The Difference Between Advertising and Branding





 Advertising is an interruption.

Branding is an invitation.

Advertising gets in the way of what you were otherwise listening to, watching, or reading, and attempts to convince you to buy something.

Branding, on the other hand, invites you to satisfy your soul through a product or service. Branding solves a problem for you. Branding speaks to your heart, knowing that the buying decision is made there… and not in your brain.

You generally avoid advertising.

You often share branding.

The advertiser wants to tell you about themselves. They want to tell you when they are open, where they are located, how helpful their service people are, and how great their prices are. They don’t care about you, as long as you are willing to listen to stories about them.

The brander wants to talk about you. They want to reflect your world with their product as a part of it. They want you to use their product to make your world better.

When branding is done properly, your customers (fans) don’t avoid it. They embrace it.

Watch this 90 second Apple branding piece.

It doesn’t tell you where to buy a Macbook Air. It doesn’t brag about the processor speed, memory size, or screen resolution. It doesn’t mention the price or the discount or the warranty.

In fact, it tells you absolutely nothing practical about the product.

Instead, it makes your heart sing.

It shows you how your world will be better if you buy it.

So simple.

Yet most small businesses think that branding like this is beyond them. They think branding is for Apple and Nike and Ford and McDonalds.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Branding versus advertising is a choice that you as a business owner make.

Your 30-second commercial on your local radio station can create the same kind of magic, creating a powerful and lasting bond between your company and your customers.

Or you can tell people all about you and hope for the best.

Order Brand Like A Rock Star with one click here in paperback or digital download from Amazon.

Apple, Uncategorized 261 Comments

The Curse of The Pioneer


Sometimes, it sucks to be first.

Apple launched the iPod in October 2001. It wasn’t exactly a wild success out of the gate.


Graph from

It was a few years – nearly three – before sales really took off.

The iPhone was launched in the summer of 2007. Not everyone predicted it would be a hit.

“There’s no chance the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.  No chance.”  Steve Ballmer, CEO/Microsoft, 2007

Apple was a pioneer.

So was Brian Epstein, who managed a guitar group called The Beatles in the early 60s. He brought his band to Dick Row at Decca Records for an audition on New Year’s Day, 1962. Dick wasn’t impressed.

“Guitar groups are on their way out, Mr. Epstein.”  Dick Row, Decca A&R, 1962 to Beatles manager Brian Epstein

Sometimes it sucks to be first.

If you’re breaking new ground and changing the game, you will inevitably have disbelievers.

You will face opposition.

You will be mocked.

And at times, it will suck.

The Jacobs Media Blog posted a great article about proving the pundits wrong, and it inspired this blog post.

Be prepared for the hate. But never, ever let the bastards bring you down.


Order your digital or paperback copy of Brand Like a Rock Star now at Amazon!


Apple, The Beatles 330 Comments

Rehearsal Is For Cowards

rock star dark

Jackson Browne is famously quoted as saying “rehearsal is for cowards”.

He’s right.

Overly rehearsed performances are stilted, awkward, and inhuman.

Rock stars rehearse until they are damn good, but when they hit the stage they just let it flow.

The great ones change the set list on a moment’s notice to take advantage of the crowd’s vibe.

The great ones screw up along the way, laugh out loud, and keep on rockin’.

They savor the moment, smile until it hurts, give their fans everything they’ve got, and leave the stage a sweaty, tired mess.

Aren’t great brands just the same?

More than perfect, great brands are human.

One of the iconic moments in Steve Jobs’ leadership of Apple was during the messy iPhone 4 antenna controversy, when it was discovered that the phone’s antenna was ineffective if you held the phone a certain way. It dropped calls. It was far from perfect.

Steve Jobs flew home from vacation in Hawaii to address it head on.

“We aren’t perfect,” he told the world. “And phones aren’t perfect.”

Jobs didn’t stop there. “We love our users,” he said. “We love to to surprise and delight them, and we work our asses off to make that happen. When we fall short, which we do sometimes, we try harder, we pick ourselves up, we figure out what’s wrong, and we try harder, and when we succeed they reward us by staying with us.”

Despite the issues, iPhone 4 sales increased in the days after his press conference. Returns actually dropped to levels well below the industry average.

Be real. Be human.

