Thousands of young people spend an August weekend spread out across a grassy field, grooving to their favorite band on stage.
It isn’t Max Yasgur’s Woodstock, NY farm in 1969. It’s 2009, and the “grassy field” is the $20 lawn seats available at most Blink-182 concerts this summer.
The farm is State Farm, the unlikely sponsor of the Blink-182 reunion tour.
State Farm had a need to reach young people who are in the market for insurance, particularly car insurance.
Blink-182 had a need to reduce ticket prices for their tour. They didn’t want to join the ranks of bands charging outrageous amounts for their shows.
So the partnership was born. Blink-182′s Travis Baker offered up his car, a 1966 candy apple red Cadillac Coupe de Ville, as a prize. Blink fans could enter on-line to win the car, and they could also purchase tickets to the concerts in the process. State Farm set up booths at the concerts, displaying the car and accepting contest entries.
Blink-182 will personally award the car on October 6 in Charlotte, NC when the band will make the drawing on stage in front of 20,000 fans.
What makes this partnership cool is that the band offered up something personal. Anybody can buy posters or CD’s or concert tickets or signed guitars. Blink-182 offered their fans something that nobody can buy. You can’t stop by the Cadillac dealership after work and purchase Travis Barker’s 1966 Coupe de Ville!
That personal touch takes this from “sponsorship” to “partnership”, and it takes the State Farm message from “advertising” to “informing”.
In today’s world, a “informative partnership” is so much more likely to succeed than an “advertising sponsorship”. If you can find a way to make that leap, you are on a winning path.
You recorded a song, the record company sent it to radio stations, radio stations played it, people heard it, and went out and bought it.
You made money, the record company made money, and the radio station had content – which in turn made them money.
Things have obviously changed.
Today a new song might be popularized in a YouTube video – like the resurgence of Chris Brown’s “With You” in the J&K Wedding Entrance Video from last summer. That song, a hit a year earlier, became one of the most downloaded songs over the summer thanks entirely to that video.
A new song might come your way from “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Gossip Girl” – two programs that use entire songs in their creative storylines. Last year, Kings of Leon watched “Sex on Fire” gain 76% in digital download sales in the week after it was used in “Gossip Girl“.
Last week Billboard Magazine compiled a measure of the most powerful TV programs when it comes to promoting music.
Appearing on Oprah was the #1 most powerful tool for getting music heard. Black Eyed Peas, Celine Dion, Alicia Keys, Seal, and unknown Filipino singer Charice have all benefited from Oprah’s power in the past year or two. Appearing on Oprah is obviously a major coup.
“Grey’s Anatomy” was the top show for song placement. With an average viewership of over 12 million people, and several websites dedicated to dissecting the music used in each episode, Grey’s carries huge weight. Just ask The Fray, Snow Patrol, and Ingrid Michaelson.
And for late night, Jimmy Kimmel was the best for new music exposure. Kimmel doesn’t have the same massive viewership as Oprah, but he reaches young viewers who are more likely to purchase music. After performing on Kimmel, the band Thriving Ivory had their song “Angels On The Moon” jump 25% in downloads.
For brands outside of the music industry, there is a lesson here.
Your best avenue for exposure might not be where it once was.
For a new product, being reviewed on the right websites and blogs might be a better score than buying an ad on TV or in a magazine.
Press releases, blogs, podcasts and videos can now reach buyers directly, instead of being filtered through an editor. When booking vacations today, don’t most people look at customer reviews of hotels? There is a consumer review for almost any product out there. That’s powerful. On a recent trip, a tour guide explicitly asked me to write a positive review on http://www.cruisecritic.com/ instead of giving him a tip. Incidentally, I did both.
Your conversations with your customers are archived forever on-line. How you treat those who love you – and hate you – will have a major impact on what people think of you and how much they buy your product. When your brand is Googled, what shows up?
Where are the new avenues for your brand to get your word out? There’s a good chance they aren’t where they once were.
Today in Washington, DC, a group of rock stars is performing to raise awareness among young people about careers in science. They are the Rock Stars of Science, and they’ll be on stage jamming with actual scientists.
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Seal, Sheryl Crow, will.i.am, and Josh Groban are together to tell kids that it’s cool to cure disease, explore space, and deepen our understanding of the earth. They are sending the message that we need more rock stars in the science lab. Josh Groban called being on stage with the scientists “like being in a genius sandwich”.
The world needs more rock stars, everywhere.
What makes a rock star, in any field?
* Focused and determined, unable to be moved from their mission. Keith Richards’ father told him that he should have a back up plan in case his band didn’t succeed. Keith said no, because having a back up plan would lessen his resolve to be a rock star. His band, The Rolling Stones, did okay.
