The Marketing Genius of Sir Isaac Newton


Here’s some simple marketing math.

I can’t take credit for it.  It’s actually Isaac Newton’s work.

F = M x A

(Force) = (Mass) X (Acceleration)

In marketing terms, it means that the impact of your message (force) will be equal to the mass of your message (how meaningful it is) multiplied by the acceleration of your message (how many times your message is heard).

If you have something powerful to say, you don’t have to say it often to have lasting impact.  Most people only needed to watch the Old Spice “I’m on a horse” commercial once to remember it forever.

If your message is weak, you’ll have to repeat it over and over again to see any impact.  That’s the case with most advertising you see and hear almost everywhere.

It applies to music as well. 

You only need to hear Roger Daltry’s scream in “Won’t Get Fooled Again” one time to get the message.

On the other hand, the Kansas classic “Dust In The Wind” took a few listens to sink in. It stuck for sure, but it needed a bit more acceleration to reach its force.

Thank you Sir Isaac Newton, marketing genius!

Dust In The Wind, Kansas, Newton, Old Spice, Roger Daltry, Won't Get Fooled Again 164 Comments

Get To The Chorus

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Almost all great songs have one thing in common: a catchy chorus.

The chorus is the part of the song we all know, the part that gets repeated throughout.  It is what gives most songs the “hook”, as songwriters say, that sucks you in and sticks in your head.  The chorus represents the moment where the instruments all come together, and the song erupts.

Most great songs get to the chorus quickly, and come back to it time and time again.  Songs that don’t have memorable choruses or take too long to get to – or come back to – the chorus, seldom become big hits.  It’s that simple.

A brand’s core message is its chorus.

For Volvo, safety is the chorus.

For Apple, its chorus is user-friendly innovation.

For Disney, its a magical escape to the happiest place on earth.

For Coke, its refreshment.

Your brand can send a lot of messages over time, but like a great rock and roll song you need to come back to an unforgettable chorus frequently, and repeat it again and again.  And every message that you send should, in some way, compliment your chorus.

If your brand’s message doesn’t come back to a memorable chorus over and over again, your brand’s song isn’t likely to stick in any one’s head.

Brand Like a Rock Star is now available for pre-order. It will hopefully be stuck in your head after it comes out in stores October 1.


Apple, Chorus, Coke, Disney, Volvo 2,195 Comments

Surround Sound

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The Hilton Garden Inn at Cherry Creek in Denver is a nice enough hotel.  The rooms are comfortable, the pool is nice, the fitness center is great, and the restaurant is excellent.  My three night stay there, however, will be remembered for something entirely different.  I will forever remember the elevator.

The two side-by-side elevators are programmed, for some reason only an elevator designer knows, to emit a loud noise at each floor, even when it isn’t stopping at that floor.  Instead of a pleasant noise, the elevator designers picked a piercing electronic buzz to alert us to the passing floors.  The buzz sounds surprisingly similar to the noise you would hear when you messed up in the old board game “Operation”.  In fact, it is so loud that you can hear the other elevator buzzing away as it passes in the shaft.


On the other hand, the designers of the transportation system at the Denver International Airport were a little more aware of the power of sound.  When the train approaches the platform, a guitar lick plays from the speakers above and a voice announces the coming train.  They could have used a buzz, a bing, a bong, a chime, or a siren.  Wisely, they chose a cool sounding guitar lick that somehow fits this urban city’s western history.

Sounds are very, very powerful.  They impact you on subconscious levels and worm their way into your memory when you least expect it.

Guests at the Hilton Cherry Creek might not even know why they didn’t totally enjoy their stay.

People arriving in Denver for the first time might not clearly understand why they feel so welcome.

You don’t want to have that song you don’t even like playing in your head, but you do and it won’t go away.


Rock star brands never underestimate it’s immense power.

Denver, Hilton 1,121 Comments

Going The Distance: Finding Your "est"

If you’re passionate about great bands and great brands, please click here to subscribe to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. You can also join the discussion on Facebook.

If you’re passionate about great bands and great brands, please click here to subscribe to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. You can also join the discussion on Facebook.

You don’t remember the normal… the average… the everyday.

KISS? We remember KISS because they went the distance and gave us something we’d never seen before. Sure, other bands wore make-up, but not like that. Other bands had themes, but nothing like KISS.  Other bands had pyro, but not like that!

Jimmy Buffett? We remember Jimmy because he lives and breathes the beach-bum lifestyle in every way. He even had to leave his hammock in Key West to move to Nashville to start his career, and gets back to the tropics at every possible opportunity.

