The Unintended Consequences


10% of your success in life, and in business, is because of smart planning.

The remaining 90% of your success is because of how you handled the stuff you didn’t see coming.

Take Harry Burnett Reese for example. He was a salesman, butcher, and farmer. It took that many jobs to feed his growing family of sixteen children! It was 1917 when Harry took up a job on a dairy farm in Pennslyvania. The farm was owned by the Hershey company, makers of so many chocolate goodies. Inspired by his employer, Harry began fooling around at home making candies for his kids, who all loved his candies. Eventually Harry left the dairy farm and turned to selling candy full-time.

During the Great Depression, Harry’s candies sold well at a price of just a penny each. He had marvelous visions of building a candy empire. But then World War II got in his way. Because of a shortage of supplies, Harry was forced to scale back his candy dreams. He could only afford to make one thing, “penny cups”, small chocolate cups that Harry filled with delicious peanut butter.

Harry Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups caught on, and eventually Harry sold his little company back to his original employer, Hersheys.

Unintended consequences of taking a job on a farm owned by candy company.

Unintended consequences of a vicious war that ruined a dream and forced him to focus on just one product.

Empires are built on unintended consequences.

A boy named Paul goes to a church tea on Sunday afternoon and sees a skiffle band playing. He introduces himself to John, the band’s leader, and the greatest rock and roll band the world has ever known in born.

Ted Templeman leaves the tape rolling while Eddie Van Halen fools around, and records one of the greatest rock ‘n roll guitar solos of all-time. They name the instrumental piece “Eruption”.

Mick Fleetwood invites Lindsey Buckingham to join Fleetwood Mac, but Lindsey says no… not unless his girlfriend Stevie Nicks can join too. The result is Rumours, one of the rock era’s most enduring albums.

The best things come from unintended consequences, but only if your mind and muse are open to the possibilities. Prepare for the unexpected. There is no dress rehearsal for life.

Today you’ll walk out the door into a world just waiting to present you with amazing opportunities.

What gift will you take from your collision with unintended consequences?

Order Brand Like A Rock Star now on Amazon, paperback or Kindle. If you’re uncertain, download Chapter One free before you buy. And to get the full experience, don’t forget to grab the #1 free marketing book in the Kindle store, Brand Like A Rock Star: The Musical Companion. It is a full ebook that takes you deeper into the bands profiled in the book.

This post was inspired by a favorite blog that I read, completely disconnected from branding and music, called Flight Level 390. As an aviation geek, I find Captain Dave’s posts riveting. However, they seldom apply to what I write about. This post is different. It is about unintended consequences, and although it centers on aviator Charles Lindbergh, it inspired thoughts about how there are incredible things waiting to happen for brands and bands who are open to the possibilities. Thank you Captain.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I will never share your contact info.

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What Price Says About Your Brand

On Monday Lady Gaga fans overwhelmed Amazon as they clamored to download her entire new album for just 99 cents. Fans were frustrated because many of them couldn’t download all 14 tracks. Others suffered through painfully slow download speeds as the system crashed.

While it is wonderful to see such enthusiasm for actually buying music, this stunt exposes a problem all businesses face.

What is your product really worth?

Price isn’t just a number. It isn’t just your profit margin.

Price is a critical part of your story.

Price tells your customers what your product should be worth. If you insist on a higher price, you create the perception of higher quality and higher demand. Lower your price, and you lower the perception of quality and demand. We naturally think that less expensive products are not as good, even though that isn’t always true.

Rolex wouldn’t be a Rolex if it cost $500.

Walmart wouldn’t be Walmart if it didn’t offer astonishingly cheap products.

There is a yoga studio that my wife and I go to quite often. They charge $10 per class, which seemed reasonable to me until this morning, when I purchased 5 classes for $29 on Groupon.  Now my perception is that a yoga class there shouldn’t be more than $6… not the $10 I was paying last week. What are the odds I’m ever paying full price in the future?

Lady Gaga has sent the message that her album is only worth 99 cents. And if you’re only stealing something worth 99 cents, you might as well download it illegally for free. That’s not a message that helps her or her industry.

I’m pretty certain you won’t crash any servers if you pre-order Brand Like A Rock Star now at Amazon.  And it will cost you $14.95, no matter what Lady Gaga is charging.

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 will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

Photo: Cover of Born This Way by Lady Gaga on Interscope/Universal

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Gene Simmons: You’ve Got To Stand For Something

Say what you like about Gene Simmons, but there’s no doubt the guy is a marketing genius.

