Does Anyone Cheer For Goliath?

Maria Aragon is the latest in a long line of Davids.

Maria is the 10 year-old YouTube sensation from Winnipeg who has captured (as of this writing) nearly 15 million views with her powerful young voice doing a passionate rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”. She will be soon joining Lady Gaga on stage in Toronto to sing a duet.

We love the underdog. It is human nature. We cheer for the little guy (or girl).

We got behind the homely but talented Susan Boyle and Paul Potts.

Even fans of other teams had to be happy for Aaron Rodgers as he emerged the shadow of the evil Brett Favre. And last year the entire world was happy for the New Orleans Saints when they recaptured the city’s glory.

Everyone cheered when underdog Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker) beat mega-famous ex-husband James Cameron (Avatar) to win Best Director at the 2010 Academy Awards.

Nobody cheers for Goliath.

Do you think about that when you tell your brand’s story? I hear plenty of advertising for products that claim leadership in their category. They boast about a bigger showroom, selling more cars, and crushing the competition. That’s great, but it does that really connect in today’s environment?

Avis made a legendary marketing campaign out of being the little guy with “We Try Harder”.

For a long time, Apple was like that, always living in Microsoft’s massive shadow. Apple’s “little guy” image attracted a lot of followers.

When you tell your brand’s story in marketing, promotion, and advertising, think about making yourself more vulnerable and human by NOT appearing to be powerful and mighty.

Most of your customers don’t see themselves as powerful and mighty. You might be better off reflecting your customers instead of dominating over them.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I only publish once or twice a week on average and will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

Here’s mighty voiced underdog long-shot superstar Maria Aragon doing “Born This Way”…

Aaron Rodgers, Apple, Avis, Brett Favre, Lady GaGa, Maria Aragon, Paul Potts, Susan Boyle 1,827 Comments

The Quiet Brand

Being branded as ”the quiet Beatle” didn’t exactly set George Harrison up for instant solo success, but he found it anyway.

His music reflected his devotion to Indian mysticism and Hinduism. He continually broadened the horizons of his bandmates and his fans. Much of what he did wasn’t all that mainstream, but he did it anyway. And much of it resonated with people.

George Harrison was honest. He was passionate. He was a writer, and the only Beatle (so far) to write a full autobiography. He was an avid gardener, and his dedication to the earth was reflected in much of his music. He was friends with all three other Beatles after the band broke up. He played on Ringo’s and John’s solo albums. And he was a Traveling Wilbury.

George Harrison would have turned 68 today, had cancer not taken him from us in 2001.

I admire the honesty and quiet dedication to causes that George Harrison reflected in his life.

Honesty and quiet dedication are admirable qualities in people and in business.

Whole Foods quietly supports organic and sustainable farming and environmental conservation. They don’t brag about it much… they just do it. It is part of what they stand for.

Chick-Fil-A doesn’t open on Sunday. They don’t put a neon sign up in the store that says “we’re religious”, they just do it. It is in their DNA.

Quiet. Honest. Real. Human. Subtle. Gentle. All qualities that any brand can learn from the career of George Harrison.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I only publish once or twice a week on average and will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

George Harrison, John Lennon, Ringo Starr 218 Comments

Doing Business Like (the other) Buffett

I’m not here to provide you with investing and management strategies from the legendary Warren Buffett. Enough people already do that. That book has already been written, many times over.

I’m thinking about what we can learn from the other Buffett, Jimmy.

With just one top ten hit in his repertoire, he has managed to build an empire larger and more lucrative than nearly everyone else in modern music! The brand now extends to restaurants, hotels, casinos, books, clothing, beer, footwear, and even his own satellite radio station.

Sing along to some Buffett songs and you might just find some hidden business lessons in those beach-bun anthems. Let’s just take three popular Jimmy Buffett songs for example:

Margaritaville – this most ubiquitous of all Jimmy songs is about a guy wastin’ away in a tropical paradise but always thinking about who is to blame for his state in life. In a business and branding perspective, this song says “stop blaming, and start acting”. It doesn’t matter if a woman is to blame for your lost shaker of salt. You don’t control the past anymore, so stop worrying and take control of your future. Wake up. Chart your own course.

Cheeseburger in Paradise – it is too easy to dismiss this as a simple song about an American traveling in the tropics and craving his favorite beefy indulgence from home. Going deeper, this could be about every brand’s need to solve a specific problem for a customer. If you don’t solve some sort of problem, why do I need you? Great brands know exactly what problem they are solving.

