Causes That Connect To Customers

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Cause marketing – the idea of aligning your brand with a social cause close to the heart of your customers – really works… but only under a few conditions.

Jon Bon Jovi knows this well.  His band is on tour and at each city, Jon is heading into the deepest parts of the inner-city in order to collect information for his foundation that helps the homeless.  Since 2006, the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation has created 150 affordable housing units in seven American cities.

What makes a good cause marketing initiative?

1. A natural/logical relationship between the brand and the cause.  In the case of Jon Bon Jovi, the relationship is clear.  His music has often been about the struggles of the average man.  In fact, his latest album includes a song called “Working For The Working Man” and numerous songs inspired by the economic meltdown.  Jon Bon Jovi has never been one to flaunt his riches.  Many of the people finding themselves homeless today are those who were walking the fine line between making it and not prior to the economic collapse, and all of us can relate to having to do more with less than ever before.

2. The PR happens (relatively) organically.  Jon Bon Jovi isn’t calling this the “Bon Jovi Helps The Homeless Tour”.  The good PR will happen in large part because he isn’t actively seeking it.  He is simply meeting with local homeless groups in each city and touring the areas where his foundation could assist them.  He isn’t doing it with news cameras and paparazzi.  Yes, he has a PR machine working with his foundation, but they are not exploiting the cause in order to increase Jon’s profile.

3. The cause is timely.  With the state of the economy and with people not eager to pay higher taxes, now is the perfect time to investigate new ways to help the homeless.  The cause is an evergreen one that won’t be going away, but there’s no question that it is a particular hot button these days.  It is important that the cause your brand supports is one that connects with people’s present state-of-mind, otherwise it is unlikely your efforts will register with customers.

Cause marketing is vital. As Roy Williams has observed, today’s society is one of increasing civil responsibility.  It seems with each day we feel a stronger sense of community (that link is worth checking out, by the way). We are more likely than ever before to be loyal to a brand that gives back to our community in a meaningful way.

What does your brand give back?  Have you developed a sense of higher purpose?  Do you leave your customers with the feeling that you care about the same things they do?


Some examples of rock stars and rock star brands who give back to their communities:

Dave Matthews Band established the Bama Works Foundation in 1999 to help disadvantaged youth and the disabled.  The foundation has also assisted environmental causes, the arts, and humanities.

Metallica has developed a relationship with Live Earth to use their concerts to raise money for the environment and fight climate change.

Elton John’s work with AIDS foundations has been well documented.

Whole Foods gives back 5% of their annual net profits to community causes, often determined by the local stores based on the needs of each individual community.

Last year, Ford donated $20 per test drive on each new car to the Susan G. Komen Foundation to help cure cancer.

Several times over the past few years, Apple has used the iTunes store to sell charity albums and songs without taking any profit.  When the world’s largest music store decides to donate their cut of the profit, the numbers are significant.

Apple, Bon Jovi, cause marketing, Dave Matthews, Elton John, Ford, Metallica, Roy Williams, Whole Foods 123 Comments

Aerosmith’s Hard Working PR Machine

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So after all of the rumors and discussions and debates, the new lead singer of Aerosmith is… Steven Tyler!  The band is back together and launching a world tour in Sweden this June (which, by the way, is the best time to visit Sweden).

The past six months or so have been filled with turmoil in the band.  Tyler fell off the stage at a concert in South Dakota last August, and his injuries put an end to the band’s long-awaited summer tour.  Guitarist Joe Perry complained in public that Tyler needed to get his act together and quit holding the band back.  Tyler responded in the media by saying he was more interested in going solo than working with Aerosmith again.  Perry then declared that the search was on for a new lead singer for Aerosmith.

In seconds, Aerosmith was the most talked about band on rock radio stations.  They were suddenly a big story on CNN and Entertainment Tonight.  Despite not having a hit song in years, Aerosmith was a major story once again.  And now, they are making headlines again as they reveal that nothing has changed and Steven Tyler is their lead singer once again.

Without opening up Kennedy-style conspiracy theory, you’ve gotta salute the band for their timing.

The whole thing blew up on the eve of a new Joe Perry solo album.  Perfect timing, since Perry was in high-demand to be interviewed on every imaginable media outlet.

