Adapt Or Die


What are you doing to elevate your business into a brand that rocks? Click here and order Brand Like A Rock Star now and start creating a rock star brand, putting the core marketing strategies of rock ‘n’ roll legends to work for your business and your personal brand.

Think your industry changes fast?

Picture yourself as Kip Winger (above), leader of band Winger. It is early 1991. You’ve just come off a 13-month tour in which you played sold-out stadiums around the world with bands like KISS, The Scorpions, and ZZ Top. You’ve watched your hit songs get played to death on MTV. And you’ve been nominated as “Best Heavy Metal Group” at the American Music Awards. Pretty cool.

And then, without warning, along comes Nevermind. And the bottom falls out.

The debut album from Nirvana in September of 1991 was the breakthrough album of the grunge era, and seemingly overnight Winger’s forte – big hair, leather, slick guitar solos, polished production, and rousing choruses about sex and girls – went dramatically out of style.

Winger didn’t do anything to deserve it.

Neither did Poison, Extreme, Warrant, or Skid Row. It just happened.

With the rapid rise of grunge music and its emotionally draining angst, distorted guitars, and low key visuals, all of the so-called hair bands became immediately passe.

Rock ‘n’ roll is a world of perpetual change.

Songs end and new ones begin. Tours go city to city, different shows each night. Albums rise and fall down the chart. Nothing is constant.

You either adapt or die, in business as in rock ‘n’ roll.

The hair bands, for the most part, died. Some tried to alter their sound, but even Guns N Roses and Van Halen fell apart within a few years.

Here are four lessons you can learn from the hair bands and their early 90s demise:

1. Sometimes there is just nothing you can do. If you are great at hair band rock, and hair band rock goes out of style, you can’t easily become a grunge act. The perceptions of you are realities. Changing minds is nearly impossible.

2. Even when you aren’t in style, your fans didn’t just disappear. There are still people out there who want to hear your songs! So entertain them. Forget about past success and focus on making your customers happy. Even when the tide turned against gas-guzzling SUVs, there were still customers who wanted to buy a Navigator instead of a Prius.

3. Wait it out. If you can afford to wait out the fads, you might just come back into style. This summer KISS and Motley Crue are on tour together. Many of the big hair bands of the 1980s are still playing for fans and making a great living doing it. Even though the hair band isn’t today’s big thing, it is not nearly as uncool as it was in 1991.

4. Popularity and talent are not related. When his band faded from popularity, Kip Winger studied classical music. He worked on solo projects. And he wrote a 30 minute symphonic piece that because the musical centerpiece for the San Francisco Ballet’s hit production of “Ghosts”. Without the trappings of immense fame, Kip Winger found immense freedom.

Rock on!

PHOTO CREDIT: photo of Kip Winger from
Guns N' Roses, KISS, Motley Crue, MTV, Nirvana, Van Halen, Winger, ZZ Top 242 Comments

Strengths, Passions, and Profits: Doing Business Like Bruce Springsteen

This weekend I’m going to see Bruce Springsteen (again!). To me, Springsteen never gets old. This will be my fourth Springsteen show, which is a tiny number compared to many die-hard fans. Unlike previous Springsteen concerts, this will be the first time I’ve seen Bruce outdoors. The weather is forecast to be sunny and hot, so it should be a fantastic night.
I’ve written a fair amount about Bruce over the years on this blog. The post below is one of my favorite ones, because it speaks to a concept that I believe can make your business infinitely stronger.
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I’m a big Springsteen fan. There’s nothing by Bruce I don’t enjoy. My wife, on the other hand, doesn’t feel the same way. The other day we were listening to “The River” when she told me “all of his songs sound the same.”
Of course they do. And they should.

Ever notice how bands usually have their least successful albums when they experiment with new sounds? There’s a reason for it.

Why is this lesson lost on so many businesses? Why are so many businesses hell bent on being all things to all people?

I was talking to a photographer recently who runs his own business. He’s really, really good. Stunning work. But his business wasn’t growing very quickly. I asked him what he specializes in, and he said “pretty much everything from commercial stuff to weddings to family portraits to corporate photography.” Well, that makes him one of a thousand doing the same thing. It is hard to stand out in that crowd no matter how good you are.

But what if he only did corporate photography? What if he eliminated everything else and focused entirely on doing photography for annual reports, venture capital pitches, and corporate presentations? There is massive money there, and very few photographers that specialize only in that field.

