A Wynn Wynn Situation


I’ve taken a few shots at Garth Brooks in the past for the brutal mismanagement of his brand a decade ago.

Garth was the biggest music star on earth in the mid-1990′s.  Until he decided that he wanted to be more than a country star.  His efforts to become a pop music star alienated his country fans, confused his large pop music following, and left his career a shell of what it once was.

But I give Garth credit for one thing: he hid.

By going into retirement eight years ago, Garth made himself scarce.  By becoming rare, he again became valuable.  He has only played live a few select times since 2001.  Those shows were major events.  The few songs he has recorded and released have been successful, but he has avoided attempting to string together a run of hits.  The Garth Brooks brand has been, for the most part, a nostalgia brand since he went into retirement.  No doubt this is intentional.

Garth is a smart businessman. His foray into pop music aside, Garth has made some brilliant career moves. His retirement was the smartest of all.  When he chose to retire, he was dealing with a divorce.  He had taken lumps from his pop music venture and scrapped movie plans.  He also saw the future with a stunning crop of up-and-coming country stars ready to take his place.

Garth knew that by becoming scarce, he would become more valuable.

Think about the Nintendo Wii.  For three years this has been an impossible item to find at Christmas.  You’d think Nintendo would just make more.  But they know better.  Having limited quantities makes it far more valuable.

Ditto for Cabbage Patch Kids, Tickle Me Elmo, and next year’s Christmas toy of the moment.

But now Garth Brooks is coming back.  Starting in December, Garth will take up residency at the Wynn Casino and Resort in Las Vegas.
This has potential.

Limited quantities? It’s weekends only.  He is only doing four shows a week, one on Friday, two on Saturday, and one on Sunday.

Demand?  There aren’t a wealth of great country themed shows in glitzy Las Vegas.  Especially ones with the mainstream appeal of a Garth Brooks.

History?  Elton John, Celine Dion, Cher, and others have proven you can keep your career alive (or revitalize it) by playing Vegas for an extended period of time.

Unique?  Garth will be playing his own theater in an acoustic setting.  He says he plans on writing new songs, sharing works-in-progress with the audience, and playing his own versions of other songs.

As long as Garth Brooks keeps himself rare enough, he should be able to keep his demand high enough to make his shows at the Wynn very valuable.

Like any successful brand, the equation applies:  SCARCITY + DEMAND = VALUE

Let’s assume your brand is in demand, otherwise you wouldn’t be in business.

Brands that are everywhere have limited value.  There’s no rush.  There’s no exclusivity.  There’s nothing special about it.

But brands that are limited in quantity have nearly unlimited value. 

Seats on a plane bound for a resort destination?  Scarce and in limited quantities.  High value.

Tickets to a sold-out concert?  Scarce and in limited quantities. High value.

Hotel rooms during a major convention?  Scarce and in limited quantities.  High value.

Gasoline?  Only when there is a shortage does it truly become valuable.

Being available everywhere in massive quantities sounds good, but it isn’t the best path to high profits.

Celine Dion, Cher, Elton John, Garth Brooks, Wynn Casino 1,038 Comments

Setting The Table For Change


Tim McGraw is setting the table for change.


The country star was profiled in the Wall Street Journal last week about his changing career.  The piece delves into country music’s challenges in the social networking world, and serves as an umbrella article about how country artists are using MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, and other tools of modern era to expand their reach.

But the real goal of the article was to set the table for Tim McGraw to evolve.

He has recorded an album using some guest star musicians… the guitarist from Paul McCartney’s band… the keyboard player from Foo Fighters.  He has hired new management, the same company that steers the career courses of Dave Matthews and Phish.  His new endorsements go beyond NASCAR, and include Gilette and Outback Steakhouse.  And he has recorded new music that has an edge not previously heard in his work.

As Tim was quoted as saying in the article, he is a 42 year-old married father and ”singing about country boys and girls getting down on the farm doesn’t ring true after a certain point.”

Clearly Tim McGraw sees himself growing into a more mature performer with a new sound that his fans are not used to hearing.

These steps all serve the create the perfect environment for that change.

People don’t fear change itself.  Most people accept that change is inevitable.

People fear discomfort.  They fear the unexpected.  They fear being left behind.  They resent the unanticipated.

But if you carefully set expectations for change, it becomes far less frightening.

Let your customers know your brand is evolving.

Seek their input.

Communicate with them.

Tell them why.

With smart planning and communication, the Tim McGraw brand will enjoy a very successful evolution.

Dave Matthews, Phish, Tim McGraw 198 Comments

Too Much Of A Good Thing Isn’t Good

Very few albums spawn more than two or three hit “singles”.

There are exceptions like “Thriller” or “Rumours”, but for the most part the record companies control the flow of material so that two or three songs become radio staples and serve to promote the rest of the album.

Two thoughts support this logic:

1. There isn’t enough quality, at least in the mass-consumption sense, to warrant promoting more singles than two or three. The rest of the album just doesn’t have the same appeal.

2. The record company or the artist wants to carefully manage their exposure. They want to make sure that their name is attached to massive hits, not mid-chart flops. They also want to avoid over-exposure. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing.

