The Consistent Brand

The new AC/DC album "Rock or Bust"

The new AC/DC album “Rock or Bust”



I hate watching people waste their money.

I recently connected with a local franchisee of an internationally recognized brand, let’s call him “Jim”, who told me about his “marketing” plan.

Each year, that major international brand spends many many millions of dollars advertising their brand. They do extensive research into their target consumer’s thoughts, values, habits, and preferences. Based on that research, the brand buys national and regional ads on radio, TV, and digital. The ads are creatively well crafted, delivering a message designed to connect with the target consumer’s values.

This individual franchisee also has a local advertising budget that he himself uses to purchase additional advertising for his local store.

So far, so good.

But here’s where everything goes horribly wrong.

The ads that Jim creates locally sound nothing like the national brand’s advertising. The voice is harsher, the music bolder, and the style and tone is completely different. Not only that, but Jim also uses his own local advertising budget to purchase ads on the radio station he personally likes (the all sports station), instead of the one that the national franchise purchases based on their demographic research.

Jim’s “strategy” is that his local ads reach a different type of consumer, broadening his appeal. He feels that that by purchasing ad time on a different radio station, he is reaching consumers that the national brand was overlooking.

But what is really happening is that Jim is wasting his money.

Worse than that, Jim is slowly chipping away at the equity the national franchise has worked so hard to build.

With every ad that doesn’t sound or feel like the national brand, Jim is hurting both the national brand and his local franchise. And with every ad placed in scattered fashion on the sports station, Jim is diminishing the brand’s ability to achieve frequency.

One of the core principles of building a great brand is consistency, like AC/DC.

AC/DC has recorded 17 studio albums. They have recorded 24 different songs that have the word “rock” right in the title of the song. AC/DC doesn’t record love songs or songs about political strife. They record three-chord attitude-filled songs about loud music, beautiful women, fast cars, and strong drinks.

Angus Young has worn a school boy outfit for every AC/DC concert since anyone can remember.

They have used that same iconic font on every album and tour poster and CD.

AC/DC is zealously consistent.

We can learn from that.

Your advertising message needs to be consistent. At every touchpoint with the consumer. Your look, sound, feel, scent, taste, and aura must be the same. Everywhere. Always.

Brands are built by consistently inspiring the same emotions in your customers time after time, delighting them and reinforcing what you represent to them every time they interact with you or your message.

Learn more with the marketing book Brand Like A Rock Star, and discover how rock legends built incredible brands. Order it now with one click here, in digital or paperback editions.

AC/DC 2,125 Comments

It Doesn’t Matter What You Think

Show Time 2

It’s at the very core of building a brand…

It doesn’t matter what you think. The only opinion that matters is your customer’s opinion.

What your customers think you are is what you are. And once made up, minds are seldom changed no matter how much marketing money you spend.

Marketers work hard to own “positions” in the mind of the customer, but it is really the customer who decides what position you own.

For example, when a well-entrenched brand like McDonald’s tries to change their position in the mind of the customer, it fails.

McDonald’s isn’t a pizza place, as they discovered after investing millions upon millions into the McPizza disaster of the 1990s.

No matter how much it tries to be, McDonald’s isn’t a coffee shop.  No matter how good people rate it’s coffee, it isn’t a coffee shop.

And McDonald’s isn’t Panera Bread or Chipotle. No matter how hard it goes after the emerging fast-casual dining category, it simply isn’t ever going to be that.

McDonalds is perceived by customers to be a kid-focused fast food restaurant that specializes in burgers. How much McMoney will they have to pour into marketing to change that perception? I don’t think there is a number large enough.

Remember when Garth Brooks tried to reposition himself as a pop artist? It failed miserably and nearly cost him his career. The list of country singers who have repositioned as pop artists is slim, as is the list of pop artists going the other way.

Once you’ve achieved a position in the mind of your customer, you are unlikely to ever change it.

