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Much has been written recently about the need for brands to embrace social media in order to build tribes or communities around their brand.
Long before social networking, file sharing, and e-mail, bands like Queen, The Grateful Dead, Kiss, Jimmy Buffett and many others created massive followings of fans. Through sign-up inserts in records and sign-up forms at concerts, they were able to develop huge fan clubs. Learning as they went along, they began to realize that they could instantly sell-out concert dates in cities where they had plenty of fan club members. They also saw that if they gave their fan club members little extras, they could create even more loyalty at very little cost.
How were these bands able to create such loyal tribes around their brand?
1. Create passion. It is nearly impossible to build a true tribe around brands that don’t inspire passion. Fortunately for rock ‘n roll bands, music itself inspires passion. Sports teams naturally inspire passion. It isn’t as easy for other brands, but it is very possible. How do you create passion? See point #2.
2. Be remarkable. Give people something to talk about. You can’t build a tribe around average, ordinary products. But you can build a wildly successful tribe around daily products that do extraordinary remarkable things. Dyson vacuum cleaners are a perfect example. Make a remarkable vacuum cleaner, and even household chores become the foundation for a tribe.
3. Tribes need a leader. A fan club of people who like tropical-themed beach music would fall flat, but a group of people devoted to the music and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett became the incredibly powerful “Parrotheads” organization. If not for Jimmy, there would be no Parrotheads. Without a leader, there is no tribe.
4. Two-way communication is vital. If you think you can set up a Facebook fan site for your brand and walk away, you’re wrong. Your fans want to communicate with you, and have you communicate back to them. Show them that you care. Talk to them. Hear their complaints and accept their praise. Thank them. Treat them like friends, since that’s what Facebook is supposed to be about.
5. Allow them to contribute. Brands are defined by what customers think and feel about a product. Your fans are the people who will establish what your brand means. If you let them contribute, you’ll be opening your eyes to new opportunities you may have never imagined. Lego is a great example of a company that invites its fans to design new products and guide the brand into the future.
Trivia question: what musical act has the biggest fan club? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, it is South Korean boy band TVXQ with 800,000 screaming young fans officially registered in their fan club. Go figure… these guys have more fans in their fan club than the Grateful Dead. The world indeed is sometimes so cruel.