He helped turn New York bar band Wicked Lester into worldwide sensation KISS. No band has used marketing and branding to their advantage like KISS has, putting their name and image on nearly every imaginable product, from coffins to condoms and coffee shops.

This week Gene Simmons got people’s attention again when he claimed that President Obamadoesn’t have a clue” what the world is like when it comes to Obama’s stance on Israel and middle east peace. Simmons, born Chaim Witz in Israel in 1949, told CNBC “President Obama means well – I think he actually is a good guy, He has no *expletive* idea of what the world is like because he does not have to live there.”

Some are vilifying Simmons for his comments. Many are praising him.

But everybody is paying attention. Everybody is hearing about Gene Simmons.

Strong brands stand for something. They say powerful things that get your attention. They accept that some people won’t like them because of what they have to say.

Marmite acknowledges it right on their website, where they offer you a place to click if you hate Marmite.

Canadian cough syrup Buckley’s Mixture does the same thing, saying “It tastes awful, but it works” in their marketing message.

What are you willing to say that will get people’s attention?

You don’t necessarily need to take a stand on Israel and middle eastern peace, but remember the words of John Mellencamp: “You’ve gotta stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything”.

In the interest of full disclosure, Gene Simmons wrote the following endorsement for Brand Like A Rock Star: “Steve Jones knows a thing or two. Pay attention, and take notes.”

Likewise, Mr. Simmons.

Remember, you can preorder Brand Like A Rock Star now at Amazon.

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 will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

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Weekend Brand Brief: May 21, 2011 – You Don’t Matter

You don’t matter.

Not one bit.

How is that for an unpleasant and frightening thought to chew on this weekend?

Your convenient locations don’t matter.

Your great people don’t matter.

Your long hours don’t matter.

Even your great selection, quality service, and low low prices don’t matter.

None of it matters until you make it matter to your customer.

Yet 90% of all marketing – TV, radio, newspaper, web, and direct – fails to make it matter.

That’s because all of it matters to business owners, and it should seeing as they are so close to their businesses. But when that crap ends up in your marketing message without positioning it from your customer’s point of view, you are simply spamming people with useless information and they will, without doubt, tune your message out.

Stop! Present your message from the customer’s point of view. What emotional need are satsified when they buy from you?  Speak to that. Speak to your customer’s life in their own words. Speak to things they care about.

You might not matter now, but you can make yourself matter… and you can stop wasting your marketing money.

If you love marketing and music, and want to use both to build a more powerful business, you need to pre-order Brand Like A Rock Star now at Amazon.

Please consider subscribing to Brand Like A Rock Star by email. I only will never share your contact info. You can also subscribe by RSS feed using the button on the upper right portion of the page.

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First Albums and Fake Friends

Remember the first album you ever bought?

For me, that album was Glass Houses by Billy Joel. It was 1980 and I was 10 years old. My friend had a copy and I loved every song on it. I just HAD to have it.

Did you buy that magical first album (or any album for that matter) because the band asked you to?

Of course not. You bought it because the band gave you a reason to… they recorded a great album you wanted to own.

Apply that to social media.

Today I received an e-mail that said  “Like us on Facebook and win”. Later in the day I walked into a store and on the door was a sign that said “Like us on Facebook”.

That’s like Billy Joel asking me to buy his album. It is like walking into a party and having someone say “Be my friend and I’ll buy you a drink”. In a word, it is pathetic.

People don’t become (real) friends with you on Facebook because you ask them to. They become real friends with you on Facebook because you are interesting, engaging, intruiging, and valuable to be friends with. They want to be your friend for the same reason I wanted that Billy Joel album. There was a reason to.

What fools most marketers about social media is that gimmicks and contests appear to work. Friend counts spike when companies offer “Like us and win a prize” contests. Twitter followers grow when you use automated systems that follow hundreds of random people who mostly follow you back.

So you need to ask yourself this question: do you want to have a lot of so-called friends who don’t actually care about you, or do you want to have a smaller number of friends who sought you out because you enrich their life?

That’s an easy question for any rock star brand.

What was the first album (or cassette or CD) you ever owned? Why did you buy it? What inspired you to become friends with the band?

PRE-ORDER Brand Like A Rock Star now at!

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please 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.

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Lenny Kravitz and Jeep: Building Brand Alliances

Chrysler’s “Imported From Detroit” used Eminem. Now brother-brand Jeep is co-branding with a rock star, turning their latest ads for the Jeep Wrangler into a promotion for the new Lenny Kravitz album due out in August.

