Three Pieces of Business Wisdom From The Monkees: RIP Davy Jones


Davy Jones, lead singer of The Monkees, died today of a heart attack.  He was just 66 years old.

What business wisdom could you possibly take from what was essentially a made-for-television band that was mocked as the pre-fab four?

1. The  “who” always trumps the “what”. This is an extension of what Jim Collins wrote about in Good To Great. He essentially wrote that it is more important to get the right peolpe on the bus, even if you aren’t sure exactly where they will sit. In the case of The Monkees, they were a band assembled for a TV show. They weren’t supposed to play their own instruments. They were just living cartoon characters. That was the “what” behind the band. But the producers hired musicians with talent and chemistry, and in no time the “who” took over. The boys wanted to play their own instruments, take control of the production, and grow beyond the scope of the TV show.

Get brilliant people on your team, and assign them a job to do. But don’t let their job define (or confine) them. Let their minds create wonderful things for your organization, even if those wonderful things are nothing like what they were hired to create. That’s what it means to prioritize the “who” ahead of the “what”. If you choose not to do it, those brilliant people you hired will eventually find somewhere else to use their brilliance.

2. You can’t hide the real you.  For The Monkees, their goofy and fun-loving TV show personas were not unlike their real personas, except the producers didn’t envision real band with their own instruments and self-penned songs. They tried to stifle the creativity of Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Mickey Dolenz, and Michael Nesmith. But eventually the real musicians emerged and the band began to take control over their music.

You can’t successfully fake it, at least not for any length of time. Eventually the real you emerges no matter how hard you try. So why bother trying to fake it at all? Honesty and transparency reign supreme in business and marketing today. We are past the age of hype. People’s BS-meters are highly tuned. Start with honesty and integrity.

3. Some things don’t mix well. Jimi Hendrix was hired as the opening act on The Monkees first US tour in 1967. His hard rock style didn’t go over well with the young female audience, leading Jimi to simply flip the audience the middle finger and quit the tour.

You need to choose your business partners carefully. Some partnerships are gold, and others are terrible. Find partners that make you better, like Reece’s peanut butter cups. There are very few things that make chocolate taste better.  Turns out peanut butter is one of them.

Davy Jones will be missed.

It is easy to pick on The Monkees as fake music, simply prefabricated pablum that was mass-produced for teenagers. But that’s not entirely true or fair. Plenty of music is prefabricated for the masses. And as the band become more self-directed, they also became well respected within the industry.

They found unlikely fans in The Beatles. John Lennon praised their TV show, calling them “the greatest comic talent since the Marx Brothers”.  Years later, a generation of  musicians who grew up watching the TV show would create a punk revival of the band, including a famous Sex Pistols version of “I’m Not Your Steppin Stone”.  In the 1980s, the band mounted a comeback and hit the top 20 with “That Was Then, This Is Now”. And right up until a week before his death, Davy Jones was performing the band’s classics with his usual charm and wit.

Rest peacefully Davy.

You can learn more business lessson from rock’s legends in the book Brand Like A Rock Star.


Davy Jones, The Monkees 171 Comments

Rock Star Leadership


David Lee Roth is back, and Van Halen is selling out arenas once again.

Mick Jagger. Steven Tyler. Bono.

The Stones, Aerosmith, and U2 don’t exist without them.

What makes a rock star leader?


Vision - Rock star leaders know what their brand stands for, and they step up and chart its future.

Swagger – Love it or hate it, rock star leaders lead with a sense of confidence and pride. People want to get on stage with them.

Spotlight – Not every business leader wants to be the public face of the brand. Sometimes the spotlight is internal, something the customer never sees. Public or private, rock star leaders grab the spotlight.

Recovery – Mistakes happen. Rock star leaders learn from them, put them aside, and move on.

Energy – Rock star leaders ooze energy, and it is contagious. You can’t be around them without catching it.

Don’t get me wrong. Rock stars are full of qualities you don’t want in your leader. After all, a business can only handle so many trips to rehab! But there is a lot you can learn by watching the moves of Jagger, Tyler, Bono, Roth, et al.




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When Everybody Zigs, You Zag


There is always room for someone who does the opposite of what everyone else is doing.

Adele proves it every day as her soulful album outsells so much of the fabricated pop music around her on the charts.

And Belgium-born Australian singer Gotye (pronounced Got-ee-aye) is about to do the same with his understated and haunting breakup song “Somebody That I Used To Know“.