* Brave and opinionated, willing to take a stand. Opportunity and stability seldom share a home. U2′s Bono knows that when he speaks out on various social and environmental issues he is potentially alienating some people, potentially fans of his music. That doesn’t matter to him, and it shouldn’t.
* Outrageous and bold, not concerned about being ‘normal’. David Bowie of the early 70′s was androdgenous, and that spawned all kinds of rumors about his sexuality. That wasn’t a problem for Bowie. His flamboyant style got him noticed and helped make him a star.
* Talented, but not neccessarily the best. Is Britney Spears the best singer in the world? Hardly. But she was the top concert draw of 2009. Britney is talented, but there are better singers. However, if you measure her on her accomplishments, you could make a case that she’s the best. The scientist that finds a cure for cancer might not be the one that scores the highest marks in school, but that won’t matter. That scientist will be judged on their accomplishments, not their grade point average.
* Resilient, ready to overcome any obstacles. Motley Crue continues to rock on after 30 years. In that time, their lead singer served jail time for vehicular manslaughter. Their drummer served jail time for spousal assault. Their guitarist died of an overdose, and was brought back to life in an ambulance. They broke up, and got back together. They have been through nearly everything a band could go through, and they continue on. Rock stars in any field don’t let obstacles set them back.
What other traits do you think rock stars share, regardless of whether they are rock stars on stage or rock stars in any other field?
The notion sickens almost everyone: legendary musician John Phillips having a 10 year drug-fuelled incestuous relationship with his daughter Mackenzie Phillips. That’s the claim being made by Mackenzie in her new book “High On Arrival”.
It is a disgusting and headline-grabbing story. If only it were fiction. But Mackenzie maintains the story is absolute truth, and half-sister Chynna Phillips says she believes it.
The sad but real truth is that engaging stories sell books. Stories sell albums. Stories sell video games. This story, as repulsive as it is, will sell a lot of books that otherwise wouldn’t ever leave the shelves. Without this story, would the world really care about a new book from Michelle Phillips?
Humans have been addicted to stories since we could first communicate. The good, the bad, and the very ugly included.
We made paintings on the walls of caves.
We sang songs passed down from generation to generation.
We told stories that became legends and myths to teach lessons and morals.
We created plays, performances, and later movies and TV programs.
We pursued the printed word, first on silk and then on paper and then on screens.
Humans react to stories, good and bad. We relate. We empathize. We get angry. We get disgusted. But in all of those cases, we get engaged.
Great “rock star” bands tell stories in their marketing. When you buy their product, you are buying their story as much as their product.
What is your brand’s story? If you are selling a tell-all autobiography about your life, your story might be as sad as Mackenzie Phillips’.
More likely, you have a story within your brand somewhere that resonates with people. It doesn’t matter how bland and everyday your business may seem to you. Somewhere in there is a great story waiting to be discovered. It could be your founding fathers, your technological advances, or your secret sauce.
Orville Redenbacher had a fantastic story. He joined the 4-H club as a child and began a lifelong obession with developing the perfect popcorn. He sold it from the side of the road in his hometown in Indiana. He went to school to learn more about it. When he eventually bought a seed corn plant, he went through tens of thousands of variations until he found the perfect blend.
Colonel Sanders. That’s a story. His dad passed away when he was young and his mother had to go to work, and that left the cooking in the hands of young Harlan Sanders. When he opened his first restaurant years later, he spent nine years developing the best way to make fried chicken. His stereotypical southern gentleman attire was all part of a marketing plan that worked brilliantly, and still does to this day.
How about Remington? Victor Kiam liked the product so much, he bought the company. A wonderful story that Kiam exploited relentlessly in his media campaigns in the 70′s and 80′s.
When your boarding pass says New York, you expect to land in New York. So what happens when your plane touches down in New Jersey? You are disappointed, angry, and probably not likely to fly on that airline ever again.
But, the airline could argue, New Jersey is really, really close to New York. You can even see New York from here. This is as close to New York as you can get without being in New York.
And, they could say, New Jersey is really, really nice. Stay for a while, and you’ll like it. You might not even want to go to New York.
It doesn’t matter. You wanted, and expected, to go to New York.
That’s what happens when fans go to see CCR in concert these days. They think they are going to see John Fogerty and the band, but when they get to the show… no John Fogerty. Instead they see a different singer singing CCR songs.
But isn’t that close enough? Isn’t that as close as you can get to CCR without being CCR? And isn’t it true that this lead singer is really, really good?