Yes, rehearse. To a point. Then stop and just do it.

You cannot afford to be mediocre.

But you also cannot afford to be to be robotic, awkward, and inhuman.



Apple, Jackson Browne, Steve Jobs, Uncategorized 927 Comments

Change Like A Rock Star


So you think the pace of your industry changes fast?

Try being a rock star.

You write a great song. It’s four minutes long.

Now do it again, but different.

Now do it ten more times so that you have an album.

Now, as soon as your album is a hit, start working on a follow up.

While you do all of that, watch as tastes evolve and styles change. Watch as social media accelerates these changes. Watch as technology makes it possible for people to avoid paying for your album and that same technology makes it possible for far less talented artists than you to go viral.

When change hits your industry, you have two choices as I see it.

The obvious one is to adapt with the times. This is what nearly every expert says you need to do. Embrace the new technology! Change what you do to match the evolving tastes! Evolve or die!  Sometimes it works, and sometimes it is like KISS going disco with “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”. When it works, it is Apple evolving from a computer company into a technology company… or Old Spice changing from your grandfather’s cologne into your kid’s body wash. When it works, it is glorious and profitable.

The less-obvious choice is to intentionally avoid changing. Often not changing fails, and you appear out of touch with the times and irrelevant.  But consider The Rolling Stones. The Stones are celebrating 50 years together, yet they’ve only recorded four new albums in the past 25 years. That means that they made nearly every memorable piece of music in their first 25 years! Then, they decided not to change, and they became a very wealthy nostalgia act. When it works, it too is glorious and profitable.

Neither choice is right or wrong.

The only right thing to do is recognize the changes around you and formulate a conscious plan to deal with them.

It isn’t so much “Change, or die”… it is, more accurately, “Be aware of change, or die”.

Apple, KISS, Old Spice, Rolling Stones 2,050 Comments

The Difference Between Customers and Fans: Part One

I was at (yet another) Bruce Springsteen show last Friday night, when one of my friends turned to me and asked “So who is on your rock band bucket list?”

All of us have a mental list of the bands we need to see before they (or us!) are gone for good.

They are the bands that we would spend ridiculous amounts of money to see in concert.

That’s the power of the emotional pull between rock bands and their die-hard fans.

Can you think of many businesses that have that kind of powerful devotion?

Apple does. Apple fans will line up for days and spend tons of cash just to get a new iPhone. Core Star Trek fans will plan their vacations around conventions dedicated to the series. Harley owners make pilgrimages to HOG gatherings, stores, museums and restaurants around the world.

I can’t think of too many others.

The list is pretty short.

Rock Star brands inspire their customers fans.

Rock Star brands engage their customers fans.

Rock Star brands delight their customers fans.

Rock Star brands fascinate their customers fans.

Rock Star brands never let their customers fans down.

Rock Star brands don’t have “customers”. They have fans.

(In the next blog post, we will explore what makes fans different from customers.)

Are you spending all of your time, energy, and valuable advertising money chasing new customers? Or are you investing your time, energy, and valuable advertising money in building fans?

Order Brand Like A Rock Star right now and a few pages in you’ll already be on the path to turning your customers into fans. If you don’t believe me, download chapter one now for free and discover how AC/DC used 40 years of amazing consistency to survive through the rise and fall of disco, hair bands, and grunge.

PS – My rock ‘n’ roll bucket list (only among bands who are still together/alive) includes The Who, Jack Johnson, Mumford & Sons, The Police, John Mayer, and Jackson Browne.

Apple, Harley Davidson, Star Trek 332 Comments

Just Feel Something: Why You Need To Build A Brand People Hate


A few weeks ago I wrote about Ted Nugent’s wild right-wing views. Today, a similar story about a musician from the left side of politics.

This week the eclectic Randy Newman released a new song called “I’m Dreaming of A White President”.  Like many of his songs, it is satirical and mocks the right-leaning nature of the Republican party.

Some people won’t like it. Some people didn’t like his famous song “Short People” either.

And some people will boycott Randy Newman’s music because he is an Obama supporter.

That’s perfectly fine.

Randy Newman isn’t out to win everyone over… he’s out to win over his own fans in a big way. Just like Ted Nugent is, over on the other side of the political spectrum.