There’s no guest appearance from Pitbull. It doesn’t sound like Katy Perry. Good luck finding a Nickelback guitar riff.

“Somebody That I Used To Know” is so simple that it’s complicated. It sounds like nothing else out there, and that’s why the world is paying attention to it.

The business takeaway is that sometimes it pays handsomely to zag when everyone else is zigging.

If you do things just like your competitors do, you’ll be invisible. You’ll be doing the expected, and human beings ignore the expected. We only notice the unexpected.

Think about your drive to work this morning. Did you notice every single highway sign that you saw? Of course not. But had you seen, as Seth Godin wrote, a giant purple cow on your drive to work, you would have paid attention. You would have stopped to take a picture.

Keep in mind that this isn’t being different for the sake of being different. If your “zag” lacks anything meaningful and positive, you might still get noticed… but it probably won’t help you.

But when your business finds that magic combination of a meaningful and positive difference that goes completely against the grain of what is expected in your field, it is usually a branding home run.


Adele, Gotye, Katy Perry, Nickelback, Pitbull, Seth Godin 146 Comments

Six Key Branding Lessons From Buffett and KISS


Jimmy Buffett will take his brand to a new city when he adds a third Margaritville Casino Resort to his growing chain. The new one in Bossier City, LA joins existing ones in Las Vegas and Biloxi. The new Margaritaville will contain Jimmy’s new “Five O’Clock Somewhere” bar. It never ceases to impress and amaze me how Jimmy has expertly turned his natural personality and his one major hit into a massive money-making brand. While the “Business Lessons from Buffett” post could be the foundation for another book, here are three core lessons to take away:

1. Make sure everything you do reflects what your fans expect from you. Everything Jimmy does is perfectly in tune with his laid back Key West beach bum image.

2. Extend your brand only in directions that make sense to your customers. Casinos and bars make sense. And while putting his Landshark Lager name on an outdoor football stadium in Miami made sense, it wouldn’t make any sense to put it on a hockey arena in Boston.

3. Always take credit for everything that is yours. You won’t find a single Buffett property without his name on it. It isn’t just Margaritaville restaurant, it is Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville restaurant.

KISS are nearly as impressive as Buffett, although their approach has been to simply put their name on everything from dolls to lunch boxes to condoms and even coffins. Now they are unveiling the new KISS “Hotter Than Hell” wedding chapel in Las Vegas. The chapel opens in March, and Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley are confirmed as guests for the special first wedding. The KISS marketing strategy is a little different from Buffett’s. Here are three cool take away lessons from KISS:

1. Get their attention first. They’ve been doing outrageous attention-getting things since day one, and they continue to do so. KISS continues to get our attention by doing remarkable things, like opening a wedding chapel in Las Vegas.

2. Make a personal investment. Gene and Paul will be there at the first wedding. They were pioneers of the concept of selling VIP tickets to concerts that included a chance to meet the band. Not much happens in the KISS world without the personal approval and participation of the key people in the band.

3. Always take credit for everything that is yours. Same as the Jimmy Buffett lesson. Gene Simmons doesn’t star in Family Jewels, he stars in Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels.  The new wedding chapel isn’t the Hotter Than Hell Wedding Chapel, it is the KISS Hotter Than Hell Wedding Chapel.

Have you downloaded the free ebook Musical Compaion to Brand Like A Rock StarIt is the #5 Marketing book in the free Kindle store.

Purchase the paperback version of Brand Like A Rock Star or download the digital edition instantly from Amazon.

To keep in touch, you can also join the discussion on the Facebook page and


Photograph of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville Restaraunt in Grand Cayman, taken by Steve Jones.

Jimmy Buffett, KISS 194 Comments

Supply And Demand: Michael Jackson, John Lennon, and Whitney Houston


In the years before Michael Jackson passed away, you didn’t often hear his music on the radio. But as soon as he died, we wanted to hear his music again. His songs were everywhere.

The same thing will happen this week with Whitney Houston.

You see, when something is rare we naturally perceive it’s value to be higher.

John Lennon’s album Double Fantasy came out just three weeks before he was shot in December 1980. When critics first reviewed the album, most were unimpressed and some were downright scathing. Prior to Lennon’s death, the album was at #46 in the UK and #11 in the USA. Then, wimmediately after his murder, the album shot to #1 and went on to win Album of the Year at the 1981 Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone would later name the album the 29th best album of the 1980s.

