. You can also join the discussion on Facebook.


Our minds have a wonderful way of dreaming worlds into existence.  We look back at our teenage years and the songs we listened to, and it seems like the world was so much nicer then.  The music was so much better.  Life was so much simpler.

We know better, logically.  When The Beach Boys recorded their first single, “Surfin’”, 49 years ago, the cold war had world tensions cranked high.  Kennedy and Khrushchev met that year in Vienna and disagreed strongly on many issues, fueling US policy on preventing the spread of communism is Asia through a demonstration of their force in the small nation of Vietnam.  In North America, the Communists ruled Cuba and bragged openly about the failed Bay of Pigs invasion.  Race riots in Alabama resulted in martial law.  The US Civil Rights Act was still three years away.  Life as a Black person in the USA wasn’t exactly easy.

Only in our memory was 1961 actually a nicer, better, simpler time.  That’s the beauty of our minds.  We remember things the way we want to remember them.  We remember the good times, and forget about the bad.

The Beach Boys, 50 years later, are discussing a major reunion.  Troubled chief songwriter and de factor leader Brian Wilson hasn’t been a consistent contributing member of the band since the early 80′s, and he’s apparently on-board for a reunion with Mike Love and Al Jardine, the last surviving original members.

The Beach Boys should go on tour.  They should celebrate their 50th year with a spectacular show that brings to life all of the amazing music they made.  There are few bands that so eloquently captured a time and place in music the way The Beach Boys did.

What The Beach Boys shouldn’t do is make a new album and  go on tour playing their new songs. The fans who pay their hard-earned money to see The Beach Boys in concert are buying an escape, not just a performance.  They are buying a temporary escape to their youth, where they can feel 17 again for a few hours.  If The Beach Boys play new music, the escape is over.

That’s what great brands do.  They are an escape, and allow you to be something you aspire to be.

If I drive a Jeep, I am escaping to somewhere off the beaten path.  I am paying extra to be able to explore the world away from the office drones and followers.

If I wear APO Jeans, I’m escaping to a world where things are custom made just for me, and I’m telling the world that what everyone else wears isn’t good enough.

If I buy my groceries at Whole Foods, I am escaping to a place where I can make a contribution to my own health and the health of the planet.  The extra money I am paying allows me to shop with a sense of purpose.

Will that Jeep ever go off-road?  Very few actually do.
Do I need jeans with silk pockets and diamond studs?  Definitely not.
Does shopping at Whole Foods actually make a difference?  Sure, but unless we all do it the difference is very, very small and mainly in our own mind.

Hopefully next summer fans of The Beach Boys will be able to blissfully escape to their youth for a few hours and enjoy the band as they remember them.  That’s the gift they can give to their fans by playing hit after hit, night after night, and leaving the new music to the new bands.

Beach Boys fans should also check out this earlier postabout how the obvious mistakes left in the hit song “Barbara Ann” provide an example of how Rock Star brands are authentic, not perfect.

1961, APO Jeans, Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Jeep, Whole Foods 145 Comments

Causes That Connect To Customers

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Cause marketing – the idea of aligning your brand with a social cause close to the heart of your customers – really works… but only under a few conditions.

Jon Bon Jovi knows this well.  His band is on tour and at each city, Jon is heading into the deepest parts of the inner-city in order to collect information for his foundation that helps the homeless.  Since 2006, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has created 150 affordable housing units in seven American cities.

What makes a good cause marketing initiative?

1. A natural/logical relationship between the brand and the cause.  In the case of Jon Bon Jovi, the relationship is clear.  His music has often been about the struggles of the average man.  In fact, his latest album includes a song called “Working For The Working Man” and numerous songs inspired by the economic meltdown.  Jon Bon Jovi has never been one to flaunt his riches.  Many of the people finding themselves homeless today are those who were walking the fine line between making it and not prior to the economic collapse, and all of us can relate to having to do more with less than ever before.

2. The PR happens (relatively) organically.  Jon Bon Jovi isn’t calling this the “Bon Jovi Helps The Homeless Tour”.  The good PR will happen in large part because he isn’t actively seeking it.  He is simply meeting with local homeless groups in each city and touring the areas where his foundation could assist them.  He isn’t doing it with news cameras and paparazzi.  Yes, he has a PR machine working with his foundation, but they are not exploiting the cause in order to increase Jon’s profile.

3. The cause is timely.  With the state of the economy and with people not eager to pay higher taxes, now is the perfect time to investigate new ways to help the homeless.  The cause is an evergreen one that won’t be going away, but there’s no question that it is a particular hot button these days.  It is important that the cause your brand supports is one that connects with people’s present state-of-mind, otherwise it is unlikely your efforts will register with customers.

Cause marketing is vital. As Roy Williams has observed, today’s society is one of increasing civil responsibility.  It seems with each day we feel a stronger sense of community (that link is worth checking out, by the way). We are more likely than ever before to be loyal to a brand that gives back to our community in a meaningful way.

What does your brand give back?  Have you developed a sense of higher purpose?  Do you leave your customers with the feeling that you care about the same things they do?


Some examples of rock stars and rock star brands who give back to their communities:

Dave Matthews Band established the Bama Works Foundation in 1999 to help disadvantaged youth and the disabled.  The foundation has also assisted environmental causes, the arts, and humanities.

Metallica has developed a relationship with Live Earth to use their concerts to raise money for the environment and fight climate change.

Elton John’s work with AIDS foundations has been well documented.

Whole Foods gives back 5% of their annual net profits to community causes, often determined by the local stores based on the needs of each individual community.

Last year, Ford donated $20 per test drive on each new car to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help cure cancer.

Several times over the past few years, Apple has used the iTunes store to sell charity albums and songs without taking any profit.  When the world’s largest music store decides to donate their cut of the profit, the numbers are significant.

Apple, Bon Jovi, cause marketing, Dave Matthews, Elton John, Ford, Metallica, Roy Williams, Whole Foods 90 Comments