How To Turn A Hot Brand Cold

When U2 recorded an album so unusual that their fans would likely reject it, they changed their name and released the album was the band “Passengers“. They were smart enough to know that the U2 brand stands for something, and if the music was going to violate those expectations… it simply couldn’t have the U2 name on it.

Let’s apply that thinking to real life business.

What does Coors Light stand for in the mind of the consumer?

Iced tea?

Of course not. Coors Light stands for beer, and nothing else.

But this spring Coors Light is rolling out a line of alcohol infused iced tea in Canada. Michelob is following with a product called ”19th Hole” tea and lemonade.

Why? Because beer consumption is down, and the beer companies want to repatriate beer drinkers who have moved on to wine and other flavored drinks like hard lemonade and coolers.

That’s a great and noble mission. But the answer isn’t to change what Coors Light stands for!

In my opinion, the alcohol infused iced tea concept is a good one. I will definitely try it! But the idea to call it Coors Light Iced Tea is a bad one. Coors Light Iced Tea waters down the very strong Coors Light beer brand.

Coors Light should take a page from the U2 playbook. Release the new alcoholic iced tea under an entirely new brand name. Make a major splash in the market with a new product that benefits from the infrastructure of the Coors Brewing Company, but doesn’t interfere with the ability of Coors Light to stand for something meaningful in the eyes of the consumer.

You’d think that Coors Light, of all brands, would have learned this with their failed foray into bottled water, a mistake that Time magazine called one of the “top 10 bad beverage ideas of all time“.

Your copy of Brand Like A Rock Star is waiting now for immediate digital download or home delivery.

PS – If you’d like to have me speak at an upcoming event or conference, contact me directly at steve (at) and we can make it happen. My fall scheduling is starting to fill up.



Coors Light, U2 145 Comments

Follow The Leader


Few professions rely on having a strong and unique personal brand quite like real estate sales.

And for some reason, few professions play a giant game of Follow The Leader quite like real estate sales.

They all advertise in the same places. All of their ads look exactly the same. The wording of their ads and listings is nearly identical. Even their for sale signs and open house signs are cookie-cutter.

One of the rock star branding secrets is finding and celebrating your unique identity. I’ve wasted plenty of ink and hot air promoting the notion that, while quality is important, being unique is more important than try to be better than your competitors are.

KISS was a struggling bar band going nowhere fast until they put on make-up and started blowing stuff up on stage. Within two years they were one of the biggest acts on the planet, and unlike any act the planet had ever seen before.

Elton John wore wild costumes and played the piano like a madman. Even with Elton’s immense talent, it would have been far more difficult to get noticed without the crazy glasses and getups that made him so unique.

The Grateful Dead turned average songs into magical 20 minute jam sessions, and they invited fans to record their live shows… mistakes and all. The Dead made an art form out of doing things differently.

Rock stars have proven over and over again that being unique is absolutely critical to success. So why 99% of all real estate agents do the exact same things?

Let’s get hypothetical and say you are a real estate agent tasked with selling yet another average 3 bedroom/2 bathroom home on a street of similar nondescript middle-class 3bd/2bth homes.  Your first job is to find something special about this particular home. Let’s say that this home has a perfectly manicured lawn. Perfectly. Otherwise, it is exactly like every other home on the street.

A lawn this perfectly green isn’t really a lawn at all. It is the stadium where brothers throw game-winning touchdowns to each other. It is the ballpark where a son throws a strike into a father’s waiting glove. It is a festival of fall leaves to jump in and an assembly line of freshly made snow angels in the winter. It is where families create the memories that families are made of. Your home overlooking this playground has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, plenty of space for the kids and their friends, and of course a garage to store the many footballs, baseballs, and rakes you’ll be needing.

I can guarantee you that nearly every real estate ad will talk about the things that make this house just like the other homes on the street… the bedrooms and bathrooms and kitchen and living room. The blah blah blah.

Very few would have the guts to talk about what makes this house unique.

In every business, you win when you stop playing Follow The Leader. Instead, start creating ads that could only be for your business, in your town, on this day. Make your voice unique and let it stand out from the crowd.

PS - You should probably buy a copy of Brand Like A Rock Star so you can learn how to build a better brand and stronger business.

PPS – Check out this cool and totally unsolicited review of Brand Like A Rock Star by Mike Michalowicz, author of The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur and a new book called The Pumpkin Project. Mike is not afraid to be different, and in a world of business start up voices, his is unique and loud (and proud).

Elton John, Grateful Dead, KISS, Uncategorized 122 Comments

Axl Rose: Brilliant or Bonehead?


The week before his band Guns ‘N Roses is to be inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Axl Rose has released a letter written to the hall rejecting his nomination into the shrine and telling them that he won’t be attending. He has even asked that the hall specifically not include him in name or image when they induct the band.

Some people are saying that Axl Rose is an immature idiot. Others are giving him credit for standing by his personal ethics.  No matter what your opinion is, you can learn from Axl Rose.


Everyone is talking about Axl Rose today. That hasn’t happened in a long, long time. He has gotten his name in the press in a major way. But… consider the massive buzz a one time Guns ‘N Roses reunion would have created had Axl showed up, accepted the honor, and joined his estranged former bandmates for a jam session. The Police did it in 2003, playing together for the first time in two decades. It was magical.