One Particular Harbor – it may sound like a song about that perfect place to anchor for the night, but it could go far beyond that. This could be about market leadership. There can only be ONE harbor this good. In most product categories there is a market leader, and everyone else. And most often that market leader dominates, exceeding the combined sales of the #2 and #3 products combined! McDonalds. Wii. Windows. They are each the “One Particular Harbor” in their product category.

I could go on, but I’m craving a margarita right now and can’t quite figure out why.

Photo taken by Steve Jones on the beach in Grand Cayman

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Jimmy Buffett, Warren Buffett 1,311 Comments

Required Reading: "Evil Plans" by Hugh McLeod

While on vacation last week I found some free wifi and downloaded the new Hugh McLeod book “Evil Plans” for the Kindle.

I can’t say enough about Hugh. His first book “Ignore Everybody” was a fantastic collection of brilliant short essays on creativity, highlighted by his popular cartoons. The new book takes a similar approach in terms of structure, except this time instead of creativity Hugh focuses on the need for all of us to have an “evil plan”… an escape from the 9-to-5 cubicle-and-commute hell.

Read it. You’ll be inspired.

At the very least you’ll find yourself looking for ways to find joy in your work. And you might even end up hatching your own “evil plan”. This book is a great read, especially if you’ve already digested Seth Godin’s excellent “Linchpin” from last year.

If you are wondering what this has to do with “Brand Like a Rock Star”, take a look at how Hugh has built his brand from nothing in five short years. He gets it. He’s a rock star.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Hugh MacLeod 179 Comments

Every Brand Tells a Story

His email signature tipped me off that this was someone that I wanted to work with.

“Head Storyteller”

I knew right away: this guy worked for a cool company. He was my kind of crazy. We would get along.

Businesses today have all kinds of people with all kinds of fancy titles, but how many brands are brave enough to seriously anoint someone as “Head Storyteller”?

We love rock ‘n roll (and music itself) because of the stories.

A little diddy about Jack and Diane made John Mellencamp famous.

We all wondered what Phil Collins saw with his own two eyes that inspired “In The Air Tonight”.

The Rolling Stones told the story of Lucifer in “Sympathy For The Devil”. Meanwhile Don McLean shared the story of the dawn of rock ‘n roll itself in “American Pie”.

Instrumentals aside, is there a great song anywhere that isn’t just a great story at heart?

Humans bond through shared experiences, and storytelling is the primary way in which those experiences are shared.

Pretty much any company can make the same product as you. Anyone can provide the same level of service. Unless you are KFC or Coke, you don’t have some uber-secret formula. What sets your brand apart is your story and how you tell it.

What is your brand’s story and who is in charge of telling it?

If you don’t know, you are in trouble… because your story is where your marketing plan begins. Without a compelling story and brilliant storyteller, you are destined to be forgotten.

Need help finding your story?

Remember that your story is really about your customer, not you or your brand.

The Facebook story isn’t about Mark Zuckerberg or the meteoric rise of a high-tech company, it is about the geek in all of us who gets his revenge and riches.

The Dyson story isn’t about vacuum cleaners, it is about the triumph of David over Goliath.

The Chipotle story isn’t about burritos, it is about taking responsibility and finding a new healthy and sustainable way to eat fast food.

When someone buys your product, they are really just buying into your story. They are singing along to your song.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I only publish once or twice a week on average and will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

Now enjoy this classic version of “In The Air Tonight”…

- Posted while on vacation in Mexico using BlogPress from my iPhone

Don McLean, John Mellencamp, Phil Collins, Rolling Stones, Storytelling 194 Comments

A Fresh Set Of Eyes

Last summer I sent the manuscript for the book Brand Like A Rock Star to various agents and publishers, and was rewarded with a nearly-equal number of rejection letters.

Fortunately, one publishing company expressed interest. I met with them in the fall.

When I sent them my book in the summer, I felt that it was an almost-finished product. I figured a little editing would help, but the book was essentially done. They didn’t feel the same way. They liked what I wrote, but they figured it was more of an e-book at that point. They felt it needed a lot of additional content to qualify as a “real” book and they suggested some angles I could take. Somewhat reluctantly, I took their advice and sat down to work on a project that I had mentally already put away. Over the next few months, I amazed myself and more than doubled the word count with solid content. No filler! It turns out that their advice was right!