The point those of us in business can take away from Ted and Randy is simple: stand for something!!!

I love how Motley Crue’s Nikki Sixx put it.

“If you want to hate me, I’m okay with it. Just f*cking feel something.”

Nikki Sixx gets it.

Sir Isaac Newton got it.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Let’s apply Newton’s 3rd law to business.

If you have 10,000 people who love your business, what is the equal and opposite reaction?

There should be 10,000 people who don’t like your business.

The problem most brands face is trying to please everyone. We are afraid to be disliked.

Well, I’ve never heard of a brand, company, product, or business that everybody likes. Even Apple, while selling millions of iPhone5′s this week, has people who passionately hate them.

If nobody hates your brand, there’s a very good chance that nobody loves it either. That’s a scary proposition.

Some free downloads for you to keep & share:

“15 Ways To Make Your Marketing Rock” is a webinar I did last week, and you can download and watch it here. It is about 20 minutes long.

“The Musical Companion” is a 102 page ebook that is designed to deepen your enjoyment of Brand Like A Rock Star”. It is also a free download.

And you can dive into Brand Like A Rock Star at no charge by downloading a pdf of chapter one absolutely free. It is all about brand consistency, and profiles the amazing career of AC/DC.

And don’t forget to order your copy of Brand Like A Rock Star in paperback or Kindle direct from Amazon. Both Gene Simmons and Alice Cooper endorsed it! And best-selling author Mike Michalowicz wrote an awesome review of it.

 Subscribe to Brand Like A Rock Star by Email

Apple, Nikki Sixx, Randy Newman, Ted Nugent 293 Comments

The Easiest Way To Eliminate Competition


It’s pretty simple.

Too simple, really.

The easiest way to eliminate competition is to have none.

Remove yourself from their game. Make new rules. Change the playing field.

When you do something no one else does, you become the instant leader in your category. Everyone else is playing catch up.

So if a new start-up promoted healthy and sustainable Mexican food made with integrity, we would call them Chipotle-like.

When a new tablet computer comes out, we compare it to the iPad.

When a rock band wears make-up, they are KISS copycats.

Stop trying to be more like your competitors, and celebrate what makes you completely unique! That’s the theme of a guest post I wrote for Agency Revolution, a company helping to change the way insurance agencies operate. I’ll be speaking at the Insurance Marketing 10X Bootcamp in Chicago October 25-27.

To read the full guest post, click here.

To order your copy of Brand Like A Rock Star on Kindle or in paperback, click here.

Apple, Chipotle, KISS, Michael Jans 350 Comments

Five Reasons Groupon Sucks


I feel dirty.

Today, against my better judgement, I purchased something using Groupon.

I feel bad for the local business who just got completely and utterly ripped off by Groupon, and subsequently by me. As a marketing and branding writer and speaker, I am paid to help businesses succeed. So buying something from a service I ethically despise made me feel terrible.

Here are five reasons Groupon sucks:


1. They force your business to put a value on your product or service that is far below it’s actual value.  Once you’ve established that your $100 product is actually worth $25, you’ve screwed yourself out of any chance to charge $100 again with any credibility. In my case, I just bought a$1000 product for $199.  You can be damned sure that I’ll never pay $1000 for it again.

2. They reward bargain-hungry customers who have no loyalty to the business. Instead of giving your biggest discounts and best deals to your loyal customers, Groupon forces you to give your biggest discounts to those who have zero loyalty to you. How do you think that makes your long-term loyal customers feel?

3. They give you the perception of increased business thanks to a rush of transactional customers who are only concerned about finding the best price. The moment you stop offering the very best price, these customers will go elsewhere and never come back… until you drop your prices again. Every time you try attract a customer like that, your profit margins go down. Never has a great business been built on the back of low profit margins.

4.They create a rush of artificial business that, quite often, overruns your ability to care for customers in the manner you are accustomed. Because of the inevitable drop in customer service, you piss off your regular customers who give you the bulk of your business.

5. They are crack cocaine; highly-addictive with a short-lived bump. Once you’ve experienced the high, you want it again. And again. And the only way to get it is to keep going back to your dealer to hand over your profits to them. Pretty soon, you’re broke. And there’s no rehab for bankrupt businesses.

