The Three Greatest Rock Band Brands


I get the question a lot.

Which is the most well-branded band in rock ‘n’ roll history?

And as often as I get the question, I don’t always have an easy answer. So many bands have branded themselves successfully! But there are three bands that, in my opinion, have created the most powerful brands in rock history.

These are three bands whose brands transcend their music.


No band has mastered the art of merchandising like KISS. No band has turned their music into an financial empire like KISS. Few bands have created such a powerful following as KISS did with the KISS Army. Their drive to monetize their music has turned many people off over the years, but it has made the band millions.


The beauty of Buffett is that he turned one little catchy song into a profit machine. “Margaritaville” has become synonymous with the beach bum lifestyle, and fans flock to his restaurants, casinos, and hotels to experience it. They pick up his Landshark Lager beer and wear his clothing line to celebrate the idea of life on the beach. His annual tours have become destination vacations for his Parrothead followers.


Without the benefit of mainstream exposure, the Grateful Dead created their cult by giving away their music, actively engaging their Deadhead fan following, and touring relentlessly. The Grateful Dead made a ridiculously disproportionate amount of money considering the minimal radio airplay and exposure they received, and their brand continues to live on nearly two decades after Jerry Garcia passed away.

What do you think?

Which rock band has created the most powerful business brand?

Download the Kindle version or order the paperback of Brand Like a Rock Star with just one click here, and start building a stronger and more profitable business using the core marketing strategies of rock legends like AC/DC, U2, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, and many others… including the three well-branded artists mentioned in this piece.

Can I ask you one little favor?

If you find the Brand Like a Rock Star blog useful and interesting, I would be extremely grateful if you would take 10 seconds and share it with someone in your circle who might also enjoy it. Tweet it, Facebook it, or email it. Do what makes you happy. Thanks!


Deadheads, Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, KISS, KISS Army, Parrotheads, Uncategorized 995 Comments

Gratitude Rocks


With a flurry of guitar notes and crashing cymbals, the last song comes to a stop. Twenty two thousand screaming fans are illuminated by powerful blinding white lights, revealing just how massive the arena really is. The lead singer of the band, exhausted after two hours of performing, grabs the microphone one last time.

“Thank you Cleveland!”

And the audience erupts once again.

That rock ‘n’ roll cliche is repeated night after night, city after city, in venues small and large.

Most artists, no matter how big they get, are genuinely thrilled that someone is willing to spend money and time to enjoy their music. And they are usually quite happy to show it.

True Rock Stars aren’t afraid to show their gratitude.

Rock Stars – in business, life, and music – show their honest gratitude.

Sure, there are exceptions to the rule. There are divas who derive their own self-worth from their ability to be jerks and still have people worship them. But in my nearly 30 years in the music business, I can safely say they are the minority (and they are usually the least deserving of such worship!).

Bruce Springsteen can’t say thank you enough when he plays. He takes the time to acknowledge the city he’s in, often putting a local spin or angle on his personal stories.

At the only Canadian stop on his 2011 summer your, Jimmy Buffett went out of his way to play a song by Canadian Gordon Lightfoot… just to say thanks to the country he was visiting.

Despite his star status, Garth Brooks is always genuine when he thanks his fans.

Lady Gaga calls herself “the luckiest girl on earth” because she has fans.

Gratitude. It goes a long way towards building a stronger bond between your business and your customers, or fans in the case of rock stars.

But what you might not realize, is that gratitude goes a long way towards make you stronger and more productive. According to Geoffrey James, gratitude is “the true secret of success”. You can read his piece on gratitude in Thank you, Geoffrey, for sharing those inspiring thoughts.

Thank you, for reading… for picking up Brand Like A Rock Star and for turning the little book I wrote into a marketing and entrepreneurial movement. I promise to never stop being thankful and amazed that someone has invested their time and money in what I have to say.

I am very, very grateful.