Same with Journey, Boston, and The Guess Who. Without Steve Perry, Brad Delp, and Burton Cummings, these bands aren’t able to live up to the expectations of their fans. Even though their lead singers are all really, really good. And if you give them a chance, you’ll probably like them.
You could say that in the case of Journey, you get orginaly members Neil Schon and Ross Valory, and Jonathon Cain has been with the band since 1980. Plus new lead signer Arnel Pineda is extremely talented and sounds uncannily like Steve Perry.
You could say that in the case of Boston, it always was essentially Tom Scholz’s project anyway. And since he’s the only founding member presently touring with the band, nothing has really changed from 1976.
And in the case of The Guess Who, founding members Jim Kale and Garry Peterson have been with the band since 1965.
But success is all about meeting brand (and band) expectations.
If you promise to take your customers to New York, and you bring them to New Jersey because it’s close enough, you are destined to fail.
The formula is pretty simple: establish expectations, live up to (or exceed) them, and repeat.
The day after making the unwise decision to storm on stage at the MTV Video Music Awards and steal the microphone from Taylor Swift during her acceptance speech, Kanye West was scheduled to appear on the first episode of the new 10pm Jay Leno Show.
With almost 18 million viewers, it appears the Gods of Timing smiled on Jay Leno once again.
Flashback to 1995. The week before the release of his movie “Nine Months”, Hugh Grant was busted for lewd conduct in a public place when LAPD caught him engaged in the act with prostitute Divine Brown.
Grant was already booked on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Despite urges to cancel, Grant kept the interview. The result was a moment that defined Jay Leno’s show and set the stage for Grant to continue to have a succesful show biz career.
As Grant got comfortable on the couch, Jay turned to him and asked one simple question.
“What the hell were you thinking?”
Grant paused, and then replied “I think you know in life what’s a good thing to do and a bad thing, and I did a bad thing. And there you have it.”
That willingness to take responsibility and accountability allowed audiences to forgive Hugh Grant, and his career wasn’t derailed.
Can the same be said for Kanye West’s apology on Monday night?
Kanye did seem sincere, and was near tears at one point.
But the difference was that Leno had to coax it out of him with a seemingly contrived and somewhat insensitive question about how Kanye’s late mother would have reacted to his actions.
The result will likely be the same. Kanye West will be forgiven and move along with a succesful career.
Being responsible, and responsive, has never been more important.
In ’95 when Hugh Grant had his moment of indiscretion, there was not an internet (at least as we know it today) and definitely no Twitter or blogosphere to cover every breaking story. There was no way for public outrage to be so easily expressed and swayed.
Remember the Tylenol poisoning scandal of 1982? The product was literally killing people and nobody knew why. Instead of telling the world that it wasn’t their fault (and it wasn’t), Tylenol went forward with an aggressive campaign to pull all of their products from stores, hospitals, and clinics.
Even though only Extra Strength Capsules were poisoned, they removed everything with their name on it.
Even though only Chicago residents had died, they removed everything worldwide. No exceptions.
Tylenol held regular press conferences to update their customers and they were present during the police investigation.
Tylenol then took an industry lead in developing tamper-proof packaging and “gel-caps” that were more secure against tampering.
After the scandal, Tylenol dropped from the category leader to a 9% market share of the pain relief market.
Within a year, they were once again the market leader.
To this day, the person who tainted the Tylenol and poisoned 7 people to death was never caught. And to this day, Tylenol once again controls about 35% of the pain relief market in North America.
The lessons of Kanye West, Hugh Grant, and Tylenol are wise to keep in mind when your brand faces a crisis.
* Be transparent – talk honestly about the issues and don’t try and hide behind others.
* Communicate – use the incredible social networking tools at your disposal to talk to your customers.
* Take responsibility – failure is a temporary state. By admitting to mistakes and failures, you actually have the opportunity to gain trust in the long run.
* Take charge – be Tylenol and lead the way in creating systems to prevent future failures.
Here’s an example of taking responsibility from Maple Leaf Foods, a Canadian meat company that was responsible for a tainted meat scandal last year that killed several people.
Partnerships like this are a strong currency of credibility. Having the right strategic partners gives you an “in” that you might not otherwise have.
Finding partners isn’t tough. But finding the right partner for your brand is a major challenge.
Thanks to Dave Matthews, millions of unlikely prospects will be exposed to Kenny Chesney. And if you are not a country music fan, Kenny Chesney is a pretty mainstream entry point. Suddenly you find yourself realizing that DMB, Wilco, and Phish are only slightly removed musical cousins of Zac Brown, Keith Urban, and Jack Ingram.
