For Your Consideration: A Chapter-In-Progress


I hope you had a fantastic weekend! I spent much of it working on the follow-up to Brand Like A Rock Star, which will hopefully be done (and ready for editing) by the start of 2013… assuming the world doesn’t end on December 21, 2012.

I will need your help finishing this book, and in a few moments I’m going to ask for it. So stand by.

The new book presents the case for using lessons from rock ‘n’ roll to build your career, expand your horizons, increase your productivity, and have more fun and make more money at work.

When you think about it, who has more fun than rock stars? They get to do what they love and get paid millions for it.

Who has more experience with rebuilding and comebacks than rock stars? Almost every rock star career has experienced a major setback and attempted a comeback.

Who has dealt with change more dramatically than rock stars? Musical styles come and in and out of fashion quickly, and tastes change and evolve constantly.

Who has overcome more challenges than rock stars? Although it is often self-induced, the life of a rock star is usually surrounded by constant chaos.

I believe that through the careful examination of the careers of legendary rock stars, you can uncover secrets that will make your professional life more enjoyable, rewarding, and enriching.

So here’s where you come into the equation. I’d like to share with you a work-in-progress from the new book. I’m looking for your insights, comments, criticisms, and thoughts. Keep in mind, this is raw. It has not been examined and refined by the talented editors who help turn scattered writers into focused authors. I’m pleased with it, but it is by no means a complete work. Click on the link below to download a pdf file of the chapter tentatively called “Knowing When To Quit: The Curse of INXS”. Enjoy it, share it, and if you can, let me know what you think about it. You can email me at steve(at)

Here is the link to download the pdf:

Be a Rock Star this Christmas! If you order Brand Like A Rock Star as a gift for someone this year, let me know by email ( and I’ll send you a personalized and signed postcard that you can include with your gift. It will make for a one-of-a-kind gift for anyone in your network who is starting or working in any business. You can order it now on Amazon by clicking here.


rock star personal brand 170 Comments

Be A Rock Star This Christmas

Christmas is a month away. Surely there is someone on your list who would love a copy of Brand Like A Rock Star.

There is. And don’t call me Shirley.

Your business partner?
Your coworker?
Your boss?
A good friend who is launching their own business?

I’d like to make your gift a little more special. When you order a copy of Brand Like A Rock Star as a gift anytime before December 15, just email me and let me know. I will send you a signed and personalized card that you can include with your gift. If there is a special message or inside joke you want me to write, I will write it for you!

You’ll be giving them a gift that is unlike any other.

Just email me at steve(at) and tell me who you are giving it to, what you would like me to write, and your mailing address. Postage is on me. No need to take a screen shot of your receipt. We will do this on the honor system.

The easiest way to buy the book is through Amazon by clicking here. But you can buy it anywhere you’d like and I’m happy to complete your one-of-a-kind gift.

Happy Holidays. Here’s to a rockin’ 2013!

Uncategorized 96 Comments

You Can’t Replace Your Brand Essence: INXS

This week, after 35 years together, INXS called it quits.

You mean INXS was still together?

INXS as we know it sadly ceased to exist on November 22, 1997, when charismatic lead singer and chief songwriter Michael Hutchence was found dead in a Sydney, Australia hotel room.

Only the band failed to realize it. They carried on, touring with Terrence Trent D’Arby (remember “Wishing Well”?) and other interim lead singers. The closest INXS got to a true comeback in 2004 when they took part in the CBS TV series Rock Star: INXS in which various singers competed for the chance to be the new lead singer of the band. The winner was a young Canadian singer named JD Fortune, whose voice held an eerie resemblance to that of the departed Hutchence. With Fortune, the band recorded a new album called Switch. From that album the song “Pretty Vegas” became a minor hit, except in JD Fortune’s home country, where it was a substantial hit thanks in part to government regulations that require radio stations to broadcast a certain level of “Canadian Content”.

A few years ago they released a collection of re-recordings of their earlier hits, each one by a different guest lead singer. Although Pat Monahan from Train did an incredible job on “Beautiful Girl”, but the album was a flop.

Last year they permanently severed JD Fortune and named a new lead singer and released some new songs, but it was a tree falling in the forest.

Such a sad ending to a truly great band.

There was a time in the late 1980s when INXS rivaled U2 as the biggest rock band on the planet. Their album Kick was insanely successful.  They sold out the biggest stadiums. Their string of hits included “Need You Tonight”, “Devil Inside”, “Never Tear Us Apart”, “What You Need”, “Original Sin”, and “Suicide Blonde”.

