Chipotle, Willie, And The Five Keys To Effective Cause Marketing

Download or purchase the book being called “THE marketing book of the year” here. Then download the free musical guide to the book here. You’ll have plenty of rock ‘n roll reading to help grow your business!

When the delicate art of cause marketing works, it is wonderfully powerful.

Take the new initiative that Chipotle restaurants has embarked on. Chipotle has always been about “food with integrity”, supporting local growers and ranchers and purchasing organic and naturally grown crops and meats.

To demonstrate their commitment to this cause, they commissioned a short film by filmmaker Johnny Kelly that depicts a farmer who grows weary of the industrial menace his family farm has become, and takes his farm back to it’s roots, to a more sustainable future.

They invited Willie Nelson to sing the theme song. But not just any song. Willie sings the haunting Coldplay song “The Scientist”, with a chorus that reminds us ”nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard… I’m going back to the start”.

The combined impact of this little movie and its understated score is massive.

This is cause marketing at its best, and here are five key reasons why:

1. A relevant brand. Chipotle has held sustainable farming close to it’s heart from the very beginning. Nobody doubts their dedication to the cause. This didn’t come out of left field. How many times have you seen a company jump on board the cause-of-the-day and wondered why they are really getting involved?

2. The partnerships make sense. Willie Nelson is a perfect choice, with his outlaw country roots. And the Coldplay song is ideal, with a haunting chorus that will stick in your head for hours.

3.  It doesn’t preach. The film conveys the simple and powerful message that a sustainable future isn’t easy, but it is vitally important and worthwhile. Nobody appreciates being preached to or spoken down to.

4. Nothing is being sold. In fact, the only connection to Chipotle is at the end, when the farmer loads product onto a Chipotle delivery truck and drives away. Cause marketing fails when it tries to sell product, and it nearly always tries – in some way – to sell.

5. Total transparency. All proceeds from the song and film (available now on iTunes), go towards the Chipotle Cultivate Foundation. Not a “percentage of the profits”, but all proceeds. When cause marketing campaigns are vague about where the money is going, we all get suspicious. Cause marketing must be transparent to be accepted as sincere.



cause marketing, Chipotle, Uncategorized, Willie Nelson 333 Comments

The Indestructible Brand


First things first: the book Brand Like A Rock Star is now available online. No more waiting. You can order it right here as a paperback or Kindle version. It starts appearing in stores on Saturday. Now on with the fun…

Jay emailed me this week asking “Is Pan Am an indestructible brand?”

After the debut of the new TV show Pan Am you might wonder if it isn’t indestructible!

Despite four financial collapses, bankruptcy, terrorist attacks, crashes, and perpetual abuse of the name since its glory days faded in the 1970s, it still carries tremendous allure.

Every young boy (and even some girls!) growing up in the 1960s wanted to be the Captain of a Pan Am jet.  For a 60s girl, it was a dream job to be a Pan Am stewardess. Flying was romantic and exciting, and Pan Am stood for all that was great about the era.

Pan Am didn’t just fly airplanes. They flew Clippers. They didn’t have a terminal building at JFK Airport in New York, they had a Worldport.

Today the functioning Pan Am brand clings to life as a railway in New England. Yet the brand’s cache makes owning the name profitable. Licensing of the logo on merchandise, in movies, on clothing, and in TV shows, makes owning the name worthwhile, even though it no longer functions as an airline. Pan Am exists primarily as a trademark today!

But to answer Jay’s question, I don’t think the brand is actually indestructible. Great brands have a purpose, and that is to make money for shareholders. Pan Am failed in that regard, and hasn’t flown since December 3, 1991 when Pan Am Flight 436 landed in Miami. If you fail at your primary business objective, you fail the brand test. You are destructible.

But what is really cool about Pan Am, as Jay pointed out, is the incredible power of what the brand stands for to this day:

Romance | Exploration | Adventure | Intrigue | Destiny | Luxury | Excellence | Freedom | Escape

When you stand for things like that, you can build a powerful magnet with your brand. Despite Pan Am’s disappearance as an airline, we still associate all of those wonderful images with the name. If you stand for emotionally powerful ideals like that, we will remember you forever.

On the other hand, if you stand for “low prices”, we will only remember you until a lower price comes along.