Rihanna and Kanye add a mainstream to Jay-Z, who has always held a great deal of street credibility but has gone without a mass-appeal top 40 hit for a few years. What Kanye’s recent negative exploits will do for this song remain to be seen, but the distinctive voice of Rihanna (who gets a sympathy vote for her trials with Chris Brown) really brings this hip hop song into the mainstream.
And you can’t underestimate the value that Chad Kroeger’s name has had on the careers of Marianas Trench and Theory of a Deadman. Nickelback is arguably the biggest hit-making rock band of the decade, and when you have that kind of endorsement it certainly opens plenty of doors (and ears).
What strategic partnerships could you forge to give your brand credibility?
Who could you team up with to open new doors?
Where are the mutual benefits to be found in working with someone else?
The Harley-Davidson partnership with Ford Trucks is a good example. Harley doesn’t make trucks, and Ford doesn’t make bikes. Harley stands for something. Ford Trucks believe they stand for something similar. So the partnership makes sense for them.
Back when The Simpson’s movie came out, 7-11 partnered with Fox to rebrand a bunch of stores as “Kwik-E-Marts”. Did it damage the 7-11 brand? Not at all. Having the guts to poke fun of convenience store stereotypes actually resulted in tremendous publicity for the chain and for the movie. Perect partnership.
Just remember: your brand’s reputation is all you’ve got. Put too much of it in the hands of someone else, and you risk losing all you’ve worked for.
Rock stars don’t start out trying to appeal to everybody. But so many brands do. They don’t see the value in niche. The irony is, if you try to appeal to everybody, you’ll end up appealing passionately to nobody.
In brand research, there is a dreaded group of responses about brands and products called “generic positive”. It is the kiss of death. It is the verbatim answers like “it’s okay” or “I like it”. Brands who get high “generic positive” scores generally don’t do very well.
The problem is that people can’t tell you WHAT they like about it. They just kinda think it isn’t altogether bad. If people can’t say exactly why they like you, you are probably pretty easy to replace. Rock stars are popular because they do something specific and unique. They appeal to a very small group of people, in the beginning. Through hard work, luck, sacrifice, and marketing, their music reaches a larger audience. And if they are smart, they don’t compromise their music.
Their once tiny audience becomes larger as word spreads.
Soon that niche band is playing for tens of thousands of people.
When Bob Marley started out, reggae music wasn’t even on America’s radar. And throughout the 60′s as Bob’s career took off in his home country of Jamaica, the rest of the world paid little notice. Despite Chris Blackwell’s Island Records promotion of reggae music in the UK, the genre remained very much a niche interest. Bob Marley & The Wailers were the big fish in a very tiny pond. He drew massive crowds in Jamaica, but was a relative unknown off the island.
As reggae grew in popularity, so did Bob Marley. Fans discovered his new music, as well as a back catalog of songs they had never heard before.
And as Bob Marley’s star grew around the world, and he remained true to his reggae roots, his popularity amongst his earliest supporters grew even more. Marley rose to a religious-like status in Jamaica for his commitment to the Jamaican culture, Rastafarianism,and social justice.
Bob Marley could have compromised to try and become a bigger star. But he didn’t. And that’s part of the reason he became such a huge star.
It sounds like a contradiction.
Start out with a small audience, and be true to them all the way.
As you become bigger, continue to stay true to what you stand for.
Resist temptation to change what you do in order to appeal to more people.
Imagine what a disaster it would have been for Bob Marley to record a disco song in the late 70′s simply to appeal to the American mass audience! His true fans in Jamaica would have never have allowed it! There would have been rioting in Nine Mile, Jamaica.
Today every music related blogger will be hyping the long-awaited 9-9-09 release of the Beatles catalog. The entire collection has been remastered digitally with improved audio quality, embedded video content, and enhanced graphics and liner notes. The original Beatles collection of CD’swhich came out in 1987 was notoriously bare bones. As technology has improved, the lack of quality of the original CD releases has become more apparent.
The Beatles will also release two box set collections today, one in stereo (the way the band heard it in the studio) and one in mono (the way the music was originally released).
Finally, the video game “Rock Band: Beatles” goes on sale today bringing 45 Beatles songs and replica instruments to your home gaming system, and helping a whole new generation of fans discover their music.
As a brand builder, I love the complete domination this promotion has accomplished.
Jon Spoelstra wrote a book called “Marketing Outrageously” a few years ago. The premise of the book is simple: if you don’t break away from the average, you’ll never escape from the crowd and get seriously noticed. Jon suggests that you need to ask yourself “What’s it going to take?” and then do what you need to do to get it done.