We remember bands and artists who are the most extreme of their type. We remember the people who push the envelope and define their genre.

Rock star brands are precisely the same.

Whole Foods didn’t open up an organic food section in a traditional grocery store. Whole Foods went the distance and opened up an organic foods store that grew into the largest of its kind in the world.

Enzo Ferrari didn’t make a few sports car models to go along with more mainstream cars. Ferrari made only high-performance sports cars that became some of the fastest and most-expensive cars on earth.


Rolex doesn’t make a $100 entry-level watch. Their luxury watches aren’t a division of what they do. Rolex makes nothing but luxury watches. You’ll need to drop about $5000 to even get in the game if you want one.

You don’t have to be the fastest, most expensive brand to stick out from the crowd.  You could actually get the world’s attention by being exactly the opposite.


The least-expensive car in the world got noticed. The Tata Nina, made in India, made headlines around the world for its $2500 price tag.

In what meanigful way does your brand go the distance?

Are you the fastest? Slowest? Newest? Oldest? Friendliest? Longest? Shortest? Fattest? Thinnest?

You need an “est” or you risk simply blending in with the boring crowd around you.

Start with your own “est”, and your brand will come together around it.


Ferrari, Jimmy Buffett, KISS, Rolex, Tata Nano, Whole Foods 171 Comments

Rehearsing Is For Cowards

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That was brilliant advice from Jackson Browne, and the very bright Seth Godin wrote a piece about it on his blog here.

Jackson Browne and Seth Godin advocate exploring, jamming, and experimenting so that you can continue to surprise your customers with the unpredictable.

Bands that over-rehearse become predictable and boring.  When every song by a band sounds the same, you stop anticipating their new releases.  When you see a band several times and hear the same songs, in the same order, sounding the same way night after night, you stop being interested in seeing them live.  There’s a fine line between being consistent and being boring.

Bands that surprise us get noticed.  I remember the first time I saw Bob Dylan.  There were songs that I didn’t even recognize until Bob got to the chorus because Dylan doesn’t play them the same way every time.  If Dylan feels like doing “Like A Rolling Stone” as an acoustic number, he does it that way.  If he wants to rock out, he does that.  You just never know.

Bruce Springsteen is an artist who surprises every night. The last time I saw Bruce live he surprised the audience at the Boston Garden with a version of ZZ Top’s “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” and Bruce’s own “I’m Goin’ Down”, a song he doesn’t play live often.  My friends who saw him the next night were treated to “I Wanna Be Sedated”, a Ramones song, along with a guest appearance from local legends The Dropkick Murphys.

And I don’t even have to mention the unrehearsed exploring that The Grateful Dead did every night.

Do you rehearse too much? 

Are you regularly surprising your customers with fresh ideas, products, and perspectives?

Instead of practicing to be perfect over and over again, spend some time exploring.  Think.  Change.  Try.  After all, perfection is boring.

Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Grateful Dead, Jackson Browne, Ramones, Seth Godin, ZZ Top 1,494 Comments

The Fine Art of Navigation

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Things don’t always go as planned.  Great brands are like ships on the sea, always navigating to find the best route where ocean currents and weather will make for ideal sailing conditions.

Google started out as a research project two friends were working on at school.  They wanted to explore ranking websites based on relationships between them.  Google navigated a path into an advertising technology giant, based only remotely on the initial business plan.

Starbucks wasn’t a coffee house when it first opened in Seattle in 1971. For the first decade, it was a store where you could purchase high quality coffee beans and coffee making equipment.  For over ten years, Starbucks didn’t sell a single coffee or espresso!  It wasn’t until the early 80′s that they navigated their way into making and serving actual drinks.

Despite the major changes in game plan over the years, the core brand traits of both Google and Starbucks were deeply embedded in both companies from the beginning.  Google was always a quirky fun company with unique employee benefits and a knack for playing jokes on April Fool’s Day.  Starbucks was always dedicated to fair trade, the environment, and the quest to find a better coffee bean.

Like great brands, rock ‘n roll songs have a way of navigating.  For example, take the song “Chelsea Dagger” by The Fratellis.  You may not know the song by title, but I’m pretty sure you can hum along to it if you hit play on the video below.

“Chelsea Dagger” came out in 2006 and has taken four years to navigate its way into our collective consciousness.  It was first a hit in various European countries, which surprised the band because they thought the song was too racy for the mainstream.  Since then song has appeared in countless movies and TV commercials, slowly embedding itself in North American culture.  It has become the song of choice at football stadiums and hockey arenas, and quickly became a hit again last spring when the Chicago Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup.  The Hawks, you see, play “Chelsea Dagger” every time they score.   With the record audiences watching on TV, the song became famous as it was heard over and over again.

