Two weeks ago I joined 25,000 other coconut bra-wearing Parrotheads to spend a hot summer night with Jimmy Buffett. There are many things the Buffett brand does well, and one of them struck me during the encore as well all sang “Southern Cross” in perfect drunken harmony: Jimmy Buffett is a master at recognizing songs that he should have written.
He didn’t write “Southern Cross”. It is a Crosby, Stills, and Nash classic. But it sounds exactly like a song that Jimmy Buffett should sing.
He didn’t create “Brown Eyed Girl“. Give credit to Van Morrison for that gem. But it sounds precisely like a Buffett song.
He didn’t dream up ”Uncle John’s Band“. The Grateful Dead gets props in that case. But once again, it sounds like something Buffett should have written.
He didn’t come up with “Weather With You“. That’s a Crowded House piece, but it sounds so perfectly Buffett that he made it his own.
While most businesses focus on coming up with the next big thing, plenty of smart brands have made their mark by perfecting products created by others.
Apple didn’t invent the mp3 player. Diamond Multimedia, Compaq, and Creative were among the numerous companies that brought it to market first. But all of them faded in October of 2001 when Apple revealed the iPod. Apple brilliantly perfected the technology of others and eventually became the far-and-away leader in the product category.
Blackberry revolutionized mobile email, but they didn’t invent it. The first device appeared in 1992 when IBM created Simon, a mobile phone with email access. Blackberry came along four year later with two-way pagers and didn’t release a mobile phone with email access until 2002, a decade after Simon arrived.
Bud Light is the top selling beer in America, but Budweiser didn’t invent light beer. Meister Brau of Chicago did that, releasing the first light beer in 1967. Bud Light debuted in 1982, fifteen years after the first light beer came along.
Sometimes great brands are the innovators.
More often, great brands are the ones that perfect products and learn from the mistakes of the innovators.
Sure, it takes brains to create.
It also takes brains to recognize opportunity, peer into the future, harness potential, and successfully (and legally!) make a song your own.
If you enjoy what you’ve read, please consider ordering a copy of Brand Like a Rock Star now with just a few clicks. It is full of insights into how to build a stronger and richer brand through the lessons of rock ‘n’ roll. If you’d like to preview chapter one for free, you can grab a pdf file here. I would love to hear your thoughts on it. You can email me anytime: steve (at) brandlikearockstar.com.