In the short term, he would lose some business. But in that spare time, he could focus on marketing his specialized brand of corporate photography to big money corporations. My bet is that within months he would be making twice the money, doing half the work, and dealing with far more cooperative clients than bride-zillas and crying babies.

Here is how you can better apply the Bruce Springsteen theory to growing your business:

1. Find a specialized area of your business that you can do better than nearly anyone else… something you can be world class at, and ideally something none of your competitors are doing.

2. Find a specialized area of your business that can make you a lot of money. Let’s be honest, you are in business to make money.

3. Find a specialized area of your business that you are passionate about. You can’t be great at something you don’t care deeply about.

Examine where those three things overlap, and then abandon everything else you do. Use the extra time to focus on your new specialized focus. Spread the word about your unique area of expertise.

Recognize the concept? Read Jim Collins’ business classic Good To Great for more on what he calls the “Hedgehog Concept”.  Imagine three interlocking circles, and the triangle that they form in the middle where they three circles intersect is where branding brilliance happens. The whole book is legendary, but the Hedgehog Concept is especially powerful.

As a name, I personally like the “Springsteen Theory” better.  The sooner you make all of your songs sound the same, the sooner you can be like The Boss.
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Gold Medal Storytelling: What Boeing, Cisco, and GE Have Learned From The Kinks

I’ve written a lot about the power of a great story, and how they can sell products. Harley-Davidson customers don’t purchase motorcycles. They purchase the rebel lifestyle, the story that Harley tells. Statistics clearly show that the average Harley-Davidson buyer isn’t a bad-ass rebel. The average Harley buyer makes over $80,000 US and is in his mid-forties. Not the kind of profile that scares many people in dark alleys.

The closing ceremonies of the London Olympics told the story of British music, from the Beatles to One Direction, and the world bought in.  Artists like The Who, George Michael, and Annie Lennox were seen around the world performing their hits. Sadly, one of England’s greatest storytellers was edited from the NBC broadcast of the ceremonies. Ray Davies, founding member of The Kinks, performed their classic song “Waterloo Sunset”, illustrating once again what a magnificent storyteller he is.

Today, I am proud to feature a guest post from VP Marketing at PTC, Tom Shoemaker, who offers these insights on the amazing storytelling abilities of Ray Davies and what marketers, particularly B2B marketers, can learn from his ability to tell a story.

Tell Great Stories: Lessons from Ray Davies and the Kinks

“Every day I look at the world from my window.”

With the closing ceremony of the 2012 Summer Olympics behind us, it’s a good time to reflect on one of the world’s best storytellers: Ray Davies.  With the Kinks, and on his own, Davies has created a rich repertoire of work that uses stories to chronicle the major (the plight of post-war England in the album Arthur, or the Decline of the British Empire), to the mundane (roast beef on Sunday with Autumn Almanac), to the everyday (fleeting and lasting celebrity with Celluloid Heroes).

Cited by many (Pete Townsend, The Jam, Van Halen, Blur, Oasis, The Smithereens) as a major influence throughout successive generations of rock, Ray Davies was featured in the pilot of VH1’s “Storytellers” series.

While not the most commercially successful band (owing in part to flawed management and being banned from the USA during their prime), the Kinks enjoy one of the most loyal followings in music. Fifty years after the band’s start, fervent fans opine about all things Kinks and write chronologies of the band’s entire recording and performing history.  And, recently, other renowned storytellers, Bruce Springsteen and Jackson Brown, joined Ray on his 2011 collaborative collection, See My Friends.

One of the most poignant of Ray’s works, Waterloo Sunset, tells the story of Terry and Julie crossing the river Thames, as narrated by a distant observer.  It remains today an evocative ballad to the chaos and comfort of London.

In business, Boeing, Cisco, and GE have embraced a similar storytelling technique.

Rachel Childers of Platform Magazine describes how Boeing’s brand journalism approach is geared to drive more traffic (e.g., customer, investors) to the Boeing brand through rich, interactive content spotlighting the ins and outs of airplane design and manufacturing.

Cicso’s Networked Life promotes network technology through “personal, real, and powerful” documentary-style videos of business owners, artists and students.

GE Works explores the impact of General Electric’s products, services, and philanthropy in numerous ways, including through an advanced Polyclinic located in London’s Olympic Village.

B2B marketers first sell to people, not business.  Stories relate.  You may not win the hearts, minds and wallets of everyone, but if you tell great stories, perhaps you can tap into that core group that will forever remain loyal.  When you’ve done this, you’ve branded like a rock star.

