The Weekend Brand Brief – April 30, 2011: Rebranding Japan

In the background, HLN played on the hotel room TV. I was only paying passing attention while working on a project. Then a commercial came on that captured my attention. It was a message from the people of Japan, thanking us for supporting them in their time of need. 

A massive earthquake and tsunami is hardly an opportunity for traditional branding, but I think what Japan is doing in this case is brilliant. The message is a simple “thank you”, but the visual paints a portrait of a beautiful country with warm, gracious people. The visuals are not scenes of devastation but rather inspiration. These commercials not only said “thank you” as intended, but they also subtly started to rebuild Japan’s image as a tourism and business destination.

A brand isn’t built just your commercials or your slogan or your logo. A brand is built on how you carry yourself. It is the result of everything you say and do.

This commercial sends a powerful message about Japanese qualities: Gratitude. Respect. Honor. Debt. Responsibility. Strength. Resilience.

Like a person’s character, maybe a brand’s character is best measured in troubled times. How your brand handles itself when it’s down say a lot.

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Japan 137 Comments

A Bloody and Brilliant Brand

This weekend the UFC will make it’s debut in Toronto. Despite being Canada’s largest city and one of the five biggest metro areas in North America, mixed martial arts hasn’t appeared in Toronto because, until recently, the government refused to sanction the extreme fighting matches.

They aren’t the only ones. UFC fights are effectively banned in several cities an states in the US, and Senator John McCain has called for an outright ban on the sport.

In a recent on-line survey at, consumers identified UFC as one of their most hated brands. UFC was slightly ahead of enviro-killers BP and the big cigarette companies.

Despite the government bans and consumer distaste, UFC has become one of the fastest-growing sports in North America.

How is that possible?

Because UFC is wise enough to know that in order to be embraced by their fans, they will inherently be hated by their detractors. They stand for something, and it is something that many people find outright offensive. But others, and millions of them, find UFC fights compelling viewing.

With over 300 million people in the USA, only a very small percentage needs to embrace extreme cage fighting for it to become exceptionally popular.

That means not only does UFC not need most people to embrace it, but it means they actually benefit from the anti-UFC sentiment because it fuels publicity and helps define their brand.

Ozzy was rumored to have bitten the head of a live bat.

The Beatles claimed to be more popular than Jesus.

Zeppelin trashed hotel rooms.

In each case, their behavior created passionate outbursts against their music. And that very negativity further defined their brands and grew their legends.

The point is simple: one of the first (and most important) steps toward building a rock star brand is embracing the fact that some people won’t like you. In fact, if nobody seems to dislike you, it is a good sign that your brand is poorly defined. You’ve got work to do!

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Uncategorized 125 Comments

Finding Passion in Your Marketing Message

A video post today about a common (and deadly) marketing mistake.

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U2 198 Comments

We Want To Hear Your Story

If American Idol wasn’t enough to prove that we all love a great story, check out The Voice coming to NBC this week.  It is the latest music-reality starmaker program. And come September, North America will see Simon Cowell’s X Factor for the first time. Music is a great foundation to tell a dramatic story.

Since human beings came to exist, we’ve loved stories. We carved them on cave walls. Then we sang them and told them as fables and legends. We turned them into songs. As technology advanced we created books, magazines, TV shows, and movies. Stories, all of them.

Great brands have compelling stories with engaging lead characters and dramatic twists and turns. Mark Zuckerberg’s first twenty years became dramatized in The Social Network last year. In that case, reality was equally as enticing as the fiction it inspired.

Great stories exist in business, and smart brands tell them.  Chrysler’s recent “Imported From Detroit” commercials wonderfully tell the story of hard times and a rise from the ashes.  Dos Equis brilliantly tells the ongoing story of “The Most Interesting Man In The World”.

Are you telling a story, or just selling your stuff? The secret is that if we buy into your story, there’s a good chance we’ll buy whatever you are selling as well.

By the way, you can follow my story on Twitter at  I never tweet about what I had for breakfast, but I do zealously tweet about branding, marketing, advertising, and building better businesses.