That song has navigated its way into our brains in a way that The Fratellis never imagined possible.

Are you a captain able to navigate your brand to success?  The right path might not always be obvious, but great brands are ready for the challenge.

Chicago Blackhawks, Fratellis, Google, Starbucks 95 Comments

The Lake Or The Well?

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Consider two great bands.

Both rose to fame in the 1970′s and their songs dominated rock radio stations of the era.  Both replaced their lead singers (as well as other less prominent members) over the years.  Both continue to tour from city to city with only one original founding member.  Both are legendary.


Foreigner had over a dozen hit songs during their prime years.  They rocked out with songs like “Urgent” and “Dirty White Boy” and “Cold As Ice”.   They had massive ballads like “Waiting For A Girl Like You” and “I Want To Know What Love Is”.  There are few bands that had as many hits as Foreigner did between 1977 and 1987, and nearly all of their hits are must-play songs on classic rock and oldies radio stations across North America.


Lynyrd Skynyrd brought their brand of southern rock to the world a few years earlier, from about 1973 to 1977.  In ’77 a plane crash took the lives of three of the band members, including lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt, as well as their assistant road manager and two pilots.  They didn’t have nearly as many hits as Foreigner did.  Today only “Free Bird” and “Sweet Home Alabama” are among the most played songs on those same classic rock radio stations.  Some of their other songs are heard now-and-then, but certainly not very often.

Foreigner is a lake.  Lynyrd Skynyrd is a well.

Foreigner has a wide catalog of memorable music, although passion for any one song isn’t all that great.

Lynyrd Skynyrd has a small catalog of memorable music, but passion for their two main hits is extremely high.

What is the better scenario for a brand today?

The lake is wide, but not that deep.  Chrysler is a lake.  They make all kinds of cars from all price ranges and passion for the Chrysler brand isn’t particularly deep.  Sure people love Dodge trucks and Jeep Wranglers, but few people crave a Chrysler.

The well is small, but extremely deep.  Porsche is a well.  They only make a few cars, all expensive and high-performance, and passion for the brand runs very deep.  People save money all their lives to own a Porsche.

I don’t know if there’s a right or wrong answer.  Both “lake” brands and “well” brands can be successful.

Which would you rather be?

I look forward to your thoughts.

Chrysler, Dodge, Foreigner, Jeep, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Porsche 182 Comments

Five Lessons From A Crazy Man

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Let me say this up front:  I think Florida preacher Terry Jones is a lunatic and I don’t condone his actions.  However, I also think Terry Jones is a rock star brand marketer in his own twisted, perverse way.  We don’t have to like him to learn from him.

Terry Jones has less than 50 faithful at his independent church  in Florida.  A few weeks ago, Terry declared that his church would burn copies of the Qur’an on September 11.

Immediately, the story broke on various social media services and went around the world nearly overnight. Within days the leaders of the world spoke out against his plan to burn Islam’s holy book.  He was discussed by the pope, the president, every politcal leader, all the TV news networks, and all of the talk radio shows.  His plan was the topic of conversation all around the world.  Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the Qur’an burning was cancelled.

What can we learn from nutty Florida preacher Terry Jones?

1. When you have nothing to lose, you can go the distance. With only 50 followers at his Gainesville, FL church, Terry Jones had nothing to lose. By making an extremely bold statement, he was able to spread his name, picture, church, and vision around the world. He may be insane, but prior to this stunt he was insane and unknown. Now he’s insane and famous. Big improvement.

2. When the world zigs, those who zag will get attention. Nobody spoke out in favour of Terry Jones and his wacky Qur’an burning stunt. From Alaska to Afghanistan, everyone was on the same page. Terry Jones got attention because his opinion differed from everyone else’s.

3. Nobody notices the normal. Would anyone have cared if Terry Jones had declared September 11 a “day of peace” and invited Muslims and others to his church for a day of celebration of religious tolerance? Not a single news story would have been written about this, because it is what should happen. Nobody notices that. Everybody pays attention to the abnormal and unusual.

4. To make people like you, you have to accept that some people will hate you. Terry Jones’ church will probably be pretty full because of this stunt.  Certainly his bank account will grow.  He probably became a folk hero amongst other biggoted religious zealotss. The price he paid for that was that the rest of the world – the normal people – all think he’s an idiot. That’s okay, because Terry Jones never wanted to reach the rest of us… he only wants to reach other religious zealot nut cases.