And now as Aerosmith gets set to hit the road again, is there any doubt they will sell a huge number of tickets to people nervous that they might never see Aerosmith play live together again?

With no new album, no hit songs, and nothing much going on to generate any interest, Aerosmith has managed to work the PR angle and make themselves genuinely relevant.

Well played.

In today’s fragmented media environment, PR is the new marketing.  And whether the Aerosmith drama was real or a publicity stunt, it did more to generate interest in the band than anything else they could have done.

Aerosmith 1,101 Comments

Why Your Brand Needs Music

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Logic and statistics and point-by-point arguments can only take you so far when you are trying to tell the story of your brand.
If facts swayed us, we would all drive the same car (the best one) and eat at the same restaurant (the best one).  But we don’t.  We don’t make buying decisions on facts.  Most often, buying decisions are made on emotions and perceptions.
At some point, you need to jump out of the analytical left brain and swim in the depths of the wild and free right brain.  That’s where emotions and perceptions live.  And most agree that perceptions are the essence of a brand.  All your brand ultimately amounts to is what people think or perceive about you.
How do you get in there?  You put aside stats and logic and debate, and use colors, scents, scenes, poetry, and music. Music is the ideal key to unlock the door into the right brain.
David Levitin wrote a cool book a few years ago called “This Is Your Brain On Music” that delves into why music impacts us so powerfully.  Some of the research discussed is truly mind blowing.
For example, one experiment used sensors to keep track of the electrical activity in the brain while people were either listening to music or imagining music.  Incredibly, it was nearly impossible to tell if someone was actually hearing a song or simply thinking about a song, or singing it in their head.  The mind reacted the same way.

That means that if I can get my song stuck in your head, you could potentially hear it an endless number of times, even when you aren’t actually hearing it.  Your mind doesn’t know the difference between hearing it for real and imagining it in your head.  The brain reacts the same way.

Despite surprisingly little research on the topic of how songs get stuck in people’s heads, scientists have determined that it is rare that entire songs get stuck there on permanent playback.  It is usually short 15 to 30 second pieces of songs that get caught in echoic short-term auditory memory.  Hence simple songs and jingles have a propensity to get stuck in your head.

Now the power of a great jingle becomes clear… “I’d like to teach the world to sing.”

Same with a great mnemonic phrase… “Winston’s taste good like a cigarette should.”

Or a great catch phrase… “Where’s the beef?”

Does your brand have an audio strategy?

Do you have a plan to stop trying to win me over with facts, and win me over by tapping into the emotions that my right brain holds?

Your brand might be better, faster, safer, tastier, more efficient, or cheaper.  But the facts will only take you so far.  Emotion always wins.  If you don’t touch those emotions, you don’t win.

David Levitin 159 Comments

Jimi Hendix: Good Timing

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Next month, a new posthumous album of Jimi Hendrix music will be released called “Valleys of Neptune“.  The title track is already out and stirring up plenty of interest.  The song was recorded in various parts in 1969 and 1970 but was never completed, at least to the point where Jimi felt it was worthy of a release, before he died.  The unfinished song had been circulating amongst hard-core collectors for years in various states of completion.

Regardless of what side of the love it/hate it debate you fall into, the timing couldn`t be better for the Hendrix brand.

Days after the song was released, word leaked that `Rock Band: Hendrix`is on the way.  Janie Hendrix, Jimi`s stepsister and controller of his estate, told the LA Times to expect the Hendrix Rock Band to be out by the end of the year.

Remember what The Beatles Rock Band did for their brand last fall?

Rock star brands are masters of working the clock in their favor.  They know their customers, their habits and tastes, and they also understand the concept of a “news cycle” and time their announcements accordingly.

Apple has made an art form out of product release announcements.  They keep intense secrecy, release vague details, and plant conflicting stories.  When the announcement comes, it is like attending a rock concert.

Movie releases are timed to reach the widest possible audience, compete against a favorable field of other new releases, and maximize and actor’s popularity.

Rock star brands make timing a priority.

1.  Are your launches and product releases planned on your schedule, or your customers’ schedule?

2.  Do you know your competitors’ plans for PR?  Do you plan accordingly?  Are you prepared to block any strong competitive move with one of our own, a la Sun-Tzu?