A few years ago, Ed Hardy’s name was attached mostly to artwork, footwear and clothing. His tattoo-inspired designs were cool, not easy to find, and relatively expensive.  They were marketed by Christian Audigier, the designer behind the wildly successful Von Dutch brand.  The marketing plan included opening stores in high profile fashion districts and marketing directly to celebrity clients.
What happened?
Today you can buy Ed Hardy bedsheets, Ed Hardy salt and pepper shakers, and my personal favorite in the face of H1N1… Ed Hardy Hand Sanitizer. And instead of being found in the expensive high fashion districts of New York, LA, and Tokyo, you can buy your Ed Hardy stuff for a deep discount at your neighborhood TJ Maxx or Marshall’s store.
In Rock Star lexicon, Ed Hardy has had too many singles from the same album. Some of them aren’t very good, and I’m hearing them way too often.
While being everything to everyone everywhere seems like a great position to be in, it isn’t. It is a short term gain. Ed Hardy was a much more valuable long-term brand when it was more elusive, expensive, and intriguing.
Time might prove me wrong, but I doubt it.
Uncategorized 178 Comments

The Sound Experience

Tom Peters wrote extensively in “Re-Imagine” about brands that provide memorable experiences.

Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles.  Harley sells the ability for a 43 year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns, and have people be afraid of him.  It’s an experience that Harley calls the “rebel lifestyle”.

Starbucks doesn’t sell coffee.  Starbucks sells a quiet place in the world where you can escape for a few minutes or a few hours to read, relax, and enjoy a drink.

Guinness doesn’t sell beer.  Guiness sells the chance to get together with friends and share stories.

Remember: nobody wants toothpaste.  They want clean, white teeth and fresh breath that makes them attractive to others.

It isn’t the product being sold, it is the experience.

The music business is no different, and songs are the ultimate escape.

The right song, at the right time, on the right stretch of road, can turn an ordinary drive into an experience that you hope will never end.

Marilyn Manson sells suburban kids the chance to paint their fingernails black and revel in their teenage depression.

Jimmy Buffett sells middle-aged dreamers the opportunity to cash it all in for a new life on a tropical island where the only worry is how the fish are biting.

Bob Marley sells a ticket into a world of equality, friendship, fellowship, and peace.

Jack Johnson sells an escape to the life of a surfer, content to strum the guitar and ride the waves.

Lady Gaga sells a place in line at the hottest club in town, where you can dance all night.

What experience does your brand contribute to?

Think of the words that your customers use to describe how they feel when they use your brand.  Think about how your brand makes them feel.  What are the inner-urges that your brand satisfies, they way the right toothpaste satisfies our need to be attractive and healthy.

When you discover your brand’s experience, you’ll discover a wealth of new ways to promote your brand and connect on a deeper level with your customers.

Bob Marley, Guinness, Harley Davidson, Jack Johnson, Jimmy Buffett, Lady GaGa, Starbucks, Tom Peters 370 Comments

According To Moonalice Legend…

If you think you would enjoy reading about where music and marketing collide, please consider clicking here and receiving “Brand Like A Rock Star” updates via e-mail.  You won’t ever be spammed and we’ll never share your info with anyone.  Plus, I will be sending select subscribers free copies of “Brand Like A Rock Star” when it is published.
Please also feel free to share this post with friends who you think would find this topic engaging.  The project becomes so much richer with added input from passionate fans of brands and bands.

And now, on with the show…

The post yesterday about Jerry Garcia’s marketing genius spawned a lot of response.

What fascinates me about Garcia, from a marketing and brand development perspective, is that his band was doing many of the things we talk about today as being revolutionary.  Yet they were doing them almost forty years ago, without the internet.  They were filesharing, pre-Napster.  They were building tribes, pre-Seth.  They were tweeting, pre-Twitter.

How would Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead use the internet and social media?

Part of the answer is probably found at

Moonalice is a band made up of veteran musicians with some pretty impressive resumes.  They even have some Grateful Dead connections with far fewer than six degrees of separation.

Love, like, or hate their music, Moonalice is doing some pretty cool things.  One of them is the “Twittercast”.  The band tweets out links to their live songs. I don’t know if they do this in real time, but wouldn’t that be cool?

You can’t make the show, but you can go on-line and listen in as each song is uploaded and tweeted out.

The old rules tell you that if you do that, you will have fewer fans paying for tickets to actually go to the show.

Those are the same old rules that major league sports teams are playing by; the rules that say you need to blackout home games on TV to help sell more tickets to the actual game.

We play by a new set of rules today.

Today’s rock star brands pull back the curtain and let their customers in.  They have dialog.  They interact.  They share.

Will you have fewer fans at the concert or sports event?  Maybe.  Marginally.  But the long-term benefit that comes from building a stronger fan base far outweighs that risk.  The ancillary merchandise sales alone should be enough.

If you talk to me, you might have my attention for a little while.

But talk with me, and we can engage in a conversation for a long time… to both of our benefit.

If you want to follow Moonalice on Twitter, follow @moonalice.

Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Moonalice 167 Comments

Jerry Garcia, The Master Marketer

If you enjoy this post, please consider clicking here and subscribing to receive “Brand Like A Rock Star” updates via e-mail. I’ll never spam you or share your information. But I will send random subscribers free copies of the book when it is published as a small gesture of thanks. Now on with the show…


“It’s not enough to be the best at what you do; you must be perceived as the only one who does what you do.”
- Jerry Garcia

Jerry wasn’t a marketer or brand builder, by definition.  Jerry was simply a musician.  He was the de facto leader of a legendary band called the Grateful Dead.  Jerry Garcia died of a heart attack in 1995.

Make no mistake. Jerry Garcia was a master marketer.

Jerry and his band were light years ahead of the world when they put a liner note inside their album asking fans to send in their names and addresses.  That initiative was the first pillar that organized a nebulous group of music fans into the cult known as the Deadheads.

Jerry and his band pioneered the concept we know today as filesharing.  The Dead created a special section for people who wanted to record the show, and asked that they share it with friends at no charge.  Those bootlegs became currency and a status symbol of their fans.

Jerry and his band took the concept of merchandising to a new place when they offered to set up an area outside the concert for fans who wanted to sell home made products.  Those fans, in turn, used the money they made from selling their wares to buy more concert tickets and follow the band around.

Jerry and his band beat everyone to the ideal of personalized service.  If you went to a Grateful Dead concert in Boston one night and Philadelphia the next night, you were treated to two different shows.  And if you followed the band south to Baltimore the next night, it was an entirely new show.  Each set list was built to suit the mood of the band, the night, the location, and the fans.

I wish Jerry Garcia would have lived to see the proliferation of the internet.  He was already doing all of the things that our current state of perpetual connectedness allows us to do so easily!

Yet even with the relative ease and low cost of doing these things, so many brands choose not to.

They don’t build a database of their most loyal customers, despite the fact that technology makes it so easy.

They don’t give away their product in order to spread the word about it, despite the fact that we are all so quickly connected and word can spread so rapidly.

They don’t create personalized experiences for their customers, despite the fact that the buttons to make it happen are at their fingertips.

Do today’s brands need a lesson from a guy who passed away three years before Google was incorporated?

And when the Grateful Dead played the closing of the famous Winterland Ballroomin 1978, promoter Bill Graham posted a sign at the venue that read: “They’re not the best at what they do. They’re the only ones who do what they do.”

Grateful Dead 192 Comments

Better To Burn Out, Than To Fade Away

That first product launch is exciting, energizing, and spectacular.  Your enthusiasm is contagious.  You’ve spent your whole life, or at the very least a large part of it, getting ready to launch.

And after a few months, you start to wonder “what next”?

Brands that successfully endure for years and decades think beyond the next six or twelve months.  Change is a part of their corporate culture. They thrive on the uncomfortable feeling that change brings. They always ask “what’s next?”

MySpace started losing groud to Facebook.  What’s next?  Myspace evolved into one of the world’s leading sites for musicians and artists.

Apple spent decades with just 10% of the personal computer market.  What’s next?  Apply grew into the world’s biggest music retailer.

Sure some attempts at evolution fail. McPizza, New Coke, and Star Trek “Nemesis” are three examples.  But those are spectacular failures from brands that today remain incredibly strong in large part because they were willing to risk failure in order to evolve.

The McDonald’s pizza experiment failed miserably.  But their recent growth into healthier foods with a wider variety of menu items has rebounded the company in the past few years.  And their adventure into breakfast food gave them the wildly successful Egg McMuffin.

New Coke was a legendary disaster, yet the Coke brand – despite almost ludicrious line extension – remains the #1 cola brand on the planet.

Star Trek “Nemesis” in 2002 was the lowest-grossing and most poorly reviewed movie in the series.  Yet the Star Trek movie from last spring was a massive hit.  It has already made three times more money than any previous Star Trek movie.  But this one wasn’t like the other Trek movies.  William Shatner wasn’t invited.  Niether was Captain Picard.  And director JJ Abrams took a fresh approach to the story.  That’s a risk that paid off.

Winning brands are willing to fail, because failure means you are doing something, and doing something means you are growing.  If you’re smart and calculated, you’ll make more wise moves than mistakes.  And if you’re really wise, you’ll know when to pull the plug on mistakes and cut your losses.

It is the unwise who become stale because they were afraid of change. Change and evolution is too frightening and uncomfortable for some brands.  They don’t understand the warning from Neil Young in 1979, when his career was fading.  He felt his music was becoming irrelevant, and he wrote song about the dangers of recording the same type of music too much.

“My My, Hey Hey… It’s better to burn out, than to fade away.”

Neil was willing to go down in flames.  He took a risk and recorded a song that took his career into punk and grunge music, and recorded a song that influenced the careers of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, and a subsequent generation of musicians.  It turned his sagging career around.

So if you think it is the right thing to do, and you can do it in the name of evolution and greater success, then go ahead… risk burning out. It sure beats fading into obscurity.

Apple, Coke, Facebook, McDonalds, MySpace, Neil Young, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Star Trek 463 Comments