Your Cubicle Is Your Stage


Today I did a 90 minute breakfast presentation in Ottawa, Ontario for a group of business people. I had a great time and met some brilliant people in the process. I did my very best, and left the room incredibly fatigued yet amazingly charged up. After every speaking engagement, that’s how I feel… a strange combination of burned out and pumped up.

On a much, MUCH bigger scale, that’s exactly what Rock Stars do. Night after night. Town after town. They put on a great show and leave behind a trail of raving fans for life.

Rock stars give it their all. Rock Stars deliver their very best every show, no matter what. No excuses. No distractions. I’ve been backstage after a show, watching a sweaty and exhausted band leave the stage absolutely drained from the emotional and physical toll that it takes to make their fans happy.

Fun? Yes.

Easy? Not one bit.

Your business is your stage. Your customers are your fans. Your interaction with them is your concert.

Do you leave it all behind when you’re on stage?

Do you make it your personal goal to create fans for life?

Do you plug it in, crank it up, remove all distractions, and simply rock?

You aren’t ordained to be a Rock Star. It isn’t a gift from the rock gods. It doesn’t just happen.

It doesn’t matter what you do. When you get to work, you choose to be a Rock Star.

Or you choose to be like everyone else. Average. Invisible. Unremarkable.

And the danger, as Rush sang, is this: “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

I’d love to deliver a remarkable presentation to your conference, convention, business group, or corporate gathering. Just click here for more information about how to make it happen. Together we’ll turn your meeting up to 11.

Brand Like A Rock Star is available right now in paperback or immediate digital download.


Rush 426 Comments

Talking To The Dog


Great songs often feel like they are speaking directly to you.

You can feel the pain of watching your ex move on when Adele cries “never mind, I’ll find somebody like you. I wish nothing but the best for you too”.

When Bob Seger sings “I was a little too tall, could’ve used a few pounds, you are once again trying to lose those awkward teenage blues and get to work on your night moves.

That’s what makes music magical, and it is a big part of what makes rock ‘n’ roll such a cool template for building a better business. Music speaks to you on a deeply personal level.

Advertising guru Roy H. Williams said it well when he said “Speak to the dog in the language of the dog about what is important to the dog.”

It’s a lesson from the Pavlov School of Marketing. When Pavlov talked to the dog he used meat. He spoke to the dog in a language that the dog understood about something very important to the dog.

Speak to the dog = Talk to your prospect, and nobody else. Nobody else matters.

In the language of the dog = Use the words, phrases, and intonations that your prospect uses, not the words and phrases that you use.

About what is important to the dog = Talk about what really matters to your prospect, not what matters to you.

Your marketing ain’t about you.

Your customers don’t use the same industry words and phrases you use.

Your customers don’t care about the things you care about.

If you want to make your customers react like Pavlov’s dogs did, you need to change your perspective and see the world from their viewpoint. You should also order Brand Like A Rock Star right now and start reading it in just minutes (digitally) or order it right to your home in paperback.


Adele, Bob Seger, Roy Williams 144 Comments

What Will You Screw Up Today?


You’ve heard it a thousand times and never thought twice about it.

A few seconds into the song “Roxanne” by The Police, there is an odd and out-of-place piano note. It sounds nothing like anything else in the song. That note shouldn’t be sitting there, yet there it sits… an awkward piece of rock history.

The story behind that famous note can help you in your career and your business.


It turns out that the lead singer of The Police, Sting, was taking a break during the recording session. He sat down on an open piano, and quite literally played the note with his ass. Seconds later, he broke out laughing seconds later upon realizing what he had done.

The band chose to leave the glaring mistake in the song.

What will you screw up today?


What mistake will you make that will change the world?

What accidental magic will you create simply by pushing yourself into unknown territory?

If you aren’t making mistakes like famous Sting’s ass-note, you aren’t messing around enough. And if you aren’t messing around, you’ll never build a better mousetrap.

Perfection is unnatural and has no place in the creative process. 