And their eventual breakup will be a mere footnote in music history

The reason is simple: In the minds of music fans everywhere, INXS had already broken up 15 years ago. Without Michael Hutchence, there was no INXS, no matter how talented the rest of the band might be… and they did make some decent post-Hutchence music.

Led Zeppelin chose not to replace John Bonham when he died in 1980. They quit. Today the value in the Led Zeppelin brand is beyond compare. It will not fade.

Van Halen was able to carry on when David Lee Roth became dead to them. But they couldn’t pull it off when Sammy Hagar left and Gary Cherone walked in. Today Van Halen is a joke.

AC/DC stands out as one of the few bands to replace a highly-visible lead singer and successfully carry on.

There are some parts of your company that are replaceable and interchangeable.

Like Coke’s secret formula, there are other parts of your company that are the essence of what your customers believe you are. You cannot replace those parts and carry on. No matter how good it tasted, New Coke didn’t work.

No matter how good the music was after Michael Hutchence died, INXS was finished.

What parts of your company are irreplaceable?

What is the very essence of your brand? How can you protect it from ever disappearing?


AC/DC, INXS, Led Zeppelin, Van Halen 1,410 Comments

The Marketing Genius of KISS


Love them or hate them, you cannot ignore them. KISS grabbed the world by the throat, got our attention, and never let go.

For three decades, the KISS marketing machine has turned the band into cultural icons… and it shows no signs of slowing down.

On Monday, December 3 at 2pm ET, join me and Michael Brandvold for a free webinar that takes you inside the marketing genius of KISS.

Who the hell is Michael Brandvold?

Michael was personally tapped to help build the KISS on-line presence. He worked on the inside, witnessing first hand how Gene Simmons and KISS grow and profit from their brand. Since then, he launched Michael Brandvold Marketing and authored the fantastic ebook The KISS School of Marketing. You’ll get a free copy of that ebook after the webinar.

The webinar is free, but does require advance registration here.

This webinar is not just for KISS fans. This webinar is for those who want to elevate their business beyond the ordinary, no matter what you think of the music of KISS.



KISS, Michael Brandvold, webinar 1,293 Comments

The Springsteen Pendulum

I’ve referenced the new book Pendulum by Roy H. Williams and Michael R. Drew a few times before on this blog.

Their premise is game-changing for business communications. They theorize that western society moves in a pendulum over the course of 40 years, cycling between a civic-minded society on one side (a “we” cycle”) and an individual-minded society on the other side (a “me” cycle). In a “we” cycle, we value the greater good over the needs of the individual. Conversely, in a “me” cycle we value the desires of the individual over the common good. These values are reflected not so much in politics or economic cycles, but in popular culture, like music, movies, and books.

In order for your marketing to connect with people and inspire actions, your message needs to reflect the values of your customer. That means you need to understand where we are on the 40-year pendulum ride.

Read Pendulum and understand it. You won’t regret it.

The career of one of America’s greatest musical minds reflects the swinging of the pendulum. Follow along, because this gets spooky.

Bruce Springsteen’s breakthrough came in 1975 with the song “Born To Run”. Eight years before the pinnacle of a “me” cycle, Springsteen was riding the new wave of individualism, singing about breaking away from the confines of growing up in Freehold, New Jersey and escaping off into the night with the girl of his dreams. The song captured the imagination of the growing “me” generation and made Bruce famous.

“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive
Everybody’s out on the run tonight but there’s no place left to hide
Together Wendy, we’ll live with the sadness
I’ll love you with all the madness in my soul
Someday girl I don’t know when we’re going to get to that place
Where we really want to go and we’ll walk in the sun
But until then tramps like us, baby we were born to run

But Bruce’s reflection of the “me” cycle was just beginning. Five years later he would release “Hungry Heart”, an anthem for those on a personal quest to satisfy their individual soul.

“Got a wife and kids in Baltimore, Jack
I went out for a ride and I never went back
Like a river that don’t know where it’s flowing
I took a wrong turn and I just kept going

Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart”

Voted as best song of the year by Rolling Stone magazine, “Hungry Heart” celebrates leaving behind a wife and kids in order to head out on a personal quest to find meaning in one’s life. Individual enough for ya’?

Remember, in 1980 we were three years away from the pinnacle of a “me” cycle. We were all looking to sooth our hungry hearts, even if it meant deserting your family.