Bruce Springsteen, Garth Brooks, Gordon Lightfoot, Jimmy Buffett, Lady GaGa 1,483 Comments

Six Key Branding Lessons From Buffett and KISS


Jimmy Buffett will take his brand to a new city when he adds a third Margaritville Casino Resort to his growing chain. The new one in Bossier City, LA joins existing ones in Las Vegas and Biloxi. The new Margaritaville will contain Jimmy’s new “Five O’Clock Somewhere” bar. It never ceases to impress and amaze me how Jimmy has expertly turned his natural personality and his one major hit into a massive money-making brand. While the “Business Lessons from Buffett” post could be the foundation for another book, here are three core lessons to take away:

1. Make sure everything you do reflects what your fans expect from you. Everything Jimmy does is perfectly in tune with his laid back Key West beach bum image.

2. Extend your brand only in directions that make sense to your customers. Casinos and bars make sense. And while putting his Landshark Lager name on an outdoor football stadium in Miami made sense, it wouldn’t make any sense to put it on a hockey arena in Boston.

3. Always take credit for everything that is yours. You won’t find a single Buffett property without his name on it. It isn’t just Margaritaville restaurant, it is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant.

KISS are nearly as impressive as Buffett, although their approach has been to simply put their name on everything from dolls to lunch boxes to condoms and even coffins. Now they are unveiling the new KISS “Hotter Than Hell” wedding chapel in Las Vegas. The chapel opens in March, and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are confirmed as guests for the special first wedding. The KISS marketing strategy is a little different from Buffett’s. Here are three cool take away lessons from KISS:

1. Get their attention first. They’ve been doing outrageous attention-getting things since day one, and they continue to do so. KISS continues to get our attention by doing remarkable things, like opening a wedding chapel in Las Vegas.

2. Make a personal investment. Gene and Paul will be there at the first wedding. They were pioneers of the concept of selling VIP tickets to concerts that included a chance to meet the band. Not much happens in the KISS world without the personal approval and participation of the key people in the band.

3. Always take credit for everything that is yours. Same as the Jimmy Buffett lesson. Gene Simmons doesn’t star in Family Jewels, he stars in Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.  The new wedding chapel isn’t the Hotter Than Hell Wedding Chapel, it is the KISS Hotter Than Hell Wedding Chapel.

Have you downloaded the free ebook Musical Compaion to Brand Like A Rock StarIt is the #5 Marketing book in the free Kindle store.

Purchase the paperback version of Brand Like A Rock Star or download the digital edition instantly from Amazon.

To keep in touch, you can also join the discussion on the Facebook page and


Photograph of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Restaraunt in Grand Cayman, taken by Steve Jones.

Jimmy Buffett, KISS 201 Comments

National Margarita Day: A PR Lesson From Jimmy Buffett

On February 22, the world will celebrate National Margarita Day.

And where will they celebrate?

Margaritaville, of course, a the network of restaurants owned by musician Jimmy Buffett, with locations across North America and the Caribbean.

National Margarita Day isn’t a Hallmark holiday. It is a Jimmy Buffett holiday. The brains behind the Buffett brand have wisely taken over the day and used it for three years as a massive public relations stunt. How much free press will Margaritaville grab thanks to National Margarita Day? I’m certain the value is in the millions.

The day to day news cycle presents countless opportunities to use to your advantage.

Using Google Alerts, you can constantly be monitoring the internet for mentions of your product, competitors, category, or business.

Before these stories become major news, you can “newsjack” your brand into the equation.

Here are four ways in which the current news cycle could be used to a business’ PR advantage:

1. ”The Grey” is the #1 movie this week.  The storyline follows a group of oil workers who survive a plane crash in Alaska, only to be hunted down by a pack of wolves. A smart tourism outfitter in the Alaskan wilderness could use this opportunity to protest how wolves are portrayed in the movie, and organize a boycott of the movie. Certainly that would get some attention in the media.

2. Nine people have died in car accidents in Florida this week because of reduced visbility due to smoke from brush fires. If you owned an auto repair shop in Florida, this would be an excellent time to issue a press release about the lack of care people put into their headlights. You would be able to become the go-to person to comment on the fact that with regular cleaning, adjusting, and upgrading of headlights, roads could be significantly safer.

3. A friend of mine has recently launched a line of vending machines that dispense only healthy food. He’s been actively using the news cycle to target emerging news stories about obesity and related health issues. As these stories emerge, he engages journalists, bloggers, and others so that they turn to him for comment. He’s positioning hismself as an expert in making schools and workplaces healthier.