What happened? Simple. We lost John Lennon and came to the stark realization that his music would no longer be with us. Knowing that, we placed new and increased value on his music. Instead of a mediocre album, we saw Double Fantasy as musical genius… in part because of the circumstances, not the music.

The death of Whitney Houston is no doubt a sad tragedy.

At one time, she was an amazing singer with a magical voice. She made history with her success. But as you watch the tributes to Whitney pour in this week, remember that over the past decade her music had been invisible on radio stations and her name had only been in the headlines for negative reasons. A few days ago, the world was not clamoring to hear “I Will Always Love You” one more time. Nobody was downloading “The Greatest Love of All” from iTunes.

That all changed with her passing.

The relationship to business is clear: when the supply of something is infinite, value is naturally lowered. When supply runs short of demand, perceived value goes up.

RIP Whitney Houston, 1963-2012.


John Lennon, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston 3,417 Comments

Which Singles Would You Release?

Okay Rock Stars… today I’m asking for your help. It will only take a few minutes, but it will make a huge difference. And I will be very grateful.

Much like a band would release single songs from an album, I’m looking at releasing several chapters of Brand Like A Rock Star as small ebooks for $1 or so each. My question to you is simple… which chapters should I release?

If you haven’t read the book, you can download it instantly for less than $8 here, and be reading it in minutes. I can’t give you your money back if you don’t like it, but you can read the reviews yourself… I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Chapter One (AC/DC and The Art of Consistency) is already available as a free sample and has been downloaded over 7,000 times, so that chapter is out. (you can download it free here)

What chapter got you thinking about branding and business in a new way?

Which chapter inspired you to try something different?

What chapters did you come back to and read again?

Is there a specific chapter that moved you in a powerful way?

Please answer by leaving a comment in the comments section below.

Coming later this week: I’m working on two rock star blog posts that I think you’ll really enjoy. Monday we’ll compare how Jimmy Buffett and KISS have both brilliantly branded themselves, but using somewhat different strategies. I will show you three branding lessons from each act and demonstrate how they are different, yet similar, in how they build their brands.  Then later in the week you’ll read about how smart brands (and bands) market to our ideals, not to our realities, and I’ll show you how to craft your marketing message to reflect your customer’s values and ideals.

And if you haven’t read the free “Musical Companion” to Brand Like A Rock Star, you can download that ebook free as well.

Don’t forget to join in the discussion on Facebook at and follow @rockstarbrands on Twitter.


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Lady Gaga’s Location Based Marketing Hit


Lady Gaga might not be your cup of tea, but you can’t deny that she’s damn smart.

You’ve probably heard her recent hit “You and I” on the radio, and chances are good that you heard a version specifically recorded for the city you live in.

If you live in New York, you heard this version. Across the Hudson in New Jersey, you heard this version.

Those in Minnesota got a version just for their 10,000 lakes. But a few miles away in Wisconsin, they had their own twist.

Californians had theirs. Texans got one customized for the Lone Star State. Arkansas heard this one. And the list goes on.

The difference between all of these versions is simply what state she sings about. In the original version of the song, it was Nebraska. But with a little extra effort and time in the studio, it was pretty easy to sing different versions for nearly every star on the flag.

Does your business put in the extra effort to target customers based on where they live?

Using various social media tools, it is relatively easy to monitor what people are saying in your community about the product you sell. Do you engage them?

As an author, I could have written several digital versions of Brand Like A Rock Star, each one unique for the territory in which it would be sold. The version for sale in the UK might focus on Robbie Williams, Slade, and Lily Allen, while the version sold in Australia might include chapters on Daddy Cool, Jimmy Barnes, and Midnight Oil. In Canada, a few words about Corey Hart, Platinum Blonde, and Streetheart wouldn’t have hurt.

Come to think of it, I might just do that for my next book.

Customers bond with content created just for them. The further away from “home” the content is perceived to exist, the less relevant it is perceived to be. Like Lady Gaga, you should be using geography to your advantage.

For some ideas on how to put Location-Based Marketing to work for you, read this list that Mashable created of 13 location based marketing tips from entrepreneurs.

And check out Brand Like A Rock Star, now on sale with a few simple clicks. You could be reading it within five minutes in digital download, or the paperback could be on its way to your home.

Click here to read more about how LMFAO and Huey Lewis & The News have also created location-based hits in the past.


Lady GaGa, location based marketing, Uncategorized 348 Comments