The Consistent Brand

The new AC/DC album "Rock or Bust"

The new AC/DC album “Rock or Bust”



I hate watching people waste their money.

I recently connected with a local franchisee of an internationally recognized brand, let’s call him “Jim”, who told me about his “marketing” plan.

Each year, that major international brand spends many many millions of dollars advertising their brand. They do extensive research into their target consumer’s thoughts, values, habits, and preferences. Based on that research, the brand buys national and regional ads on radio, TV, and digital. The ads are creatively well crafted, delivering a message designed to connect with the target consumer’s values.

This individual franchisee also has a local advertising budget that he himself uses to purchase additional advertising for his local store.

So far, so good.

But here’s where everything goes horribly wrong.

The ads that Jim creates locally sound nothing like the national brand’s advertising. The voice is harsher, the music bolder, and the style and tone is completely different. Not only that, but Jim also uses his own local advertising budget to purchase ads on the radio station he personally likes (the all sports station), instead of the one that the national franchise purchases based on their demographic research.

Jim’s “strategy” is that his local ads reach a different type of consumer, broadening his appeal. He feels that that by purchasing ad time on a different radio station, he is reaching consumers that the national brand was overlooking.

But what is really happening is that Jim is wasting his money.

Worse than that, Jim is slowly chipping away at the equity the national franchise has worked so hard to build.

With every ad that doesn’t sound or feel like the national brand, Jim is hurting both the national brand and his local franchise. And with every ad placed in scattered fashion on the sports station, Jim is diminishing the brand’s ability to achieve frequency.

One of the core principles of building a great brand is consistency, like AC/DC.

AC/DC has recorded 17 studio albums. They have recorded 24 different songs that have the word “rock” right in the title of the song. AC/DC doesn’t record love songs or songs about political strife. They record three-chord attitude-filled songs about loud music, beautiful women, fast cars, and strong drinks.

Angus Young has worn a school boy outfit for every AC/DC concert since anyone can remember.

They have used that same iconic font on every album and tour poster and CD.

AC/DC is zealously consistent.

We can learn from that.

Your advertising message needs to be consistent. At every touchpoint with the consumer. Your look, sound, feel, scent, taste, and aura must be the same. Everywhere. Always.

Brands are built by consistently inspiring the same emotions in your customers time after time, delighting them and reinforcing what you represent to them every time they interact with you or your message.

Learn more with the marketing book Brand Like A Rock Star, and discover how rock legends built incredible brands. Order it now with one click here, in digital or paperback editions.

AC/DC 1,253 Comments

Don’t Be Afraid Of Your Brand

AC/DC has a new song out called “Play Ball”.

It’s a three-minute three-chord sing-along with a catchy guitar riff, thumping backbeat, and plenty of sexual innuendo.

Essentially, it is just like every other AC/DC song ever.

There are no songs in the AC/DC catalogue about the plight of starving children in the third world, the angst of a broken relationship, or the politics behind the war in the Middle East. After all, we have U2 for that.

AC/DC songs are about rockin’, rollin’, drinkin’, women, drivin’, singin’, partyin’, and shakin’.

You can criticize it if you want, but I think it’s genius.

AC/DC has outlasted disco, grunge, new wave, and hair bands precisely because they always deliver the same thing to their fans.

They never apologize for what they are.

Why do some brands apologize for their very essence?

KFC is testing a new concept restaurant in Toronto called “KFC Fresh“. They sell fresh hand-crafted sandwiches, grilled wraps, and chicken bowls, along with beer, in an “urban fast casual” environment. Picture Chipotle and Kentucky Fried Chicken colliding.



I think the concept is great. KFC should absolutely pursue it… under a different name.

But they should never, ever, ever call it KFC anything. Let alone KFC Fresh!

KFC is famous for fried chicken. It is inherently not very healthy. At all.

It is greasy. Hell, it’s finger licking freaking good.

So why apologize for it? 

Yes, we live in a more health conscious world than we did a few years ago. But we all love to indulge now and again. KFC should be proud. They have the chance to be like AC/DC… a wonderfully guilty pleasure! KFC should be telling me to indulge now and then with big bucket of greasy Colonel’s recipe fried chicken.

Instead, they apologize with KFC Fresh.

The very name suggests that the original “real thing” KFC isn’t fresh… that it is somehow lesser than KFC itself.

Great brands can evolve, change, and try new concepts. It happens all the time.

But wise brands never apologize for their very essence. They celebrate it.