As the “me” cycle reached it’s pinnacle in 1983, Springsteen reached a career pinnacle with the album, Born In The USA. The first single from that album was another direct expression of the individual. “Dancing In The Dark” was about a man frustrated by his situation and on a mission to connect with someone, even if only for a one night stand.

“I get up in the evening, and I ain’t got nothing to say
I come home in the morning, I go to bed feeling the same way
I ain’t nothing but tired, man I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

Springsteen’s marriage fell apart as he was working on the 1987 album Tunnel of Love. At the same time, society was four years into the shift away from the “me” peak of 1983. The values of the individual were fading, and some “alpha voices” were starting to speak a new more civic minded language. Was Springsteen one of the those alpha voices? The song “Brilliant Disguise” reveals a man who starts to question his wealth and his independence and senses that there is more out there than what he as acquired.

“I’m just a lonely pilgrim, I walk this world in wealth
I want to know if it’s you I don’t trust cause I damn sure don’t trust myself”

And this is where it gets really freaky. Springsteen nearly disappeared in the early 1990s. He broke up the E Street Band and moved to California with new wife Patti Scialfa. He returned in 1995, recording an acoustic album called The Ghost Of Tom Joad, based on the Steinbeck novel The Grapes of Wrath.

The Grapes of Wrath was the story of the Joad family from Oklahoma. Amidst the dust bowl of the Great Depression, the Joads and thousands of other Okies ventured west to California in search of a better life. The book, labeled by many as communist propaganda for its sympathetic treatment of the lower-class and negative attitude towards farm owners, came out in 1939… four years before the peak of a “we” cycle in 1943.

Wow. Springsteen’s musical channeling of Tom Joad in 1995 was an alpha voice speaking ahead of the swinging pendulum, telling us where society was headed in the decade to come.

But it gets even spookier.

The 2001 terrorist attacks on America were a galvanizing moment for the nation, and as the pendulum continued to move toward a civic “we” cycle, Springsteen once again reflected this. His 2002 album The Rising fostered the coming-together of the nation amidst a growing sense of civic mindedness. The song “The Rising” was a church-choir invitation to hold hands, commune, and make each other stronger together.

Come on up for the rising
Com on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

From that same album, and equally civic-minded, was Springsteen’s tribute to his hometown, “My City of Ruins”.

Young men on the corner
like scattered leaves
The boarded up windows
The hustlers and thieves
While my brother’s down on his knees

In the ensuing years, Springsteen became more politically active, performing on behalf of Democratic presidential candidates, Amnesty International, and other human interest causes. He recorded the anti-corporate album Devils and Dust in 2005 and followed that with a tribute album to Pete Seeger, one of the most popular folk artists of the 1940s… the last peak of a “we” cycle.

In 2007 came the album Magic with the song “Radio Nowhere”, a clear plea for greater social connectedness. Remember… we are now four years into the rise of civic “we” cycle and Bruce Springsteen is searching for “a million different voices speaking in tongues”.

I want a thousand guitars

I want pounding drums

I want a million different voices speaking in tongues

After campaigning on behalf of Barack Obama and recording the optimistic album Working on a Dream, Springsteen returned in 2012 with Wrecking Ball. Now, with society in full swing up towards the 2023 peak of a civic “we” cycle, Bruce is even more angry at corporate America and more inspired to bring us together for the common good. Witness the lyrics of “We Take Care of Our Own”:

From Chicago to New Orleans
From the muscle to the bone
From the shotgun shack to the Superdome
We yelled “help” but the cavalry stayed home
There ain’t no-one hearing the bugle blown
We take care of our own
Wherever this flag’s flown
We take care of our own

In “Wrecking Ball”, Bruce stands arm-in-arm with his Jersey neighbors, issuing a challenge to those who want to bring them down.

Now my home’s here in these Meadowlands where mosquitoes grow big as airplanes
Here where the blood is spilled, the arena’s filled, and giants played their games
So raise up your glasses and let me hear your voices call
Because tonight all the dead are here, so bring on your wrecking ball

A quick recap:

Springsteen emerged in the decade preceding the pinnacle of a “me” cycle. It peaked in 1983, just as Springsteen’s career reached it’s first peak with Born In The USA.

In the late 1980s he appeared to be confused about his place in the world, and in the early 1990s he faded away.

Just as the “me” cycle softened, Springsteen musically channeled the best-selling novel of the last “we” cycle, The Grapes of Wrath.

When the pendulum finally crossed the fulcrum and began to move toward a civic-minded “we” cycle, Bruce held hands with America on The Rising.