Stop trying to be perfect, and see what cool things you can create when those shackles are broken.

The book Brand Like A Rock Star is filled with nuggets from rock history that can help you improve your brand, build a better business, and make more money. Order it now in paperback or digital download and start rockin’ right away.

Join the discussion at or shout at @rockstarbrands on


sting, The Police 147 Comments

Gene Simmons vs. Jon Bon Jovi: Feeding Your Brand Identity


Gene Simmons and Jon Bon Jovi are both rock singers. But they have very different personal brands.

Jon Bon Jovi is a family man, married to his high school sweetheart.  They lead a rather private life as far as celebrities go. Gene Simmons claims over 4,600 bedroom conquests, and very publicly married girlfriend Shannon Tweed last year on his reality TV show.

Jon Bon Jovi was named to the White House Council for Community Solutions by President Barack Obama. Gene Simmons has spoken out strongly against President Obama and says he regrets ever voting for him.

Besides rock ‘n’ roll, what is the one thing they share in common? Both Jon and Gene are restauranteurs.

Gene Simmons has a new restaurant chain called “Rock & Brews” set to launch April 3 in Los Angeles, with locations planned in Maui, Denver, Atlanta, Tokyo, and Los Cabos, Mexico. The concept is to give the customer the sensation of being backstage at a rock concert, complete with stage rigging, concert lighting, retractable projection screens, and 360-degree speakers.

Where most rock stars get accused of selling out, Simmons is a master-marketer, lauded for putting the KISS brand name nearly anywhere. Why not? KISS is more than a band. KISS is a comic-book themed circus act. They are a theatrical, larger than life, and almost unhuman act. Because of that, we forgive KISS for selling out. They get leeway we would never give Jon Bon Jovi.

Jon Bon Jovi has taken a different approach to his restaurant. JBJ’s Soul Kitchen Community Restaurant is a pay-what-you-can bistro serving healthy and organic food for the lesser wealthy. There are no prices on the menu. Instead, you make a minimum donation of your choice for your meal, and if you can’t afford to pay, you can do volunteer work to earn your food. The slogan at JBJ’s Soul Kitchen is “Hope Is Delicious”. How is it working out? On a normal night, the line up is out the door. Diners wait for up to an hour for the chance to experience the Soul Kitchen’s unique menu and community atmosphere.

Two very different rock stars.

Two very different restaurants.

For two very different brands.

There is no right or wrong way. Each of these men has a unique brand identity to uphold, and each of them has chosen a different type of restaurant to promote their brand.

What I love about both case is that they recognize their brand identities and reflect them in their business ventures. They know what their fans expect from them, and they know what theirs fans will embrace or reject.

Jon Bon Jovi’s restaurant reflects his close-to-home philanthropic brand. Gene Simmons’ restaurant reflects his larger-than-life rock and roll celebrity brand.

Smart brands know how they are perceived by their fans.

Smart brands never violate those perceptions.

PS -  It should be noted that although his restaurant isn’t a charity project like Jon Bon Jovi’s is, Gene Simmons is an active supporter of many great causes including AIDS research and the Kids Wish Network.

Order Brand Like A Rock Star now with just one click. You could be reading the digital version in two minutes or have the paperback en route to your home. I guarantee that this book will help you better understand the concept of branding, and leave you with multiple actionable ideas to build a better business.

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Gene Simmons, Jon Bon Jovi, Uncategorized 168 Comments

Happy St. Patrick’s Day: Four Business Lessons From U2


Ireland has given us some great rock stars. Van Morrison. Thin Lizzy. Boyzone.

Okay, I take back that last one.

But the greatest rock and roll band to emerge from Ireland is clearly U2. For nearly 30 years, U2 has been one of the dominant rock and roll bands in the world.

Here are five asbolutely spot-on business and branding lessons you can learn from U2.