“As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise.” –Raymond Douglas Davies

You can learn to tell better stories and build better businesses right away when you order Brand Like A Rock Star in either Kindle or paperback right now. You won’t be let down. The book has received tremendous reviews and is endorsed by rock legends like Gene Simmons and Alice Cooper, two amazing storytellers and rock n roll brands.

For those who were screwed by NBC’s edit of Ray’s performance, here is “Waterloo Sunset” at the closing ceremonies.

Kinks, Ray Davies 1,763 Comments

Music, Marketing, and Your Brain


Why is it that you can remember the words to a song from the early 1970s, but you can’t remember where you put the car keys?

Music has an amazing way of worming its way into your brain because it enters through a back door known as the right brain.

It’s no secret that the brain works in two halves. The left side deals in numbers, facts, figures, and logic. The right side deals in fantasy, song, poetry, and the abstract.

So when a song enters your brain, it walks in through the free-thinking right side and lodges itself firmly in your memory forever.

Advertising can do the same thing, but 90% of it doesn’t.

Instead, 90% of the ads you see, hear, and read spew out facts, figures, and logic. The left side of the brain analyses and quantifies the data, and quite often mentally debates whether it is valuable or not. Is 3.9% financing a good deal? Does $20 off really matter? Your left brain protects you from data overload, filtering out the crap that it has heard a thousand times before.

Most of what the left brain sees, hears, and reads gets instantly rejected.

On the other hand, the right brain just wants to sing.

When your advertising speaks to the right brain, it sneaks in unexpectedly.

The right brain craves colorful words, surprising phrases, songs, poems, and the unusual and unique.

It might seem risky to let go of those stupid advertising cliches you and your competitors have been using for decades, but the leap will pay off. Big time.

Read the marketing book that Gene Simmons himself endorsed. Brand Like A Rock Star is yours with a few clicks, in either Kindle or paperback.

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I Hate Ted Nugent


That headline isn’t 100% accurate. I don’t hate Ted.

I have a love/hate relationship with Ted Nugent.

I hate Ted’s asinine opinions (here is a link to stupid sh*t Ted has said). To me, Ted represents the very worst of fear-mongering and angry politics. He says cruel and hurtful things that set back progress. On a personal level, I hate what Ted Nugent says.

But professionally, I love what Ted Nugent has done with his brand. There is no doubt about what Ted Nugent stands for. His brand is amazingly well-defined, especially when you consider his relative musical irrelevance. Ted Nugent hasn’t had a hit song since 1980′s “Wango Tango”! Yet thirty two years after that record came out, he still manages to find ways to define his brand clearly.

Ted Nugent is like Chick-Fil-A.


The Chick-Fil-A chain has their fast-food chicken outlets in 39 states. The company has never shied away from their founder’s religious views. As devout Southern Baptists, the Cathy family closes their stores on Sundays, has placed religious reading material in their children’s meals, and includes “to honor God” in their corporate mission statement.  COO Dan Cathy recently stirred controversy when he said “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage’. I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.”

Yes, in 2012 Chick-Fil-A is against gay marriage.

Just as I hate what Ted Nugent says, I personally hate what Chick-Fil-A stands for.

Yet I am tremendously impressed with their ability to stand up for what they believe in, state it clearly, and use it to define their brand.

The press coverage of Chick-Fil-A has been intense. The recent “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” drew thousands of customers to their stores, creating long lines of like-minded diners who came out to show their support to Chick-Fil-A and the company’s views. On the other hand, LGBT groups are planning a Chick-Fil-A “Kiss In”, with a mission to show visible same-sex affection inside Chick-Fil-A stores.

While I don’t agree with Chick-Fil-A’s views, I do admire their ability to use them to define their brand.

Does your business have values that define you and set you apart from your competitors?


What do you stand for?

What do you do (or don’t do) that defines you?

What values would you be comfortable walking business over?

Your values don’t have to be as extreme or controversial as Chick-Fil-A’s or Ted Nugent’s. They just need to exist.

Whole Foods values sustainable farming. They would walk away from business that didn’t reflect those values.

Volvo values safety. They wouldn’t create an unsafe car in order to make a quick buck.

Rolex values quality. They wouldn’t create a low-end watch just to cash in.

Start building a stronger brand right away, using the core marketing strategies of rock legends like AC/DC, U2, Jimmy Buffett, The Grateful Dead, and KISS. Download or order Brand Like A Rock Star right now!


Chick-Fil-A, Rolex, Ted Nugent, Volvo, Whole Foods 254 Comments