If you want to build a brand that can rock for decades like AC/DC, order the marketing/branding book Brand Like a Rock Star with one-click right now.

AC/DC, KFC 208 Comments

Give Your Customers More Of What They Want



Roger Waters, one of the founding members of Pink Floyd, just wrapped up a three year world tour performing the classic Floyd album The Wall.  The tour grossed a total of $458,000,000 and played in 219 stadiums around the globe.

Roger Waters is a 70 year-old man who hasn’t made a new album in 22 years (although he is apparently working on one now).

The Rolling Stones have only made four new albums in the past 25 years, and they’ve been around for 50. That means nearly everything they created happened in the first half of their career.

AC/DC has give us just three new albums in the last two decades.

The normally prolific U2, who created six albums in the 1980s alone, have churned out five in the past twenty years.

Fleetwood Mac, who toured extensively last year, haven’t recorded a new album since 2003 and have delivered only four new albums in the past thirty years.

What do Roger Waters, The Rolling Stones, AC/DC, U2, and Fleetwood Mac know? After all, they are among the most successful live acts of our generation. They must be on to something.

They know what their fans want.

Give them the hits that they came to hear.

Your customers walk in your store, click on your website, or dial your number for a reason.

Don’t let them down by playing songs they don’t want to hear.

Develop a deep understanding of why they come to you, and carefully craft your offering so that you continue to serve that need.

Order the marketing book Brand Like a Rock Star: Lessons From Rock ‘n’ Roll To Make Your Business Rich and Famous with one click here. It will get you started on the path to put your business on a world tour!

AC/DC, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Roger Waters, Rolling Stones, U2 671 Comments

Trick Questions and Your Brand

rock star image hugh mcleod compressed

1. Name an AC/DC song about political strife in the third world.

2. Name a U2 song about getting drunk and getting laid.

Trick questions, both of them.

U2 consistently sings about politics, social justice, relationships, and emotions.

AC/DC consistently sings about loud music, fast cars, and hot women.

Relating that to business, people who are shopping for politically-charged rock ‘n’ roll don’t shop at the AC/DC store, and AC/DC is okay with that. Those people shop at the U2 store. AC/DC has a different set of customers, shopping for an entirely different product.

Your business cannot possibly please everyone. Stop trying.

If you sell expensive luxury furniture, don’t offer a discount price point loss-leading offer to draw low-budget customers to your store.

If you serve high-fat comfort food, don’t try lure health-conscious people in with salads.

Do the special thing you do. Do it very, very well. And do it over and over again.

Click here to instantly download or order your copy of Brand Like a Rock Star: Lessons From Rock ‘n’ Roll to Make Your Business Rich and Famous. The book will help you define your brand, tell your story, and turn your customers into raving fans.


AC/DC, U2, Uncategorized 705 Comments

Your Next Great Idea: The Creative Spark of AC/DC

Highway to Hell album cover

Happy 58th birthday to Angus Young of AC/DC!

The legendary guitar player still has all of the on-stage energy that he did when he was 28.

Angus owes a life-long debt of gratitude to his sister Margaret.

She was the one who suggested that Angus wear his school uniform on stage.

And she also came up with the band’s name, after seeing the letters “AC/DC” on a vacuum cleaner.

Your next great idea could come from anywhere.

We tend to close off our world to outside voices, preferring to listen to the inner circle of people we know and trust. But those people are cursed with knowledge, so their ideas are often “inside the box”.

When you are looking for inspiration, take a walk outside your comfort zone. Talk to people disconnected from your field on expertise. Read a magazine from an industry that is totally unlike the one you work in.

And listen. Hear the words and phrases around you and soak them in.

When your radar is on, the ideas flow like the electricity that powered the vacuum that inspired AC/DC’s name.

The marketing book Brand Like a Rock Star profiles AC/DC in Chapter One, examining the band’s incredible consistency. The book goes on to look at dozens of legendary bands, and how you can use their experiences to make your business more profitable and successful. You can order it in paperback or digital download with one click from Amazon.


AC/DC 195 Comments

You Can’t Replace Your Brand Essence: INXS

This week, after 35 years together, INXS called it quits.

You mean INXS was still together?

INXS as we know it sadly ceased to exist on November 22, 1997, when charismatic lead singer and chief songwriter Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Sydney, Australia hotel room.