1. Find your own voice. When the boys in U2 first started jamming, they weren’t very good. At all. In fact, legend has it that one of the reasons they started writing their own songs was the fact that they weren’t strong enough musicians to play cover songs. Whatever the reason, U2 found their own voice very early. The combination of socially-conscious lyrics, passionate and strained vocals, jangling guitars, and a solid rhythm section set U2 apart from the beginning.

2. Stand for something. Opinions are scary. Many people feel that if they express their opinions, people will disagree and not like them. Bono has never been scared to voice his opinion on issues in his home country (“Sunday Bloody Sunday”), in America (“Bullet The Blue Sky”), and socio-political challenges around the world (“Walk On”.  Those opinions do alienate some people, but they also give people a reason to love you. Accept that in order to stand out, you need to stand up.

3. Never settle for average. Seeing U2 in concert is an incredible experience, in large part because the band always goes big. Their most recent tour included a massive stage that required certain venues to upgrade their facilities in order to host the concert. U2 never settles for being just another band.

4. Know your roots. U2 started to get fairly eclectic in the 1990s, and they realized that their musical experimentation was going a little too far for their fans. So in 2000, band declared that they were “reapplying for the job of the best band in the world”. They proceeded to record the album All That You Can’t Leave Behind. They brought back producers Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois and created an album that went back to the band’s roots and recaptured the magic that their fans were seeking. Even the stark album cover looked more like The Joshua Tree than the bands 90s albums. The result includes songs like “Beautiful Day”, “Stuck In A Moment”, and “Elevation” and won 7 Grammy Awards. Rolling Stone magazine listed it as #193 on The 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time.

This St. Patrick’s Day, toss back a few pints of Guiness and salute U2 and the many business lessons you can learn from Bono, Edge, Larry Mullen Jr, and Adam Clayton.

U2 171 Comments

The Bitch Is Back: Applying Elton John’s Business Lessons


When you think of well-branded rock stars, you often think of KISS and AC/DC and other bands who have made millions being loud and in-your-face. You don’t always think of Elton John. But you should.

My friend Wayne Ens of ENS Media, a noted management and sales consultant, recently saw Elton play in Fort Myers. Although Wayne isn’t a hard core Elton fan, he came away with some fantastic business lessons we can learn from Elton John. I’ll let Wayne elaborate:

1. Work Your Ass Off. Even though my seats were behind the stage, Elton repeatedly made a point of acknowleding the entire crowd, bowing to thank those in the cheap seats. In business, you’d better be prepared to work your ass off to keep your customers happy.

2. Surround Yourself With  Great Talent. Who ever thought a pair of cellists could pull of a rendition of AC/DC’s “Highway To Hell”? Elton’s cello duet pulled off a fantastic opening act. Great business people surround themselves with talented staff. Never be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you are.

3. Know (And Cover) Your Weaknesses. At 65, Elton no longer has the vocal range he had in his younger years, but his band filled in and covered up the high notes. You wouldn’t have noticed a thing. Smart business people know that they aren’t perfect, and they make up for their imperfections in other ways.

4. What’s In A Name? When he sang “Candle In The Wind” and the classic line “Goodbye Norma Jean…” it was a reminder that seldom do rock stars use their real name, including Elton John (aka Reginald Dwight). There is a reason wise businesses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars developing and researching their brand names. A well-chosen name is a huge benefit for your business.

5. Love What You Do. Despite doing thousands of concerts for millions of fans, Elton was living in the moment on stage, doing exactly what he loves to do. You can tell when a performer is just fulfilling a contract, and that brings down the entire performance. Can your customers see/feel your passion in your work?

6. It’s Not The Product, It’s The Experience. The impact of the concert would not have been the same without all of the show business… the back-up singers, well-dressed musicians, Elton’s flashy outfits, perfect lighting, staging, etc. All of that goes into creating an experience for the fan. Your business isn’t selling products, you are selling experiences. But that means you need to provide all of the little extra elements required to create a customer experience.