4. Last Christmas during my visit to the Cayman Islands, I was discussing the island’s marketing campaign with a friend. If I were advising the Cayman Islands government, I would suggest that they use the violence in Mexico and Jamaica to their newsjacking advantage. Every time a tourist is attacked in Mexico or Jamaica, the Cayman Islands tourism department should issue a press release about what steps they have successfully taken to ensure that not a single tourist is harmed in their country. They could offer to share their knowledge and experience with more violent tourism destinations.

Author David Meerman Scott has a new book out called Newsjacking, and it goes much deeper into the idea of using the news cycle to generate PR.  You can read more about the book, and the newsjacking techniques that David used to launch it, on his blog here.

And you can order Brand Like A Rock Star, featuring an entire chapter on this concept, right here.

Photo: taken by Steve Jones in West Bay, Cayman Islands. Moments after taking this picture, the photographer poured himself a margarita.

David Meerman Scott, Jimmy Buffett 7,308 Comments

Hurricane Irene And The Power of Brand Names


Like many people, I spent much of the past weekend being inundated with media hype over Hurricane Irene.

Why are hurricanes given names?

It’s the same reason Lady Gaga calls her fans Little Monsters… the same reason Jimmy Buffett fans are called Parrotheads and Grateful Dead fans are Deadheads… the same reason millions of fans enlisted in the KISS Army.

By assigning names to things, it is easier to build awareness and to create tribes.

In the case of hurricanes, giving them human names makes them easier to remember and report on, and it increases community preparedness, according to the World Meteorlogical Organization.

Fast food burgers are given names… Big Mac. Whopper. Baconator.

Cars are given names… Mustang. Charger. Corvette.

Names can quickly change perceptions. Very few people ate Chinese Gooseberries until the 1960s, when New Zealand renamed them Kiwifruit after their national bird. Kiwifruit suddenly took off.

Names can quickly establish identities. In 1973, the newly independent citizens of British Honduras embraced the nation’s new name, Belize.

As you work to build a following around your business, product, or movement, think carefully about names.

Are you giving your products interesting names?

Are your names making it easier for people to remember your products?

Are you giving non-human items human names, like hurricanes, in order to transfer human qualities to them?

The name Brand Like a Rock Star was carefully chosen. It is memorable yet simple, and when people hear it for the first time they often think they’ve heard it many times before. You can pre-order Brand Like a Rock Star right now for just $14.95.


Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, KISS Army, Lady GaGa 320 Comments

Brands That Borrow: How Jimmy Buffett Makes Songs His Own


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)


Apple, Blackberry Storm, Brand Like A Rock Star, Budweiser, Jimmy Buffett 1,360 Comments

Emotional Brands and Lives Lost

Subscribe here to receive Brand Like A Rock Star by email. 

Some topical and somewhat random thoughts today.

First, if you haven’t already downloaded chapter one of Brand Like a Rock Star, wait no longer. It is a free pdf that you can read and share with others. You can grab it instantly here.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of joining 16,000 other Parrotheads at Jimmy Buffett’s Toronto concert. Only KISS rivals Buffett in terms of inspiring visible brand loyalty among fans. You must have a powerful brand to inspire grown men to don grass skirts and coconut bras! It was rare to see someone at the Jimmy Buffett concert who wasn’t at least sporting a colorful tropical shirt. Even the parking lot was a party, as Buffett fans openly defied Canada’s normally restrictive laws against American-style tailgate parties. Such rebellion!

The Buffett brand connects with people in a meaningful way because it touches our very primal need to play.  It frees up our inner-child. It is a brand built on silliness, immaturity, relaxation, and pure uninhibited fun.

Maybe your brand isn’t built on immature fun, but your odds of success go way up when you connect with an emotional need within your customers. Forming an emotional bond is way more powerful than always trying to offer the lowest price. Customers coming to you to have an emotional need satisfied d0n’t really care much about price.

Speaking of emotions, what accounts for apparent emotional angst one encounters in their 27th year?