While the creative behind the Jeep/Kravitz campaign isn’t quiet as stirring as the Chrysler ads, it is a perfect match between brand and band.

Lenny is a self-proclaimed Jeep addict, having driven the same Wrangler for 16 years. He believes in the brand. And like Jeep, his music is gritty and uncompromising yet carries a certain sense of refinement.

Opportunities for partnerships like this are everywhere, and they don’t need to involve worldwide brands and big-league rock stars. It could be a simple partnership between an aspiring singer-songwriter and a new  neighborhood coffee shop. It could be a taxi company teaming up with a popular nightclub. It could be a local restaurant cooperating with a nearby movie theater.

Watch out though. Martin Lindstrom wrote a great book a few years ago called BRAND Sense in which he claimed that 90% of brand partnerships fail. Why? Over half of them fail for three main reasons:

1. There isn’t equal value for each partner. One partner has more to gain (or lose) than the other, or one partner is putting more on the line than the other.

2. Brand values don’t match. While it is true that more and more women are buying motorbikes, Harley-Davidson should probably avoid doing a partnership with Victoria’s Secret. The brand values don’t match.

3. The strategy is unclear to the customer. The most important person in the partnership is the one with nothing invested in it… the customer. If they don’t get it, the partnership failed.

Explore opportunities to create partnerships that benefit your brand, but keep those three points from Martin Lindstrom in mind.

Barry Silverstein at BrandChannel wrote a solid piece on brand partnerships that you might find useful.

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.

Chrysler, Eminem, Jeep, Lenny Kravitz, Martin Lindstrom 151 Comments

Weekend Brand Brief: May 14, 2011 – Putting Your Marketing In Context

Last night before the 9:45 showing of “Bridesmaids“, my wife and I sat through the endless string of advertising that precedes the endless stream of trailers. After one of the commercials played, I saw marketing magic at work. I watched people instantly react to advertising.

It was an ad for a mobile phone company that promoted their new line of Blackberry devices and ended with a display of a cool feature that could be immediately put to use… the silent function. Around me people reached for their phones and put them on “vibrate”.

It was incredible to see the immediacy at work. People responded to the ad, and in doing so they were forced to evaluate their own mobile phone. Was it as cool as the one they had just seen advertised? Did it have all of those valuable features?  Shouldn’t they think about upgrading?

Context is absolutely vital when planning your marketing.

Four Questions To Help Contextualize Your Marketing Message

1. What will your customer be doing when they see/hear/absorb your ad? Are you creating a billboard designed to reach a commuter on the freeway or a Facebook ad for someone looking up high school friends? Very different ads.

2. Who will your customer be with when they see/hear it? Are they alone to comtemplate the message or surrounded by friends to discuss it?

3. How far away from taking action will they be? Is it an immediate click or a long drive to your store?

4. What do you want them to do? Are you looking for a click-through or are you looking to be top-of-mind in six months when they need a new big-ticket item?

PS - ”Context” is why you don’t include your phone number in your radio ads, unless your have a mnemonic phone number like 555-FAST. After all, most of your listeners are either driving or doing other things while listening to the radio. They’ll never remember your phone number. In context of a radio commercial, phone numbers are almost always a waste of time.

PPS – Great movie, by the way.

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please 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.

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Apple Is The New Grateful Dead


UPDATE: this post originally came out in May 2011, when Apple became the world’s most valuable brand. I updated it this week as Apple stock closed at new record heights and anticipation grew for the iPhone 5 release.

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This week Apple was named the most valuable brand in the world, overtaking Google for the honor.

Is Apple the new Grateful Dead? While the Dead never became nearly as mainstream and financially valuable as Apple is today, the tech brand and jam band share some common traits. Consider these five pieces of evidence:

Rule Breakers

Apple broke the rules repeatedly. They did unorthodox things that other companies were afraid to do, essentially inventing the tablet computer and singlehandedly revolutionized the smart phone.

The Grateful Dead broke all the rules too. They did very unorthodox things, like advocating the taping and sharing their concerts – essentially file sharing a generation before Napster - and creating the concept of the jam-band, free from the constraints of a set list.

Fan Makers

Apple has a long history of building passionate advocates for it’s products, and letting those passionate fans sell their friends and family on Apple products. New Apple devotees are created every day.

Many of us were introduced to The Grateful Dead through an older brother or a high school friend. The Dead were a club, and once you became a member you saw it as your duty to share the tribe with the right type of people.