3.  Do you time your product launches, evolutions, and announcements in order to maximize momentum within your company?  You can have an impact on employee morale, recruitment, and even your stock price.

4. What do you do to make your next-big-thing seriously big?  Cutting through the clutter out there today is nearly impossible if you do what is expected of you.  The usual doesn’t get noticed in 2010.

Apple, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles 237 Comments

John Mayer’s Brand Gap

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John Mayer has gotten more press in the past week than he has in years after making racially insensitive remarks in an interview in Playboy magazine.

He’s developed quite a reputation as a womanizer over the years, and he added to that perception by referring to ex-girlfriend Jessica Simpson as “crack cocaine”, talking longingly about his other high-profile ex, Jennifer Anniston, and publicly declaring his love for pornography.

John Mayer’s brand has a strange gap in it.

John Mayer plays what many people consider “wimpy” music.  His songs are more likely to be heard on the “soft ‘n easy” radio station than the local hit music station.  Hearing John Mayer next to Phil Collins, Celine Dion, and “Circle of Life” era Elton John is not the least bit unusual.

Yet John Mayer’s look and his words work against that image.

His most recent song, “Who Says”, includes the lyric “who says I can’t get stoned?”.   That might account for why it hasn’t been played much on the radio next to Celine and Phil.

His look, with a full sleeve tattoo, doesn’t fit with those artists.

And the comments he made to Playboy further distance himself from the pack.

Does John Mayer intentionally record soft music, yet put forward a rough image, in order keep credibility with a young and hip audience?  Click here to see how youth-focused news outlet MTV is handling the story.  The MTV angle is that an outspoken musician is better than a formulaic edgeless one.  Rolling Stone’s Caryn Ganz said “it’s better to have a rock star who isn’t afraid to open his mouth.”  Ganz went on to tell MTV that “he hasn’t converted me, but he has almost certainly convinced people to buy his albums based on his ability to speak his mind.”

Could John Mayer’s behavior be a calculated PR move?

It would be a bold and difficult juggling act to maintain.  But it is possible that his actions are a conscious effort to remain relevant to a young audience while keeping his musical appeal with older, more conservative, fans.

Still, a non-congruent strategy like that seldom works.

Rock star brands are almost universally true to their image across all of the senses.

For example, you won’t find a topless pool on your Disney Cruise.  It doesn’t go with the Disney brand. You’ll have to go on a Celebrity Cruise for that privilege.

Try buying a Porsche mini-van.  It won’t happen, because a mini-van just doesn’t go with the Porsche brand.  Even their Cayenne SUV stretches the limit of the Porsche brand!

If John Mayer is carefully trying to balance both ends of the spectrum, good luck to him.  Very few brands have successfully accomplished it long term.

Celebrity, Celine Dion, Disney, Elton John, John Mayer, MTV, Phil Collins, Playboy, Porsche, Rolling Stones 1,041 Comments

Super Branding Lessons From The Who

Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend are 64 and 65 years old.  Two founding members of their band are long since deceased.  It takes six musicians today to recreate the sound that four energetic young men created a few decades ago.

Yet The Who rock on.  They played the Super Bowl on Sunday afternoon in Miami, and in their short 13 minute set they were able to teach other brands three valuable lessons.

1. They lived up to expectations.  Instead of trying to showcase new music or put new artistic spins on familiar songs, the band roared through classic songs like “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, “Who Are You”, “Baba O’Riley”, and “Pinball Wizard”.  They didn’t change a thing.  Rock star brands always live up to the expectations of their customers.

2.  They looked the part.  Pete Townshend’s classic windmill guitar playing and Daltry’s mod jacket and scarf combo kept up appearances.  Even drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo’s son) wore the classic Union Jack shirt that The Who has used so often as their logo backdrop.  Rock star brands know that all of the senses go into creating a brand’s aura.  Even though The Who is an audio brand, the visual needs to match of else the whole thing falls apart.

3. They saved the best for last.  Full credit for the set list, ending with the theme song from CSI: Miami, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.  The song ended with Roger Daltry’s iconic scream, followed by massive fireworks.  And then it was over.  Rock star brands put an exclamation point on their brand, just as The Who did by playing “Won’t Get Fooled Again” last, and loudest.

The Who 220 Comments