A few weeks ago I sent them the revised manuscript for Brand Like A Rock Star. This time, I was certain, the book was done. Complete. Fini. Yesterday they sent me their thoughts. Apparently I was wrong. I’m not quite done yet. While they seem to be thrilled with the progress I’ve made, they’ve suggested additional changes that I didn’t expect.

The cool thing this time around is that my mind is open. I’ve seen the difference their third-party input can make on a project that I’m very close to.  This time around, I’m actually very excited to work on the changes they are suggesting.

That’s the benefit of a second set of eyes, or ears, on a project.  When you are very close to something, like your own business or brand, you sometimes get too close to it. You start to lose sight of what your project looks like in the bigger world, seeing only what it means to you and your world.

That’s why The Beatles had George Martin.

That’s the difference Daniel Lanois and Brian Eno made on The Joshua Tree.

It is what Jimmy Miller did for Exile On Main Street, Goat’s Head Soup, and Sticky Fingers.

It is how Ahmet Ertegun influenced Led Zeppelin, Crobsy Stills Nash and Young, Percy Sledge, and Otis Redding… among many, many others.

Are you willing to take a few steps back, and let a fresh set of eyes look at your brand?

Rock stars have producers, sound engineers, and guitar techs. Rock star brands have consultants, advisors, and confidants.

Who is your brand’s George Martin?

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I only publish once or twice a week on average and will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

Ahmet Ertegun, Brian Eno, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Daniel Lanois, George Martin, Jimmy Miller, Joshua Tree, Led Zeppelin, Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, The Beatles 195 Comments

Music: The Secret Entrance To The Mind


Valentine’s Day… the perfect day for a reminder about how much brands should be deeply in love with music.

Music is a magic potion. It is a back-door entrance into the mind of your customer. Using music, you can bypass the logical and analytical left side of the brain, and enter into their consciousness through the mystical and musical right side of the brain.

Things you would never say in public can be heard every day in song.

“Hey Joe, I said where you going with that gun in your hand?
I’m going down to shoot my old lady.
You know I caught her messin’ around with another man.”
- Jimi Hendrix

“But she never lost her head, even when she was giving head.
She said hey babe… take a walk on the wild side.”
- Lou Reed

“Ahh Who the f**k are you?”
- The Who

During the 1984 presidential election campaign, Republican Ronald Reagan contacted Bruce Springsteen about possibly using “Born In The USA” as a campaign theme song. Springsteen, a well-known liberal, said no. One has to wonder why Reagan’s people would ask about using a song that is sung from the point of view of a returning Vietnam veteran who is clearly bitter and angry toward the disappearing American dream.

“Born down in a dead man’s town. The first kick I took is when I hit the ground.
You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, ’til you spend half your life trying to cover it up.”

Music is magic. All Bruce Springsteen had to do was scream “Born in the USA” at the top of his lungs and those who wanted to hear a pro-American anthem heard it. The bitter undertones were heard, but hidden. The lyrics embedded themselves in the mind of the listener but never revealed their motives. That’s music at work.

Today a lot of people will be singing love songs to each other. For rock star brands, any song that gives you a secret entrance into your customer’s psyche is a love song.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I only publish once or twice a week on average and will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

Bruce Springsteen, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Ronald Reagan, The Who 193 Comments

Marley and Me

Six days ago we landed in beautiful Jamaica, prepared for a week of relaxing under the sweet Caribbean sun.

The first part of February is a great time to be in Jamaica. Bob Marley, the man who became reggae music’s first ambassador, was born on February 6 in the tiny mountain town of Nine Mile. His birthday remains a day of celebration in Jamaica.

The reach of the Bob Marley brand is immense. His likeness graces nearly every possible product. His music is heard everywhere. But what I love about the Bob Marley story is how focused he was.

Bob Marley was all about reggae music and the Rastafarian lifestyle. He never wavered musically. He never compromised his music for money. Bob Marley sang his brand reggae music, and if you didn’t like it you weren’t going to like Bob Marley. Plain and simple.
His dedication to Rastafarianism is, in part, what killed him. His religion forbid him from accepting the foot amputation that might have removed the cancer from his body.

Bob Marley’s intense focus helped make him into a globally-recognized brand. Today that brand continues to generate tens of millions of dollars in revenue every year from merchandise sold in stores like the Tuff Gong Trading store in Montego Bay’s airport.

- Posted from the beach in Jamaica using BlogPress from my iPhone and resort wifi. I love technology.

Location:Negril, Jamaica

Uncategorized 171 Comments