Rock stars use the power of emotion to draw us in. You never forget how Pete Townshend smashed his guitar on stage night after night in the name of rebellion. You never forget how John and Yoko’s stayed in bed for peace. You never forget the lyrics of the Bob Seger song that was playing on the car radio while you were in the back seat growing up too fast. Powerful emotional ideals indeed. 

The lesson of Pan Am is to stand for powerful emotional ideals, not empty advertising cliches. You may never build an indestructible brand, but you might just come close.

By the way, remember what was in the background when The Beatles landed at JFK in 1964?







John Lennon, Pan Am, The Beatles, The Who, Uncategorized 154 Comments

The Brand Goes Back To Their Roots


It is a phrase you hear variations of all the time from bands.

“We’re going back to our roots.”

Even mega-stars U2, after their strange musical wanderings of the 1990s, publicly proclaimed their mission to “reapply for the job as the best band in the world.”

When a band’s creative instincts take them away from their fans’ expectations, quite often they wise up and “go back” to find future succes.

The same thing happens in business. For example, Wendy’s is about to nationally roll-out their new Dave’s Hot ’N Juicy Cheeseburger after a few months in test markets. The burger is an attempt to reach back into the past, reviving the memory of founder Dave Thomas and taking customers back to the days when expecting a hot and juicy hamburger (instead of a dry and thin patty) wasn’t all that unreasonable.

Having not tried the new burger, I can’t say if they’ve accomplished that mission.  But I do like the direction.

Faced with upstarts like Five Guys, the award winning Virginia-based burger chain that is growing rapidly across North America, restaurants like Wendy’s are under pressure to provide a higher level of quality in their fast food.

What impresses me about Wendy’s new initiative is that they are recognizing what customers expect from them and attempting to deliver exactly that. Instead of trying to sell pizzas (like  McDonalds in the 80s) or spending their marketing money on salads (as KFC did a decade ago), Wendy’s is investing nearly $25,000 per store to accommodate a new burger that embodies all that is great about a fast food burger. It will be thick, juicy, messy, and probably immeasurably unhealthy. That’s okay, because it lives up to customer expectations.

There are certain branding truths, and one of them is the futility of trying to change minds. Customers have expectations. Those expectations are pieces of valuable mental real estate. Trying to change those expectations is nearly impossible. When you own some of that real estate, your best option is to embrace the expectations of your customers and turn them into your own expectations as well. Resistance is generally futile.

The case of U2 and the concept of living up to the expectations of your fans is covered in depth in chapter two of Brand Like A Rock Star, available now online in paperback and digital ebook. It arrives at retail on October 1, 2011.

Don’t forget to grab a copy of the Musical Companion as well, a chapter-by-chapter playlist guide to getting to know the bands discussed in the book.

The World Release Event featuring an all-star branding panel is at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on Friday, October 7 at 4pm. Tickets just $28 and on sale now at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino box office.



Calgary, AB – Tuesday, September 27

Red Deer, AB – Wednesday, September 28 (am)

Drumheller, AB – Wednesday, September 28 (pm)

Edmonton, AB – Thursday, September 29


Five Guys, KFC, McDonalds, U2, Wendy's 1,529 Comments

R.I.P. R.E.M.


Legendary pop-alt band R.E.M. announced this week that they are calling it quits after over 30 years together.

It is tough to be critical of a band that so eloquently matured without “selling-out”. R.E.M. is one of the bands responsible for bringing alternative rock to the masses. But purely from a business perspective, the band should have quit over a decade ago.  After the incredible Automatic For The People album, things gradually went downhill. They created some great songs after 1994, but their albums lacked consistency and failed to live up to the expectations created by their decade of greatness.

In this fantastic piece in the UK’s Guardian, Dorian Lynskey summed up the band’s challenges wonderfully well. “We carry our entire back catalogue and people’s personal histories with the music with each release we put out,” Stipe told Lynskey. “It makes it harder to kind of cut through.”

Had the band broke up in the mid-1990s, they would have gone out on top. Had they ended things when drummer Bill Berry left the band in 1997, their legacy would be stellar, and nobody would question their relevance. Sadly, after fifteen years worth of mediocre material, people will need to be reminded of their greatness.

That reality isn’t lost on lead singer Michael Stipe, who joked “It’s just like me to overstay my welcome.”

Your brand has a life span. At the very least, your brand has as life cycle.

Brands that understand that and go out with grace often become nostalgia brands. We lobby for their revival. The Volkswagen Beetle is a good example. So is Led Zeppelin.