The Beatles could have released “Rock Band: Beatles” today. And then a year from now, they could have rolled out the remastered CD collection. And then a year later, they could have released the box sets. I’m certain that somewhere along the way someone argued that they should have staggered the releases in order to keep interest in the band up over the course of a few years.
But the move to make “9-9-09″ a day dominated by The Beatles was a brilliant one.
You cannot escape The Beatles.
This is a great example of “Marketing Outrageously”.
The hype and subsequent sales generated by doing all of this at once is exponential.
If you are doing a promotion to increase awareness for your brand, consider taking a lesson from The Beatles.
* Put all your eggs in that basket.
* Do something nobody has ever done before.
* Break through the clutter of advertising messages and get noticed.
You don’t have to be the greatest band of all time to accomplish that. You can be a tiny company that makes meatless burgers.
Gardenburger spent $1.5 million for a single commercial on May 14, 1998 as “Seinfeld” came to an end. It was half of their entire marketing budget for the year. That’s like a family spending half of their annual food budget on one meal.
What did Gardenburger gain from that one commercial?
1. A BIG BANG – the very fact that a small company like Gardenburger would purchase a commercial like this generated tremendous media interest. Over 400 media outlets covered the story of the tiny company spending half of their advertising budget on one commercial. The impact of the media coverage was more valuable than the commercial itself.
2. INCREASED DISTRIBUTION – Gardenburger took it’s “big bang” story to the supermarkets and restaurants, making sure that when people heard about the product they would be able to find it on store shelves and menus. Smart stores took the product, knowing the hype would result in customer interest.
3. WIDER BRAND AWARENESS – Gardenburger did a brave thing. After spending $3.3 million the previous year on marketing, they beefed up their ad budget to $12 million in the three months after the “Seinfeld” ad ran. In three months, they spent four times their previous year’s advertising budget in order to capitalize on the brand awareness generated by the “big bang”.
Sales went up 103% in the following year.
Fiscal sales were up 91%.
Market share of the vegetarian burger category rose from 34% to 56% virtually overnight.
The entire meatless burger category exploded with sales more than doubling. Gardenburger accounted for 71% of the increase.
The company went from the red to the black. Although expenses were bigger than profits immediately after the “big bang”, the following year was the company’s first year of profitability.
Look for your “big bang” opportunity. Whether you are “bigger than Jesus” or a tiny company, your opportunity is out there.
Technology makes it so simple today to do what was impossible a few years ago.
Back in the 80′s, Huey Lewis & The News topped the charts with “The Heart of Rock ‘n Roll”. True Huey fans, both of you, will remember that for the last minute or so of the song, Huey shouts out various cities where the heart of rock ‘n roll is still beating.
“In Cleveland,” he sings. “Detroit!”
Huey demonstrated that he was ahead of his time when the band recut the song with various endings, each of them giving a proud shout out to a different city. Listeners in Seattle heard their city get a mention. In Toronto, fans heard Huey shout their name.
Radio stations in each city received a customized version for their town.
As a result, radio stations in all of these cities were inspired to play the song more than they probably otherwise would have. That of course resulted in Huey selling more copies of “Sports” than he otherwise would have. And everybody went home happy.
Unfortunately technology at the time didn’t permit Huey to give props to any cities other than the biggest ones. After all, editing the vocal, recutting the 45 RPM, and sending it out to radio stations took time and money. Alas, there is no version of “The Heart of Rock ‘n Roll” that mentions El Paso.
But today, recutting a vocal is pretty easy. Digital editing can have it done in hours. No 45 RPM to press. No CD to mail out. Simply send out the digital file to radio stations around the world, and you’re done.
And today, people buy digital versions. So instead of only radio stations getting copies of the local version of “The Heart of Rock ‘n Roll”, Huey could have profited by selling each version on i-Tunes to fans in each community.
This hip hop act from California recorded a song last year called “I’m In Miami, Bitch”.
The first edit was to make it radio friendly, and recut the song as “I’m In Miami, Trick”.
The next edit was the brilliant one.
Following in the big size 11 footprints of the legendary Huey Lewis, LMFAO released localized versions of the song. I first heard “I’m In LA, Trick” and later heard “I’m In New York, Trick”.
Today I heard “I’m In Canada, Trick.”
Now all hell has broken loose. Seeing how simple it was to cut local versions, we have finally been blessed with “I’m In El Paso, Trick”. We also are fortunate enough to be in Grand Rapids, Harrisburgh, Boise, and Rochester… places Huey Lewis never went.