Only the band failed to realize it. They carried on, touring with Terrence Trent D’Arby (remember “Wishing Well”?) and other interim lead singers. The closest INXS got to a true comeback in 2004 when they took part in the CBS TV series Rock Star: INXS in which various singers competed for the chance to be the new lead singer of the band. The winner was a young Canadian singer named JD Fortune, whose voice held an eerie resemblance to that of the departed Hutchence. With Fortune, the band recorded a new album called Switch. From that album the song “Pretty Vegas” became a minor hit, except in JD Fortune’s home country, where it was a substantial hit thanks in part to government regulations that require radio stations to broadcast a certain level of “Canadian Content”.

A few years ago they released a collection of re-recordings of their earlier hits, each one by a different guest lead singer. Although Pat Monahan from Train did an incredible job on “Beautiful Girl”, but the album was a flop.

Last year they permanently severed JD Fortune and named a new lead singer and released some new songs, but it was a tree falling in the forest.

Such a sad ending to a truly great band.

There was a time in the late 1980s when INXS rivaled U2 as the biggest rock band on the planet. Their album Kick was insanely successful.  They sold out the biggest stadiums. Their string of hits included “Need You Tonight”, “Devil Inside”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “What You Need”, “Original Sin”, and “Suicide Blonde”.

And their eventual breakup will be a mere footnote in music history

The reason is simple: In the minds of music fans everywhere, INXS had already broken up 15 years ago. Without Michael Hutchence, there was no INXS, no matter how talented the rest of the band might be… and they did make some decent post-Hutchence music.

Led Zeppelin chose not to replace John Bonham when he died in 1980. They quit. Today the value in the Led Zeppelin brand is beyond compare. It will not fade.

Van Halen was able to carry on when David Lee Roth became dead to them. But they couldn’t pull it off when Sammy Hagar left and Gary Cherone walked in. Today Van Halen is a joke.

AC/DC stands out as one of the few bands to replace a highly-visible lead singer and successfully carry on.

There are some parts of your company that are replaceable and interchangeable.

Like Coke’s secret formula, there are other parts of your company that are the essence of what your customers believe you are. You cannot replace those parts and carry on. No matter how good it tasted, New Coke didn’t work.

No matter how good the music was after Michael Hutchence died, INXS was finished.

What parts of your company are irreplaceable?

What is the very essence of your brand? How can you protect it from ever disappearing?


AC/DC, INXS, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen 1,410 Comments

The Psychic Power of Brand Consistency


A new AC/DC album is on the way. Depending on who you talk to, the album could be out as soon as 2013 (according to Brian Johnson, the lead singer of the band) or 2014 (so says guitarist Malcolm Young). Either way, a new AC/DC album is coming.

I haven’t heard it yet, but I can already tell you plenty about it.

How Will It Look?

The album cover will include the band’s name, written in their iconic “Squealor” font.  It album graphic will look something like this.

In addition, you’ll see guitarist Angus Young wearing a school boy outfit. Lead singer Brian Johnson will very likely be wearing a newsboy cap, rolled up sleeves, and black jeans. Do not anticipate any hair gel or make-up.


How Will It Sound?

Somewhere on the album there will be a song that includes the word “rock” in the song title. Quite possibly, there will be multiple songs with this trait. After all, in their 16 previous studio albums they’ve included 20 different songs with the word “rock” in the title, from “Rock and Roll Train” to “For Those About To Rock” to “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”.

Getting into the musical nuances, there will be a wealth of songs with simple three-chord progressions. The guitar riffs will be so simple and catchy that you’ll wonder how nobody came up with them before.

In terms of song structure, expect to hear most songs begin with a simple guitar riff. Drums and bass guitar will likely join in after four bars, followed shortly thereafter by screaming vocals.

From a lyrical perspective, you won’t hear any songs about starving children in the third world. There will not be a song about the pain of watching a relationship end sour. There will be no power ballad on the new AC/DC album. Most songs will be about drinkin’, rockin’, partyin’, women, drivin’, and sex.

How do I know all of this?

Because AC/DC is the epitome of brand consistency.

They know exactly what their fans expect from them, and they deliver precisely that album after album, song after song, concert after concert.

Even those who hate AC/DC know exactly what AC/DC is all about.


Why Does This Matter To You?

Do your customers know exactly what to expect from your brand?

Do they know exactly what makes you different from all of your competitors?

Do those who dislike your brand still get it? Remember, the opposite of love isn’t hate. The opposite of love is indifference.

Read Chapter One of Brand Like A Rock Star For Free.

Download the book for immediate reading, or order it for home delivery from Amazon.

AC/DC 1,071 Comments

Axl Rose: Brilliant or Bonehead?