Brian Jones. Jimi Hendrix. Jim Morrison. Janis Joplin. Kurt Cobain.  Now add Amy Winehouse to the sad list. It is tragic to lose so many people to the powerful demons of addiction, fame, and depression.

On one hand, it is easy to wonder what incredible music could have been made had these tortured geniuses lived longer lives.

On the other, it is interesting to consider how their deaths impacted our perception of their music. Faced with the prospect of never hearing any new music from Hendrix or Cobain, do we naturally worship their music on a higher altar? Does the value of their catalog of music go up simply because they are gone?

There’s no doubt that a lack of supply can increase demand. For example, I wouldn’t have worried about missing an episode of “Entourage” back in season 3, but with this season being the final one, there is no way I will miss a single moment. The reality of no more new episodes (diminishing supply) has increased my urgency to watch (higher demand).

Finally, thank you for the ongoing support. The official book release of Brand Like a Rock Star is a little over two months away. It wouldn’t be happening without you!  Our little network of readers continues to grow, and I would be tremendously grateful if you would consider forwarding this to any of your friends who love music, marketing, advertising, PR, and branding.

Let’s also connect on Facebook at



Amy Winehouse, Brian Jones, Entourage, Facebook, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Buffett, KISS 276 Comments

Jimmy Buffett and the Brand Experience


I’ve bought my tickets and booked my hotel. In twelve days, I’ll be going to see Jimmy Buffett in concert once again.

It isn’t really a concert per se. And it isn’t something you simple see. A Jimmy Buffett show is an experience.  Dressed in grass skirts and coconut bras, you arrive at the venue hours early to drink too many margaritas, play vibrator races, and act like a carefee beach bum for an evening.  During the show, bouncing beach balls and human shark fins make any arena feel like a Caribbean beach party. Total strangers become instant best friends. You dance with people you’ve never met. You go home sweaty, smiling, and bracing for tomorrow’s well-earned and worthwhile hangover.

Jimmy Buffett has turned his one hit, “Margaritaville”, into an empire because he sells an experience, not just a song or an album. He sells you the chance to escape from reality for a few hours and experience something cool.

Most advertising fails because brands’ don’t sell their experience. They simply advertise their specials, their free parking, and their friendly helpful staff. They advertise things that any competitor can also advertise. They fail realize that people don’t choose a brand for any of those empty reasons. People buy experiences, not products.

Understanding what your unique experience is begins with one question: What problem do I solve?

If you sell toothpaste, you are actually selling the joy of being better looking, healthier, and less repulsive to kiss.

If you sell drill bits, you are really selling the warmth of hanging up pictures of their loved ones.

If you sell real estate, you are actually selling the pride of “movin’ on up”.

You really think Harley-Davidson sells motorcycles? C’mon. They sell rebellion. They sell bad ass. And they sell it to wealthy middle-aged men.

You get the idea. 

Understanding what problem you solve is the first step to defining your brand’s unique experience.

There are four more steps, and you’ll find them on page 78 of Brand Like a Rock Star, which you can order here for just $14.95. Once you pre-order, you can click here to download a pdf of Chapter One, so you can get started reading right away.

You can also subscribe to receive these updates by email by entering your email address in the little box on the right.

Harley Davidson, Jimmy Buffett 231 Comments

Five Lessons Bloggers Can Learn From The Music Industry


I’ve been blogging about brands for two years. Regular readers know that my platform is lessons in business that can be learned from rock ‘n roll. All of these blog posts have become the formation for the book Brand Like A Rock Star which comes out October 1.

Over the past two years, I’ve also noticed some rock ‘n roll examples that can be applied to bloggers, and today blogging has become a business of its own.

For bloggers, it is tough keeping both quality and quantity up. It is sometimes discouraging thinking nobody is reading your material. Often you can go a long time without any feedback. It isn’t easy, but it is fun and rewarding… just like making music.

Here are five lessons bloggers can learn from the music industry:

1. Create. In Nashville (where country music isn’t just an art form, it’s an industry) songwriters get together in writing studios and simply write and write and write. Not all of it is gold, but from quantity comes quality. As a blogger, the more you write the more likely you are to create material that you are proud of. My hard drive is full of drafts that will probably never see the light of day.