5. You don’t have to be smart or big or have a massive budget to get the world’s attention.  It doesn’t take a degree from Oxford to do something bold, brash, and outlandish.  You don’t need a million dollars to get coverage on every TV network.  You don’t have to boast thousands of followers to get talked about by everyone.

I don’t suggest for a moment you organize a Qur’an burning to promote your brand.  If you do, you’re as bat-sh*t crazy as Terry Jones himself!   What you can learn from Terry Jones is that if you are willing to take the risks, even the smallest local brand can capture the world’s attention.

Qur'an, Terry Jones 8 Comments

Make It Personal

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Rumor is that Taylor Swift, famous for writing songs about her personal relationships and experiences, has written a song about Kanye West and she plans to sing it at the MTV Music Awards tonight.

You probably remember last year, when Kanye stormed the stage after Taylor win the Best Female Video award.  Kanye grabbed the microphone from a stunned Swift and said that the award should have gone to Beyonce.  In the ensuring days and weeks, West felt an extreme backlash and disappeared from the spotlight.

Taylor Swift, meanwhile, has continued her meteoric rise and recently released the first single from her new album.  That song, “Mine”, is already a major hit on the pop and country charts.

Swift has endeared herself to fans through honest songs that are close to her heart.  She’s openly joked that it is hard to find people to date her because of her reputation for writing songs about her heartbreaks.

Brands that connect on a personal level always win.

When I ordered my last iPod through the Apple website, I had a quote from John Lennon engraved on the back.  It was a quote I chose, and the engraving was free.  There is no iPod quite like that one anywhere on earth.  Today my iPhone has a selection of apps that are personal to me.  My friends and coworkers have a different selection of apps, all personal to them.

Many sports manufacturers allow you to personalize your gear, creating equipment in your team colors or your personal favorite colors.  There will be no equipment exactly like yours anywhere.

Through social media sites you can now create an internet experience that is personal to you.  You can wake up to an on-line newspaper that is customized to your personal tastes, interests, and sources.

Smart brands today are like Taylor Swift.  They engage their fans on a personal level.  They communicate in connective language, not transactional words.  By revealing themselves to the world on a human level, they give us the chance to bond with them.  After all, people don’t bond with products or companies.  We bond with other people. 

If you expect your brand to connect with people, you need to find a way to make it human.

Apple, John Lennon, Kanye West, MTV, Social Media, Taylor Swift 2,006 Comments

Goodbye Earl

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The Dixie Chicks have been playing in my head this week as we braced for Hurricane Earl.

You couldn’t turn on CNN or FOX or CBC in Canada without being bombarded with stories about the impending danger, mandatory evacuations, and hurricane preparations.  Then, for about 48 hours, we watched journalists in wet jackets got pelted with pounding rain as they stood bracing against the wind in places like Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, Nantucket, Massachusetts, and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

We rode out Hurricane Earl at home today, shortly after it was downgraded to a tropical storm.  It rained hard. It was pretty windy. For some people, the power went out for a few hours.  And then it was over.

Hurricane Earl was a much stronger brand than it was a storm. By giving the storm a name (Earl) and designation (Hurricane), its brand impact was immediately upgraded.  Telling people to brace for 70 mile-an-hour winds and heavy rain is one thing.  Telling them to prepare for Hurricane Earl is another altogether, even if Hurricane Earl was simply 70 mph winds and heavy rain.

Fan clubs like The Deadheads, Parrotheads, and KISS Army became powerful identities.  The Rolling Stones Fan Club never did. Could the name be a difference?  Without those names, the Deadheads, Parrotheads, and KISS Army are just people who like the same band.  When given a name, they become a community… a movement.  Outsiders can recognize them, acknowledge them, and know immediately what they stand for.

Names, phrases, and words are incredibly powerful.  You want your name or your description to tell a story all by itself.

“Hell’s Angels” scares more people than group of bikers does.

“Operation Desert Storm” was far more memorable than the war in the Gulf.

“If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit” was a far more powerful argument than thousands of pages of hard to comprehend DNA evidence.

“Two buck Chuck” rang a bell with people at Trader Joe’s more than Charles Shaw Bargain Priced Premium Wine.

What can you say about your brand that tells a story that sticks?  It could be your name.  It could be your mission statement.  It could be a product you sell.
Never forget the power of a few simple words.

Deadheads, Dixie Chicks, Hurricane Earl, KISS Army, Parrotheads, Trader Joe's 134 Comments