And if you enjoyed this post, then you owe it to yourself to at least consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

American Idol, Chrysler, Dos Equis, Mark Zuckerberg, Simon Cowell, The Social Network, The Voice, X Factor 148 Comments

You Aren’t As Different As You Think You Are

You think your business or product is really unique, but it isn’t. We are all too close to our brands to realize just how similar we all are to each other.

To the average consumer walking the grocery store aisle, all those boxes of breakfast cereal look pretty much the same. You might think your organic flax-infused cereal stands out, but it probably doesn’t jump out from the crowd nearly as much as you think it does.

The only brands that stand out are the ones that are the clear cut category leader and the brands that are meanginfully different. The really cool thing is, if you create something meaningfully different, you create your own product category. Proof? Southwest Airlines created the low-cost airline category and turning that niche into American aviation domination. Subway turned the submarine sandwich category into the largest single-brand restaurant chain in the world with 34,187 locations.

When you become different in a big way, people have no choice but to notice you.

Elvis did it. KISS did it. The Village People did it. Lady Gaga is doing it. Hell, even the painfully bad Rebecca Black did it a few weeks ago.

Do something other brands don’t do. Offer something nobody else is offering. Say something nobody else is saying.

Only then will you get noticed. And getting noticed, in today’s world, is most of the battle. If you have a great product and you can get noticed, you’ve got it made.

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Elvis Presley, KISS, Lady GaGa, Rebecca Black, Southwest Airlines, Village People 219 Comments

Brand Like A Rock Star Book Review – Come Together: The Business Wisdom of The Beatles

Book reviews aren’t really my thing. You visit here for inspiration on branding and marketing, not reviews of business books. But every now and then a cool book comes along that is rooted in our shared love of business and rock ‘n roll.

I think the last book I reviewed was the very strong Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan.

The latest is Come Together: The Business Wisdom of The Beatles by Richard Courtney and George Cassidy (Turner Publishing). This new book explores the business acumen of The Beatles and shares it in bite-sized chunks. Each of the short 100 chapters delves into a different aspect of the band and their music, and how it can relate to business today.

The read is a fun chronological ride through The Beatles extraordinary career and does a nice job of both telling the story of the band, and sharing the business lessons derived from it.

For deep fans not much of the information is new, but the perspective of how it relates to modern day business is entirely fresh.

I enjoy the casual tone and obvious passion of the writers. These guys love The Beatles. Business wisdom is found in the actions, and sometimes inactions, of the band, as well as in songs and lyrics and anecdotes. Sometimes the business wisdom is sometimes very theoretical and other times very much immediately applicable.

As noted earlier, I definitely like how the book is chronological, allowing me to absorb the band’s story as well as the business wisdom. It made the book part history lesson and part business lesson. My only minor complaint is that the book would have benefited from more real-life examples from business in which these Beatles lessons were applied successfully. While the lessons themselves are great, often evidence that they can be successfully deployed is missing. It feels like the dots could have been connected in this regard.

No question that this book is a definite must-read for any Beatles fan, or for that matter any music fan in general. It is a fun book that gives you a new appreciation for the business side of The Beatles.

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David Meerman Scott, Grateful Dead, The Beatles 148 Comments

The Weekend Branding Brief: April 23, 2011 – The "Remark" In Remarkable

When I see someone with a Parrothead tattoo or sticker on their car, conversations instantly begin. We are immediate friends, and in no time we are sharing stories of our favorite Jimmy Buffett songs and concerts.

A few years ago, when I traded in my Jeep Patriot for a “real” Jeep Wrangler, I noticed that nearly every other Jeep Wrangler driver that passed me gave me a friendly wave. I was part of a tribe, and other Wrangler owners were happy to share stories about their favorite truck.

Last night on a late night flight home from a business meeting, I sat next to a fellow iPad owner. Despite two tired travelers, it didn’t take long before a conversation struck up and we were talking about our iPads and trading advice on what apps were the best ones to get.

When a product is remarkable, it sells itself. Evangelists are born. Word spreads quickly.

Brands that make average products spend millions every year to try and get “word of mouth”. Meanwhile, brands that are remarkable don’t need to buy their way into buzz. They earn it, simply by being remarkable, and it is our pleasure to tell our friends about them.

Go be remarkable. Be remarkable in your product, in your customer service, and in your social interaction. Go.