Snubbing an organization like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame is, well, pretty damn rock ‘n’ roll of him. By doing this, Axl builds up his anti-establishment image. Not that it needed building up, considering his past behavior.  But… there’s bad-boy behavior and then there is just being an a**hole. Plenty of people would suggest this borders on the latter. Notoroious bad boys like Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, The Clash, AC/DC, The Ramones, and many others are in and they all accepted their awards with class and grace.


Is Axl Rose a genius for standing pat on his beliefs? Or is Axl Rose a petulant punk for blowing off the rock hall?

Order Brand Like A Rock Star now and start reading immediately with a digital download, or have the paperback delivered directly to your home.

AC/DC, Aerosmith, Axl Rose, Guns N' Roses, Ramones, The Clash, The Police 2,126 Comments

Death To Wacky Waving Arm-Flailing Inflatable Tube Men


The first time a car dealer put a wacky waving arm-flailing inflatable tube man on their lot, it must have been quite a spectacle. People probably stopped, paid attention, and told their friends about this crazy sight they just saw. At one time it was, as Seth Godin said years ago, a purple cow.

Today, every car dealer has a wacky waving arm-flailing inflatable tube man. I drove past a Chrysler dealer yesterday with a ridiculous inflatable giant sumo wrestler on their roof. Another dealer neaby sported a massive inflatable gorilla on the lawn.

Every car dealer has ads on TV and the radio that scream at you with downright stupid phrases about how many cars they need to sell before month end or how the sales manager is away and the place is going crazy or how they made a shipping error and are overstocked. And we all know it is BS.

Every car dealer puts full-page full color ads in the newspaper with gaudy text bubbles with the weekly price of the car and a wad of small print at the bottom of the page that essentially negates what is in the text bubbles. We know it is empty hype.

Because every car dealer has the wacky waving arm-flailing inflatable tube man and the screaming radio ads and the gaudy newspaper page, we have simply stopped paying attention. So the car dealer has to spend more money on the same ridiculous approaches, because it now takes more yelling and more gaudiness to get our attention.

But there is another answer.

Create advertising that inspires us to want your car. Show us the experience of your vehicles. Connect us emotionally to the car instead of selling us on the sticker price. Engage us in a meaningful, personal, and powerful way. Tell us a story.

When you stop doing the exact same thing that everyone else in your product category is doing, you’ll find that people notice you.

Think about it in musical terms. Adele’s massive hit “Someone Like You” doesn’t sound like anything else on the radio today. Neither does the captivating “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye or the inspiring “We Are Young” by Fun..

If even one car dealer reads this and pauses to rethink their collective boneheaded approach to advertising, I will have done my duty.

Car dealer advertising reminds me of a classic British new wave song from the 1980s. When everyone else is screaming, sometimes it takes a whisper to be heard.

If you want to make an immediate difference in how you build your brand, order Brand Like A Rock Star now for digital download or paperback delivered to your door.

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Uncategorized 231 Comments

Why Would Anyone Want To Be A Rock Star?


NOTE: This post originally appeared  on March 13, 2012 as a guest blog post at in response to a piece they had written about the book Brand Like A Rock Star.


A few months ago, Eric Dodds of the awesome Brains on Fire Blog wrote a piece that was inspired by my book Brand Like A Rock Star.

Being a Brains on Fire fan, I was eager to read the blog post. But as I read it, to my disappointment it became evident that Eric wasn’t writing about my book. He was writing about the title. And he made a good point. Why would anyone strive to be a rock star today?

Hell, if any single industry could be accused of clinging to an old-world business model while the new world evolved before their very eyes, it is the music industry.

Rock stars are notorious for their self-destructive habits, self-delusional perceptions, and self-absorbed behavior.

And the non-creatives in the rock star biz – the suits – are just greedy bastards hell bent on turning art into money.

It begs the question that Eric asked… why would anyone want to be a rock star?

The answer is simple.

Because when you rock, the world pays attention.

And nothing is more important to marketers today that getting attention. Nothing.

Without attention, you have no awareness.

Without attention, you have no engagement.

Without attention, you have no click-throughs. No sales. No ROI.

Attention is the water in a just-add-water recipe. All of the other ingredients in your campaign are nothing if you don’t add attention. When KISS walked out on stage in 1974 wearing bizarre comic book make-up and started to blow stuff up on stage, the world paid attention. While plenty of people hated KISS, plenty more loved them.  assionately.

When Lady Gaga appeared at the MTV Video Music Awards in 2010 wearing a dress made from raw meat, the world paid attention. Gaga has her detractors, but her clan of “little monsters” is far more powerful.

Getting our attention doesn’t always have to be flashy and controversial, like KISS and Lady Gaga.

Powerful brands like Chipotle and Whole Foods got our attention by committing themselves to causes we can rally around, like sustainable farming, organic foods, and clean power sources.

Old Spice got our attention by making us laugh and by giving us content we wanted to share with our friends on social networks.

Whether through humor, causes, or controversy, all of these brands recognize that without attention, they cease to exist.

A rock star lives on center stage with a powerful spotlight shining down, thousands of fans eager to sing along and experience the raw emotional power of hearing the songs they love sung live and in person.

When you rock, the world pays attention.

And that’s why, no matter what you do in life and business, you want to be a rock star.



Brains on Fire, Chipotle, Hugh MacLeod, KISS, Lady GaGa, Old Spice, Whole Foods 366 Comments