The week before his band Guns ‘N Roses is to be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Axl Rose has released a letter written to the hall rejecting his nomination into the shrine and telling them that he won’t be attending. He has even asked that the hall specifically not include him in name or image when they induct the band.

Some people are saying that Axl Rose is an immature idiot. Others are giving him credit for standing by his personal ethics.  No matter what your opinion is, you can learn from Axl Rose.


Everyone is talking about Axl Rose today. That hasn’t happened in a long, long time. He has gotten his name in the press in a major way. But… consider the massive buzz a one time Guns ‘N Roses reunion would have created had Axl showed up, accepted the honor, and joined his estranged former bandmates for a jam session. The Police did it in 2003, playing together for the first time in two decades. It was magical.


Snubbing an organization like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is, well, pretty damn rock ‘n’ roll of him. By doing this, Axl builds up his anti-establishment image. Not that it needed building up, considering his past behavior.  But… there’s bad-boy behavior and then there is just being an a**hole. Plenty of people would suggest this borders on the latter. Notoroious bad boys like Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, AC/DC, The Ramones, and many others are in and they all accepted their awards with class and grace.


Is Axl Rose a genius for standing pat on his beliefs? Or is Axl Rose a petulant punk for blowing off the rock hall?

Order Brand Like A Rock Star now and start reading immediately with a digital download, or have the paperback delivered directly to your home.

AC/DC, Aerosmith, Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses, Ramones, The Clash, The Police 2,126 Comments

The Rock Star Branding Podcast: Episode #1 – Lessons From AC/DC: Meeting Your Fan’s Expectations


This is episode #1 of a new podcast series presented by The Music Biz Weekly. “The Rock Star Branding Podcast” uses the book Brand Like A Rock Star as inspiration for a series of discussions to help new and emerging bands establish themselves using the lessons of rock legends.

The podcast is hosted by Michael Brandvold, Brian Thompson, and Steve Jones.

Michael was the driving force behind the online presence of KISS and numerous other artists. He owns Michael Brandvold Marketing and works with musicians and businesses to build stronger connections to their fans and customers.

Brian Thompson is the man behind Thorny Bleeder Records and in addition to artist management and consulting, he has a great track record helping artists develop social media strategies.

And if you’re reading this, I assume you know a little bit about me. I’m Steve Jones, author of Brand Like A Rock Star: Lessons From Rock ‘n’ Roll To Make Your Business Rich And Famous.

The Rock Star Branding Podcast 1 by Brand Like a Rock Star

AC/DC, Brian Thompson, Michael Brandvold, rock star branding podcast 169 Comments

Steve Jobs: Replacing Apple’s Lead Singer


Steve Jobs has a history of stunning the world, but this time around it wasn’t a new tablet computer or smart phone that helped him do it. It was instead the shocking announcement that he was stepping down as CEO of the world’s most successful company.

Few business leaders cast as long a shadow as Steve Jobs. He is the human face of Apple. His status is cult-like. While Apple will no doubt carry on, it won’t be easy to replace a leader who is so deeply connected to the brand.

Could The Rolling Stones replace Mick Jagger? They wouldn’t even try.

U2 would never play a show again if Bono left.

The Who couldn’t replace Roger Daltry, even though I wouldn’t put it past them to try (based on their history of replacing mortally departed drummers and bassists).

In fact, when you think about it, remarkably few big-name bands have replaced high profile lead singers at the peak of their career and continued on with any measurable success.

Van Halen managed to successfully replace David Lee Roth with Sammy Hagar, but they’ve never been the same since Hagar’s first departure.

AC/DC did it when Bon Scott died and they recruited Brian Johnson, although Scott wasn’t a tremendously high profile frontman.

Alice in Chains appears to have pulled it off, replacing Layne Staley with William DuVall, and recording a successful comeback album in 2010.

Classic rock bands like Styx, Journey, Foreigner, and others continue to tour with new lead singers but each band is a shell of its former self.  Judas Priest tried and failed. So did Iron Maiden.

So will the new Apple be able to pull off a lead singer change the way Van Halen, AC/DC, and Alice in Chains did?  Or do they risk falling into the abyss of once-great classic rock bands who relentless pursue faded glory?

You can order the new book Brand Like a Rock Star now by clicking the link below. If you’re on the fence, download a chapter for free and sample it first.


AC/DC, Alice in Chains, Apple, bono, Iron Maiden, Journey, Judas Priest, Roger Daltry, Rolling Stones, Steve Jobs, The Who, U2, Van Halen 1,269 Comments