7. Use Technology. Elton used a simple teleprompter to remind him of the words, even though he sang these songs thousands of times before. What techonological advances can you use to enhance your business, without taking away from the customer experience? There are so many high-tech tools at your disposal. Don’t be afraid of them. Explore what might work for you.

8. Team Work Works. Elton’s band didn’t just stand there and play their instruments. They rocked out together, interacting and having fun and creating magical music together. Fun and teamwork can be sensed by customers. When you walk into a business where the employees are having fun working together, it is hard not to feel great. Create an atmosphere of fun and collaboration where all of the bright minds on your team have a chance to contribute without fear of ridicule.

Wayne wrote a book about advertising sales that can help you sell more effectively. It is a fun read that provides countless actionable tips.

Brand Like A Rock Star is available now in paperback or digital download. When you order your copy, make sure you send me a screen shot of your purchase so that I can send you a free personalized cover insert. If you order on your Kindle, I use Kindlegraph to personally sign digital books.

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Elton John, Wayne Ens 163 Comments

Make Your Business Fly Like Aerosmith


The Aerosmith interview on 60 Minutes last weekend was one of the most revealing and interesting band profiles I’ve seen, and there were plenty of take-away points that could easily be applied to business.

One thing that caught my eye were the shots from the band’s early days in Boston, showing Steven Tyler decked out in the same wild clothes he wears today. In the background was a rougher looking version of the famous Aerosmith logo that has appeared on every one of their albums. I love that kind of consistency. It is amazing that the band has the same vision branding cues that were in play before they were famous!

There is an obviously long-standing love/hate relationship between the lead singer and his band. They recognize Tyler’s immense talent, as does Tyler himself, but they also resent his behavior from time to time. Joe Perry admits that he loves Steven Tyler, but doesn’t cherish certain aspects of his personality. Meanwhile, Tyler acknowledges that his style isn’t always popular, but he credits the blunt perfectionist within him for creating so many of the band’s hits.

Here are five business lessons you can learn from watching the tumultuous career of Aerosmith:

1. Your career isn’t over until you’re dead. Aerosmith has been brought back from the brink of extinction several times, including a few years ago when Tyler fell off the stage in Sturgis, ND and ruined the band’s summer tour plans. Yet they are back again, working on a new album and riding a wave of new-found popularity thanks to Tyler’s role as a judge on American Idol.

2. You have to reinvent yourself to stay relevant. Aerosmith’s reinvented in 1987 when hip hop pioneers Run DMC invited them to help remake ”Walk This Way“. That song relaunched Aerosmith’s dead career. Today they’ve been reinvented thanks to American Idol. Do you look critically at your brand to make sure it is always evolving and staying relevant?

3. There is a difference between “respect” and “love”. Reading the Steve Jobs biography left me with the same feeling. Jobs came across in that book as someone that wasn’t always easy to love, but even his biggest detractors respected him. The boys in Aerosmith don’t always love Steven Tyler, but they definitely respect him. As a leader, can you easily accept that?

4. Any publicity is good publicity. Appearing on 60 Minutes was a coup for the band, even though the interview didn’t paint them in the kindest of lights. Aerosmith knows by now that nearly every piece of publicity they can get is good for the band. When people are talking about you, you are winning. There are exceptions, like BP’s infamous oil spill. But most of the time you should be more concerned about whether the media spelled your name right, and less concerned about what they said about you.

5. Never lose sight of how good you have it. Clearly the band has been through hell, and it appears that quite often they don’t like each other that much. But you can sense that all of them understand that they are better together than they are apart. Even when things aren’t going well within the band, they know they are damn good at what they do. And the payday, $20 million for 10 concerts last year in South America, is pretty good too.

You can order the digital download or paperback version of Brand Like A Rock Star now with one click. The book takes you backstage to discover the core marketing strategies of rock’s legends, and shows you how to put them to work in your business right away. Don’t forget to also download the free “Musical Companion” to go deeper into the bands profiled.

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Aerosmith 197 Comments

When You Rock, The World Pays Attention


I am thrilled to share with you this little drawing by the wonderful Hugh MacLeod.