Stick around past your prime, and we forget how good you once were. Oldsmobile falls into that category. Let’s hope R.E.M. doesn’t.

The new book Brand Like A Rock Star is now available, and it is full of lessons from rock ‘n’ roll to help make your business rich and famous.

If you’d like to go deeper into the bands discussed, the “Musical Companion” is worth checking out if you have a Kindle.


Led Zeppelin, REM, Volkswagen 1,335 Comments

The Musical Companion & Some Rock Star Reviews


Brand Like A Rock Star is a business book, first and foremost. But inherently, it is also a music book.

As a good friend of mine said, it is a business book for marketing groupies.

In order to maximize your enjoyment of the musical angle of the book, I’ve written a second book. It is called Brand Like A Rock Star: The Musical Companion, and it serves as a chapter-by-chapter playlist that will give you a deeper appreciation for the bands profiled and the business lessons learned. The Musical Companion is a digital book available for just 99 cents at the Amazon Kindle store. For less than a cup of coffee, you’ll get a full book that I guarantee will increase your enjoyment of Brand Like A Rock Star. You won’t regret the 99 cent investment. The Musical Companion isn’t a tiny ebook, it is a full 100+ media guide to the book itself!

With the launch of the book just a few days away (October 1), I can’t thank you enough for believing in the concept, reading the blog updates, and sharing it with your colleagues and friends.

Now I really need your help :)

When a book gets a lot of positive early customer reviews and sells well in the first few weeks, momentum builds. And momentum is nearly unstopable. That’s where you can really help me out.  So far, reviews for the book are really good! If you’ve read the book or even just the first chapter (available right here free as a download), or you’ve read enough blog posts that you feel confident in me, please log on to Amazon and give the book (or the concept) a review that you feel is fair and honest. If “fair and honest” happens to be a 4 or 5 star review, I’m flattered and grateful. But any honest review is awesome.

If you haven’t already, please spare a Facebook “like” for the book page at And please follow updates on Twitter.

Finally, when you buy Brand Like A Rock Star, grab a screen shot of your receipt or take a picture of yourself with the book. Send it to me, and I’ll send you a personalized cover postcard as a thank you. 


Uncategorized 201 Comments

The Danger of Discounts


Think back to your teen years, when few things in life mattered more than your favorite band. When a new album would come out, you rushed out to buy it, sometimes waiting in line to get your hands on a copy. When they came to town in concert, it was the same routine.

Did price really matter? Of course not. You simply saved your pennies so you could experience the music you loved.

Even today, when tickets to see a top-tier band can run in the hundreds of dollars, those top-tier bands sell out every show. U2′s recently-completed 360 Tour was the most successful tour of all-time… with an average ticket price of $108 US. Even at that price, every date on the tour sold out. Completely. Every. Single. night.

When you are a top-tier brand, price doesn’t really matter much.

That’s why the iPad can thrive despite an onslaught of $400 tablet computers.

It is why a bottle of Glenfiddich 18 year-old ancient malt is $100 and still outsells the $50 bottles.

It explains how Starbucks can charge $4 for a coffee while Dunkin charges $1.50.

Rock star brands have it made. They never have to discount prices or bicker over nickels and dimes. Because rock star brands are all about creating value, as long as the price they charge reflects that value, customers will line up to pay it.

Unfortunately, most businesses get sucked into the price vortex.  It is sad, really. They advertise their sales and discounts, they make the terrible mistake of using Groupon, and fight to the eventual death against competitors like Walmart that can out-discount them all day long.  Customers who choose you on price alone aren’t loyal to you, they are loyal to the price tag. They’ll be gone as soon as a lower price appears, and you won’t get them back until you discount some more, cutting into your profits and margins. The price vortex sucks.

Don’t go there. If you do, your business might not escape alive.

Brand Like A Rock Star is $14.95, but that hardly matters. It is available now for immediate delivery.

Catch the “Brand Like A Rock Star” presentation in a city near you, or invite me to speak directly to your company or conference.

Join the discussion and click “like” on the Brand Like A Rock Star Facebook page.


Glenfiddich, Groupon, ipad, Starbucks, U2 208 Comments

Seven Things Your Business Can Learn From Rock Stars


They fill stadiums with screaming fans.
They make millions of dollars.
They are synonymous with excellence.

Rock stars.