And now, with the pendulum just a decade away from the 2013 peak of a “we” cycle, he sings “We Take Care of Our Own” and reminds us that we are stronger together.

Not every song on every album reflects the pendulum in action. I’m looking at key songs from Bruce’s career and measuring the overall tone and texture of his music, and overlaying that with the evidence put forth by Roy Williams and Michael Drew.

But if you’ve ever wondered how Bruce Springsteen has been able to so adeptly tap into the psyche of America year after year, read Pendulum.

Without ever consciously knowing it, Springsteen absolutely intuitively understands it.

If you want your marketing to connect with people tomorrow and in years to come, you need to understand it as well.

Bruce Springsteen 268 Comments

Making Your Personal Brand Rock


For three years, this blog and the book Brand Like A Rock Star have demonstrated how you can use the core marketing and branding strategies of rock and roll legends to make your business rich.

Over that time we’ve built up a really cool network of business rock stars who are putting these principles to work every day, and its working. Every day I hear from business owners who have made their business more focused, unique, consistent, and profitable using the strategies outlined in Brand Like A Rock Star. I’m forever grateful for the chance to help positively influence your business. Please continue to share them with me personally and through our Facebook page. Thank you!

In 2013, our rock star family will be expanding.

I’m currently working on a follow-up book focused on how the experiences of rock legends can help you with career development, personal branding, and workplace productivity.  We don’t have a firm title yet nor do we have a publication date. But the project excites the hell out of me every time I sit down to write, and I can’t wait to start to share more of it with you.

Here are a few of the cool topics the new book will explore:

How did Fleetwood Mac embrace the chaos around them to create their very best work, and how can you do the same thing at work?

What can we learn about teamwork by examining partnerships like Lennon/McCartney?

The world needs more weird. Everything is too similar. We will look at the benefits of workplace weirdness using Joe Walsh as an example.

Every career has highs and lows. We will discover the art of the comeback through the eyes of Meatloaf and the life (and near death) of Nikki Sixx.

So far I’ve completed 11 chapters with 9 more in the works. That’s a lot of writing to do between now and the end of the year, but I am ready for it! Even if I have to spend my Caribbean vacation hunched over a keyboard, I’m going to make this happen… and it will rock!

If you’d like to book me to speak at your event in 2013, send me an email at steve (at) and we’ll put the details together.

Thanks for the support.

2013 is going to rock!!!


rock star personal brand 2,211 Comments

Never Apologize For Your Brand Values


Today I heard a commercial on the radio for a “guy’s show”… a sort-of trade show centered around everything male. Picture a convention center filled with cars, boats, beer, sporting goods, scantily clad girls, and rock ‘n’ roll, and you get the idea.

Then came a part of the commercial that made me laugh – and not in a good way. It went something like “… and ladies, don’t think you’ll be bored! We’ve added a Christmas craft market just for you.”

Imagine the Rolling Stones playing a show, and announcing “Hey jazz fans, don’t think you’ll be bored. We’re gonna stop rockin’ and play a few Miles Davis numbers just for you.”

If you hope to someday establish brand clarity, never ever back down from the values you represent.

Don’t apologize for them.

Don’t compromise them.

Celebrate them!

Remember what happened when McDonald’s compromised their values and added pizza to the menu?

How about that time that Coke compromised their values and replaced the Coke formula with a new, sweeter version?

If you’re putting together a “guy show”, go the distance. Add more testosterone, and subtract everything else. Burn the Christmas craft fair to the ground, and stomp on the ashes.

Don’t waste any more time and money trying to attract people who are marginal to your brand. They aren’t likely to try you… and if they do, they aren’t likely to stay.

Focus all of your time and energy on doing what you do well.

Celebrate the values that you represent.

Stop apologizing and compromising. It’s annoying as hell and it is doing you no favors.

As Roy H. Williams wrote in The Wizard of Ads, “the risk of insult is the price of clarity”.

Insult means someone won’t like you. Clarity means that everyone will understands who you are and what you’re about.

You can’t have universal love and acceptance.  And if you try to, you’ll never establish brand clarity.

Click here to order your copy of Brand Like A Rock Star now and start building a stronger brand, one that will attract more fans and more profits.

Have you signed up for the webinar “The Marketing Genius of KISS” yet? It is coming up on Monday, December 3 and I will be joined by former KISS on-line marketing leader Michael Brandvold. You can sign up right now at this link.

Coke, McDonalds, Rolling Stones, Roy Williams 150 Comments