Thanks for reading and following. I’m on Twitter at You can also find the Brand Like A Rock Star group on Facebook.

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Uncategorized 142 Comments

Building Evolution Into Your Brand’s DNA

The opening chapter of Brand Like A Rock Star (coming October 2011 on Greenleaf Book Group Press) is focused on the inspiring brand consistency of legendary hard rock band AC/DC. For nearly forty years they have had amazing focus, never singing about the social injustice in the third world or the pain of love lost. For four decades, they’ve been singularly singing about drinkin’, partyin’, womanizin’, drivin’, and of course, rockin’. In fact, through their sixteen studio albums they have managed to work the word “rock” into the title of twenty different songs. Talk about stating your brand promise in an obvious way!

If brands should aspire to be consistent, how do you explain The Beatles? In six years they went from mop-tops, matching suits and songs like “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” to out of control long hair, hippie clothes, and scathing songs like “Revolution”. They experimented with some very bizarre sounds along the way, and took some very unusual detours.

The Beatles built evolution into their brand’s DNA. With every new album, they broke new ground with sounds and recording techniques. Their fans awaited each new release in part because of the unexpected new sounds they would create. For The Beatles, always evolving was itself a consistent part of their brand. In that respect, they were every bit as consistent as AC/DC.

Apple has built that same expectation into their brand. New product releases, like the one for the iPad2 upon which I write this, are highly anticipated events because customers expect constant evolution. It is consistent for Apple to always be evolving.

Corn Flakes are a different story. Lovers of Corn Flakes are not opening each box hoping to be dazzled by the next leap forward in breakfast cereal. They are looking forward to the same taste as yesterday… the same taste from childhood.

Coke is in that same boat, having learned the hard way what their fans expect with the infamous New Coke launch. “Change” wasn’t part of the brand promise. “Tried and true” definitely is.

In branding, consistency is paramount. But being consistent doesn’t mean standing still. Consistency means being true to the expectations of your customers at all times, without fail, no matter what that expectation might be.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Uncategorized 134 Comments

Repurposing Your Content

This guitar will soon look dramatically different. My wife, a very talented artist, is going to mosaic it in glass and turn it from instrument into artwork. I’ll post a picture when it is complete.

When they made this guitar, they probably didn’t picture my wife grouting shards of colored glass to it.

The point is, sometimes your customer uses your product in ways you didn’t consider.

For example, why did Dish Network buy bankrupt Blockbuster Video. Not for video rentals. More likely, they are after their client list (for marketing purposes), the rights to stream video to mobile phones (which Netflix lacks), and a quick entry point into the movie streaming business.

Viagra was supposed to treat hypertension, until the clincal trials found a rather unexpected and pleasant side effect. I don’t know anyone taking Viagra for hypertension, although I’m pretty sure most regular users aren’t particularly stressed out.

Today I was snacking on some pita chips, when I realized that the pita bread company had brilliantly repurposed their broken or damaged pitas by toasting and seasoning them, then crushing them into “chips”. How many millions of dollars have they made by repurposing their scraps?

When you stop and examine how your customers use their product, you might find entirely new ways to market and promote your brand.

If you’d like to connect on Twitter, I’m at And if you enjoyed this post please immediately do two things. First, share it with your friends. Second, start subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

(Photograph by Steve Jones)

blockbuster, dish network, guitar, netflix, pita chips, viagra 121 Comments

Hearts Over Heads: How Customers Make Buying Decisions

Music appeals to the heart, not the mind. We don’t love Eric Clapton or Stevie Wonder or U2 or James Taylor because it makes logical sense to. We love them because they touch some nerve inside of us and connect with us.
In that respect, brands are exactly like bands. You might think you love a certain brand because of logic and reasoning, but in reality all of us make most purchasing decisions based on our hearts.
If we made purchasing decisions based on our heads, we would all buy pretty much the same thing… the logical choice. The best product. Instead, we buy things that connect with our hearts and speak to us in some powerful and emotional way. There’s no logic to buying a gas-guzzler, a $10,000 Rolex, and stainless-steel appliances, is there? We use our head to justify the decision, but the decision is made by the heart.

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Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Stevie Wonder, U2, video blog 1,050 Comments