Rock Star brands would never work with corrupt concepts like Groupon.

Can you imagine Apple offering a Groupon discount on the iPad?

Can you even dream of Harley-Davidson offering a Groupon discount on a Fat Boy?

Can you fathom Starbucks going to Groupon to sell more Vanilla Bean Frappacinos?

Instead of the short-lived rush of a hundred new bargain-hungry discount shoppers, start building a rock star brand.

Rock Star brands don’t compete on price.

Rock Star brands provide value to the customer, regardless of price.

Learn how to build a Rock Star brand by reading Brand Like A Rock Star, available now for digital download or home delivery.


Apple, Groupon, Harley Davidson, Starbucks 1,976 Comments

The Best Lesson Rock ‘n’ Roll Can Teach You


If there’s one thing I love about rock stars, its that they never give up. They never surrender. They always believe, no matter how bad things might be, that they are one great song away from a comeback.

Aerosmith was pretty much a piece of rock history in 1986 when an up-and-coming hip hop act named Run-DMC invited the band to re-recorded a rap-based version of “Walk This Way”. The song became a bigger hit than the original, and skyrocketed Aerosmith’s career back to the top of the charts. They went on to one of the most prolific phases of their career in the following decade.

Meatloaf is a living-breathing comeback story. After recording one of rock’s best selling albums in 1977′s Bat Out of Hell, Meatloaf sunk into obscurity and eventual bankruptcy before rising back to the top with Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell in 1994. His life has been a perpetual rise and fall and rise again.

It happens with companies and brands as well. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I would have never considered wearing Old Spice cologne. The brand was nearly worthless until it was revitalized over the past decade, and now is the top-selling men’s bath product on the market.

Apple might be the most valuable company on planet earth today, but there was a time when their $500+ stock was worth about $5. At one point – not so long ago - the company was nearly bankrupt. Pretty decent comeback, no?

Lindsay Lohan is on the comeback hunt these days, hosting Saturday Night Live last weekend. Reviews were mixed, but despite the reviews it was one of the most-watched SNL episodes in recent memory.

Rock stars believe that every state is temporary.  Sure your song might be #1 this week, but that doesn’t guarantee anything for next week. You might sell-out tonight, but tomorrow is a different show in a different city… and there could be plenty of empty seats.

Like legendary rock stars, entrepreneurs believe.

You are down, but never out.

Never give up.

Order or download Brand Like A Rock Star now, the book that takes you backstage to explore the marketing strategies of rock ‘n’ roll legends, and how you can put them to use to make your business more successful.


Aerosmith, Apple, Lindsay Lohan, Old Spice, Saturday Night Live, Uncategorized 282 Comments

Great Brands Offer “One More Thing”


“And one more thing…”

It was almost a running joke at Apple product launches. After demonstrating everything a new product can do, Steve Jobs would inevitably, almost at the last minute, find one more amazing thing to show you about their new device. Even after his passing he is tempting us with one more thing, as his biography hints at a pending TV revolution from Apple.

Spinal Tap always went for “one more thing“.  They rolled a model of Stonehenge out on stage (albeit a miniature version), they shocked us with the cover of Smell The Glove, and of course they blew us away with their ability to turn their amps up to 11 in an era when everyone else’s only went to 10.

Walt Disney always went for one more thing. He was always searching for what he called “the weenie“… the one little extra bonus to draw you in, entice you, and leave you amazed.

Rock star brands find that one more thing that entices us, one more thing for us to fall in love with, and one more thing for us to tell our friends about.

One more thing is always something remarkable, and being remarkable is a vital key to being a rock star brand.

Finding one more thing worked for Steve Jobs and Spinal Tap. Pretty good odds it will work for your brand.

There are four other things Steve Jobs did brilliantly when it came to talking up his company’s products. Steve was a master of creating anticipation without relying on empty hype. Those four other things are detailed on page 127 of Brand Like a Rock Star. You can order the book here. 

You can download Chapter One for free here, and read it before you buy.

And one more thing… I’ve written a follow-up companion ebook to help you get the most out of Brand Like A Rock Star. The book is available for free in the Kindle store here. If you don’t have a Kindle, grab a pdf file of the ebook here, and get reading!

Apple, Disney, Spinal Tap, Steve Jobs 220 Comments