Visual Cues

Apple created visual cues to let others know you are “in” the tribe. The iconic glowing Apple logo on the back of the Mac is a perfect example. The sleek and distinct look of the iPad is one. The crazy iMac colors of the late 90s were another. When you see one of those visual cues, you know you are among your tribe.

The Grateful Dead did the same. The “Steal your face” logo first appeared in 1969. Other famous Dead visuals include the dancing bears, terrapins, skull and roses, and the jester. When you see “a Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac”, you know you are among friends.

Ever Evolving

With each product release, Apple raises the bar. Each new iPhone and iPad innovates and sets a new standard. Product releases are highly anticipated events that get tremendous pre-release hype.

The Grateful Dead did the same. The band was never satisfied with their sound system, always improving it and building their legendary “wall of sound”. They worked with Alembic Inc. to research acoustics and create the best sound systems to deliver a superior product to their fans.

Legendary Leadership

Beyond Steve Jobs, Apple was always a great company full of creative people, but there is no doubt that Jobs provided leadership like no other. Their decade without him in the late 80s and early 90s is considered Apple’s darkest days. Upon his return in 1997, the company embarked on an incredible period of creativity that gave us the iPod, iPhone, and iPad. People often wonder what the Apple of the future will look like without him.

While The Grateful Dead was always a band that extended far beyond the leadership of Jerry Garcia, the band did not even attempt to continue after Garcia’s death. Garcia never saw himself as the band’s leader. They always tried to be a group of equals. But when Garcia died, the band was finished. Various members have continued as The Other Ones, The Dead, Further, Phil Lesh and Friends, Bob Weir and Rat Dog, and the Rhythm Devils.

The book Brand Like A Rock Star is on sale now.

And don’t forget to download the “Musical Compaion” to the book for just 99cents in the Amazon Kindle store. It is a media guide to help you navigate the careers of the various bands discussed in the book.

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Bottom Up Branding


Your impression of a band can often come down to their latest song. If you love it, you will often seek out other songs by the same band. If you hate it, you might not even give their next song a chance, no matter how much marketing money the record label puts into promoting them!

Later today I will do something that I do nearly every week… I will board an airplane. Despite the millions of dollars the airline has poured into pounding their brand into me, my impression of them will largely depend on what happens on that flight. The personal interactions I have with the gate agents and flight attendants will have a greater impact on me than anything else.

The Old Way: Top Down Branding

We often build brands top-down. We decide at a corporate level what our brand will be, and we share that brand vision to the world through marketing. But that method is broken.

The New Way: Bottom Up Branding

Rock star brands work bottom-up. They realize that lasting impressions are formed on the front lines, at the customer service level, and not in board rooms.

Five Ways Bottom Up Brands Are Different

1. They talk to customer service people. They step into their shoes and interact with customers.

2. They understand that customer impressions are reality. If customers think something about you, it is real. And it is incredibly tough to change those impressions.

3. They create marketing that reflects the reality of the customer service experience. The customer’s expectations should be met or exceeded at all times.

4. They make sure everyone on the team passionately lives and breathes the brand and it’s values. From the board room suits to the person answering the phones… everyone needs to get it.

5. They monitor what is being said about them. They take part in discussions about their brand on-line and use the opportunity to create stronger bonds with their customers.

For more lessons from rock and roll that can make your business famous, pre-order Brand Like A Rock Star now at a ridiculously low pre-order price from Amazon. I need to look into why they are selling it at $10.17 when the list price is supposed to be $14.95!

If you enjoyed this post and are passionate about music and business, please 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.

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Your Lead Singer: Giving Your Brand Human Qualities

Legendary bands have legendary lead singers. Mick Jagger. Steven Tyler. Bono.

Great brands need to have legendary lead singers too. They need a face. They need humanity. People form powerful bonds with other people, not faceless companies. Therefore, brands that have a strong human element connect with us on a deeper level.

Apple gave the Mac a human touch in their Mac vs. PC ads.

Chrysler gave their brand Rocky-like human qualities through their “Imported From Detroit” campaign.

And perhaps most obviously, Old Spice took on a human form in Isaiah Mustafa as “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”.

Are you giving your brand a human element for people to connect with and embrace? Or are you asking your customers to feel human emotions (love, respect, devotion) toward an inanimate object (your company)? Let me know how that goes for you.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Apple, bono, Chrysler, Mick Jagger, Old Spice, Steven Tyler 1,325 Comments