The premise of the new book Brand Like A Rock Star is that business can learn a tremendous amount from the experiences of the legends of rock. The book deals with specific bands, specific brands, and provides specific advice to apply to your business in actionable ways.

But from a big picture perspective, what can the average business learn from the rock star? Why does the business/rock star relationship make sense?

Here are seven things you and your business can learn from rock stars.

1. Do what you love. If you do what you love to do, you’ll do it more passionately than anyone else. And if you do something with passion, the odds of doing it successfully go up infinitely. Rock stars love to rock. That’s why Mick Jagger is still singing. Do what you love.

2. Be larger than life. There’s no excitement in average. Nobody notices the business that looks and sounds like every other business. Foo Fighters is a stupid name, but unforgettable. Same with Red Hot Chili Peppers and Hootie & The Blowfish and Barenaked Ladies for that matter. Go the distance. Stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to be larger than life.

3. Screw being better, just be different. Bands like the Grateful Dead and KISS weren’t at what they did, they were the only bands who did what they did. If you do something totally unique, there’s nobody to compare you to. There will always be someone better than you, but there is nobody exactly like you. Celebrate that. Be different.

4. Practice really hard. The Beatles played Hamburg for months at a time perfecting their craft. Metallica played every dive bar on the west coast before they made it big. You just don’t get to the top without a lot of practice. The same applies to business. Whatever you decide to do, perfect it. Practice really hard.

5. Find a producer. Great bands had great producers, engineers, managers, and record labels. You need people like that to see your work from the outside. Business owners are like bands, they see themselves from the inside. That’s the worst view in the world. You need a George Martin, just like The Beatles did. Get outside advice. Find a producer who isn’t afraid to tell you when you suck.

6. Take it easy. Being an up-and-comer isn’t a picnic, but real rock stars get first-class flights, penthouse hotel suites, and backstage buffets. There’s plenty of down time for true rock stars. Lenny Kravitz has a place in Bahamas. Eric Clapton kicks back in Antigua. Great business leaders know when to relax and rejuvenate their spirits. Minds that relax are minds that are open to learning and growth. Find the time to take it easy now and then.

7. Work with your friends. Eric Clapton played guitar on a Phil Collins song. Mick Jagger contributed background vocals on a Carly Simon song. Johnny Cash did the lead vocals for a U2 song. When you work with friends, you not only benefit from their contribution but you also learn from them and develop new skills. Hire great people that you love to work with and let them help you shine. Avoid unhappy people who bring you down, and work with your friends instead.

Take these seven lessons from the legends of rock to heart, and watch your business rise to the top of the charts.

Brand Like A Rock Star is now available via Amazon. You can have your copy within 24 hours! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it! It arrives at retail on October 1.

I’d love to speak directly to your company or conference about building a powerful brand using the lessons learned by rock’s legends. Contact me directly for details.

Upcoming Brand Like A Rock Star events:
Tuesday, September 27 – Calgary, AB
Wednesday, September 28 – Red Deer, AB (morning)
Wednesday, September 28 – Drumheller, AB (afternoon)
Thursday, September 29 – Edmonton, AB
Friday, October 7 – Las Vegas, NV at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino – BOOK LAUNCH EVENT!

Monday, October 17 – Moncton, NB
Thursday, October 20 – Charlottetown, PEI (Chamber of Commerce Biz2Biz Expo)
Friday, November 4 – Anchorage, AK (Alaska Broadcasters Association Convention)
Wednesday, November 23 – Winnipeg, MB
Thursday, December 15 – Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Barenaked Ladies, Eric Clapton, Foo Fighters, Hootie and the Blowfish, Johnny Cash, KISS, Metallica, Mick Jagger, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Beatles, U2, Uncategorized 163 Comments

Pearl Jam: Growing Your Brand With Style

Hard to believe, but Pearl Jam is twenty.

Oscar-winner Cameron Crowe has made movie about the band to mark the milestone. It opens September 20 for a short run in selected theaters.

Pearl Jam is an interesting study in aging gracefully. They’ve continued to make great music through 20 years, always evolving their music while always maintaining their core sound.

One of the brilliant nuggets of business wisdom we can glean from Pearl Jam’s twenty years is that a brand can age and evolve successfully by growing within a consistent style.

Coke is over 100 years old, yet continues to evolve with a consistent style and feel.

Nike embodies a certain set of values, and they evolve within that value set.