2. Learn from the past. Hit songs have formulas. Jay Frank writes about it in his book Future Hit DNA. Smart songwriters analyse what connected in the past and use those lessons to create their next masterpiece. When blogging, look back at the posts that generated interest and reaction. What do they have in common? Examine your popular posts and use the results to create your next blog masterpiece.

3. Be consistent. Did you know that Brian Johnson of AC/DC is a huge fan of Rodgers and Hammerstein and the Broadway musical? In his spare time, Brian even started working on a musical version of Helen of Troy. Being as consistent as he is, he never attempts to bring those influences into AC/DC! AC/DC is consistent, song after song, album after album. When blogging, stick to your theme relentlessly. Fight the temptation to blog about things completely disconnected from what you usually discuss. If you have other interests, start another blog.

4. Promote. Music that doesn’t get promoted seldom gets heard. Becoming the next viral musical sensation on YouTube is a long shot. You need to promote your music to the fans who are likely to be interested in it. Likewise, when blogging you must commit to telling people about your latest post. Expecting the world to find it on their own is crazy. Social networks like Twitter and Facebook are a great start, as is commenting on similarly themed blogs.

5. Be real and build relationships. Lady Gaga has an incredible network of “Little Monsters”. The Grateful Dead had “Deadheads and Jimmy Buffett has “Parrotheads”. Networks of fans help spread the word about music and create a built-in fan base in each city for concert ticket sales. When creating a blog, it helps to build up powerful networks of other bloggers and people who are interested in your blog’s theme. You can do that through honesty and integrity, not through spam or auto-replies. Comment honestly and intelligently on other posts. Have dialogue with those who comment on your blog. Interact and be part of a community, and in time your network will expand.

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

AC/DC, Grateful Dead, Jay Frank, Jimmy Buffett, Lady GaGa, Nashville, YouTube 237 Comments

Real Estate Rock Stars

One of the questions I most often get is “how do I apply the rock star principles to my business?”. So today lets looks at putting three of the Rock Star Principles into action in a field that I frequently speak to, real estate.

Real estate is a funny business because so few agents effectively brand themselves, yet a brand is incredibly vital to success. It is a business where those who can successfully build a brand can make a lot of money!

Rock Star Principle #1 – Be unique! KISS went from obscurity to stardom in one year by being unlike anything we had ever see before. Real estate agents, however, are notorious for all doing the same things. They all advertise in the same places and their ads all look the same. The Property Guys decided to finally shake things up. As subtle as this sounds, it gets them noticed in a major way… they simply have round signs instead of the usual real estate signs. Property Guys signs look like lollipops! Because of that, they get noticed.

Rock Star Principle #2 – Sell the experience, not the product! Jimmy Buffett sells middle aged dreamers like me the chance to be a carefree beach bum for a day. It isn’t just music that draws people to his concerts, it is the experience… the temporary escape from reality. In real estate nearly every single ad reads the same. There is an endless supply of “3 bedroom, 2 bathroom bungalows” on every street. Instead of selling houses, start selling the experience of a family playing in the yard, climbing the tree in the front yard, and decorating the living room for the holidays. Sell the experience, not just another house.

Rock Star Principle #3 – Build a loyal following. The Grateful Dead famously built up a massive network of “Dead Head” fans without ever having hits on the radio. They did it in a number of ways, one of which was by giving something back to their fans. They encouraged them to tape their concerts, they created special sections at their shows for people who wanted to dance instead of sit down, and they rewarded their fans with free gifts like new songs and behind-the-scenes news about the band. Real estate agents could be doing the same thing. They could create a list of trusted trades people so that new people to the neighborhood would know a good plumber or electrician. They could help set up neighborhood watch programs. They could host free seminars on home improvements or increasing your home’s value. All of these initiatives would have no immediate return, but would build up a loyal network of fans who will eventually need a new home.

Those are just three of the many Rock Star Principles put into real-world action in the real estate business. Later this week we will put three more principles into play in the very competitive and brand-centric restaurant field.

If you have any questions about these principles or would like to have me speak to your group or business, email  If you just want to comment, please leave your thoughts and insights below for the world to see.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Grateful Dead, Jimmy Buffett, KISS 1,324 Comments