Hugh is the author of several books, including one that I keep on my Kindle at all times for those moments when I am in need of creative inspiration. That book is Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys To Creativity. It is the kind of book that reminds you that you aren’t as nuts as the world would sometimes have you believe you are. Hugh also created many of the images in one of my favorite books, Seth Godin’s Linchpin.

I am honored that Hugh created this cartoon specifically for the book Brand Like A Rock Star.

What I love most about Hugh’s work is his ability to distill complex thoughts into pithy phrases and images. In one or two lines, he can often capture the essence of an entire book, company, or concept.

That’s what he did with Brand Like A Rock Star.

Hugh successfuly answered the question “why would anyone want to be a rock star”?

The answer is simple.

Because… when you rock, the world pays attention.

Order Brand Like A Rock Star  in paperback or digital download now and start making your brand rock right away.


Hugh MacLeod 1,797 Comments

The Best Lesson Rock ‘n’ Roll Can Teach You


If there’s one thing I love about rock stars, its that they never give up. They never surrender. They always believe, no matter how bad things might be, that they are one great song away from a comeback.

Aerosmith was pretty much a piece of rock history in 1986 when an up-and-coming hip hop act named Run-DMC invited the band to re-recorded a rap-based version of “Walk This Way”. The song became a bigger hit than the original, and skyrocketed Aerosmith’s career back to the top of the charts. They went on to one of the most prolific phases of their career in the following decade.

Meatloaf is a living-breathing comeback story. After recording one of rock’s best selling albums in 1977′s Bat Out of Hell, Meatloaf sunk into obscurity and eventual bankruptcy before rising back to the top with Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell in 1994. His life has been a perpetual rise and fall and rise again.

It happens with companies and brands as well. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, I would have never considered wearing Old Spice cologne. The brand was nearly worthless until it was revitalized over the past decade, and now is the top-selling men’s bath product on the market.

Apple might be the most valuable company on planet earth today, but there was a time when their $500+ stock was worth about $5. At one point – not so long ago - the company was nearly bankrupt. Pretty decent comeback, no?

Lindsay Lohan is on the comeback hunt these days, hosting Saturday Night Live last weekend. Reviews were mixed, but despite the reviews it was one of the most-watched SNL episodes in recent memory.

Rock stars believe that every state is temporary.  Sure your song might be #1 this week, but that doesn’t guarantee anything for next week. You might sell-out tonight, but tomorrow is a different show in a different city… and there could be plenty of empty seats.

Like legendary rock stars, entrepreneurs believe.

You are down, but never out.

Never give up.

Order or download Brand Like A Rock Star now, the book that takes you backstage to explore the marketing strategies of rock ‘n’ roll legends, and how you can put them to use to make your business more successful.


Aerosmith, Apple, Lindsay Lohan, Old Spice, Saturday Night Live, Uncategorized 282 Comments

Who The Hell Is Frank Ocean?


Frank Ocean is out to make a name for himself quickly. And he is using an old trick to do it.

Nothing gets attention faster than a controversy, and Frank Ocean is deep into one now. His new song “American Wedding” is getting attention because it borrows from the Eagles 1977 classic “Hotel California”.

Unlike hip-hop songs that borrow elements of original rock songs, Frank Ocean has lifted the entire song, music and all, and simply recorded it with his own lyrics. A spokesman for Don Henley suggested Ocean’s song isn’t “creative, it is illegal”. Apparently the use of the music was never cleared or approved.

Ocean called the legal threats “f**king awesome” on his blog.

Here’s a link to the story from Billboard.

There are few faster ways to create awareness than picking a fight. Used the right way, it can make you a household name overnight. Used the wrong way, it can get you into a heap of trouble. I’m pretty sure Frank Ocean is on the wrong side of that equation, but I could be wrong. What do you think?

Have a listen to “American Wedding”, the song that is getting Frank Ocean’s name out there.

Don Henley, Eagles, Frank Ocean 695 Comments