McDonalds is on a multi-billion dollar renovation project to update their restaurants, but they update within the perimeters of their brand’s style.

* Strong brands are built on strong emotional connections with customers.

* Emotional connections only happen between living things. We don’t feel emotions toward inanimate objects.

* Strong brands have a distinct personality, giving them human qualities so that human beings can fall in love with them.

* Strong brands understand the personality of their company and never, ever stray from that personality.

Uncategorized 265 Comments

9/11 and Songs That Heal


Human beings are storytellers. We have painted on cave walls, carved totem poles, hired town criers, acted out plays, sang songs, watched movies, and searched Google in our never-ending quest for stories.

In the dark days after September 11, 2001, music was a powerful mirror for our emotions. These are a few of the songs that moved me then, and continue to move me a decade later.

“Overcome” by Live

“Overcome” by Live was written months before 9/11, but it became an anthem for the moment thanks to its deep lyrics and moving message. The band recorded a video in tribute to the first responders, and donated proceeds from the song’s sale to charities that benefit the victims of the attack.


“Where Were You (When The World Stopped Turning)” by Alan Jackson

Country music fans found solace in a song by Alan Jackson released a few months later. Alan’s “Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning” captured our collective shock at what we saw. In a laid back way, Alan recognizes that we all stood still that day.



“The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen

For  me, personally, the most powerful musical moment came when Bruce Springsteen revealed “The Rising”. It is sung from the point-of-view of a firefighter climbing the stairs of the World Trade Center with a “half mile of line” on his shoulder and a “sixty pound stone” on his back. When I first saw Bruce and the E Street Band perform the song live amidst a stage of bright white lights, I was moved to tears.



I still can’t listen to that song without being touched by the imagery of an innocent firefighter leaving for work one morning without any idea of the horror about to be encountered, and never to return home.

Has any other song so eloquently captured both the profound sadness and inspiring resilience that we all felt at that point?  The song was at once a token of gratitude to those who perished as well as a call to rise above the rubble and rebuild our lives.

Jeffery Symynkywicz said it well when he called ”The Rising” ”a national Good Friday experience if ever there was one.”

And this weekend, there is this song being played at radio stations around the world. It is a remix of the song “Heaven” by DJ Sammy that tracks the decade of a young girl growing up longing for the father she lost in 9/11. It was created by the team at KLUC radio in Las Vegas.

Yes, music is a wonderously powerful storytelling tool. It helped capture emotions and heal wounds after a tragic event. It moves us to dance and sing and laugh and cry.

We humans are desperate to hear amazing stories.

So instead of telling us about your discount items and free parking and empty advertising BS, tell us a story.

Tell us your story.



Alan Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Live, Uncategorized 195 Comments

The Temptation of the Middle Ground


First, if you haven’t already please consider sharing your Facebook “likes” with Brand Like A Rock Star here.

When was the last time Ted Nugent had a hit song?

My best guess is 1989, when he was part of the group Damn Yankees. They had one hit with the power-ballad ”High Enough”.

Yet 22 years later, his brand is so strong that he will be “too divisive” for the already divisive American political landscape. He told Billboard that he would love to be part of Texas Governor Rick Perry’s presidential campaign, but “I don’t know if I’ll get a stamp of approval because I am so volatile and because the line in the sand in a political campaign can be so ambiguous — and I’m anything but.”

He’s right. We all know that Ted Nugent is an ultra-right wing gun-toting animal-skinning rock ‘n’ roll lunatic. He is “The Motor City Madman”. There is no ambiguity.

Although it will prevent him from helping Perry, Ted Nugent is a great example for businesses.

Ambiguity sucks, but it is impossibly tempting for so many brands. They want to appeal to everyone, so they water down what they stand for in an attempt to reach more customers.

Kentucky Fried Chicken changes their name to KFC, introduces salads, and watches customers leave.

Jeep creates a family station wagon called the Compass and watches sales plummet.


KFC should be proud to be the finger-licking good chicken you treat yourself to once in a while!

Jeep should be proud to be trail-rated for the ultimate off-road capability!

The middle ground is a terrible place to be. It is a place where strong brands go to die.

Don’t go there, no matter how tempting it might be.

Fighting the urge to go there is well-covered in the new book Brand Like A Rock Star which you can order right now on-line.

You can also download chapter one absolutely free before you buy.


Uncategorized 207 Comments