The smart money is on embracing, celebrating, and protecting your position.

The marketing book Brand Like a Rock Star will change the way you look at branding, marketing, and positioning. By using examples from rock ‘n’ roll, you’ll see how legends like AC/DC, U2, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and Jimmy Buffett created powerful brands. You’ll learn how to put their core strategies to use in your business right away. Order it now with one click here, in paperback or digital download.

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The Three Biggest Mistakes In Rebranding

rock star image hugh mcleod compressed

You hear the word used in business all the time.


And millions of dollars and years of human resources are poured into the majestic “rebrand” to turn things around, only to have nothing actually change.

That’s because so many “rebrands” fall victim to the same three mistakes, over and over.

Mistake #1: Believing Anyone Cares

We are pretty busy. We have families and jobs and bills and stuff, and we don’t really care much about your (detergent/restaurant/airline/car/shoes/whatever).

You’re on the inside. You care.

Your customers are on the outside, and they don’t care. You may think they care because they are in your email database and they shop with you, but chances are extremely high their level of give-a-shit is lower than you can imagine.

Mistake #2: Believing The Brand Is Visual

When you change your logo, you don’t change your brand.

Your brand is the emotional connection that your customers have with you. It’s how you make them feel. It’s how you delight their soul with your product. And your logo can have an impact on that, but it is a small part of the brand itself.

Your brand isn’t visual. Your brand is emotional.

Simply changing the visual aspect of your brand doesn’t rebrand you. You need to change the way your brand emotionally connects with customers in order to fully rebrand your company.

Mistake #3: Not Considering The Marketplace

Your rebrand exists in a bigger world. Your rebrand will take place in a crowded market, surrounded by competitors and potential competitors.

When you choose your new name, look, sound, smell, culture, and DNA, you need to consider the cultures around you.

Your competitors help define you.

Target isn’t “affordable quality” without Walmart being “save money”.

Chipotle isn’t “fast casual” without McDonalds being “fast food”.

When you choose your new path, remember the paths of those around you and consider carefully how they define your brand.

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Using The Rule of Three To Open Their Minds, Hearts, And Wallets


McCartney, Rihanna, and Kanye. Photo from

McCartney, Rihanna, and Kanye. Photo from


A great comedy writer once told me about the “Rule of Three”.

It’s the third thing that makes everything else funny. Or interesting. Or engaging.

I was reminded of it a few times this week while watching the 40th Anniversary of Saturday Night Live.

Remember the classic Chris Farley sketch as Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker? The Rule of Three is in play as Farley introduces himself to kids Stacey and Brian and says “First, let me tell you a few things about myself…

I’m thirty-five years old.

I am divorced.

And I live in a van down by the river!”


The famous “cowbell” sketch contains the Rule of Three, as Christopher Walken, playing record producer Bruce Dickenson, turns to the band and says “Guess what…

I got a fever.

And the only prescription

is more cowbell!”

The trick to the Rule of Three is the third item.

It has to surprise. It must delight. It needs to stand out.

The first two things represent duality. Human beings live in a world of duality. We expect duality.

Left and right. North and south. Man and woman.

The first two things in the rule of three make sense. The third one needs to deviate.

The third “gravitating body” makes things interesting, as my friend author Roy Williams would agree.

One of the musical guests on the 40th anniversary of SNL also used the Rule of Three to create a hit song called “FourFive Seconds”. It is a trio featuring Kanye West, Rihanna… and Paul McCartney.

The first two things are the expected duality. Kanye West teaming with Rihanna makes sense. We expect it.

Paul McCartney? That’s unexpected. That’s unusual.

When the mind encounters the third “gravitating body” – that unexpected twist – it cannot help but engage.

It is the Rule of Three that make this song (and this combination of artists) really, really compelling.

Brian Clark at Copyblogger wrote a great piece about using the Rule of Three. You can read it here.

Can you use the Rule of Three in business?


You can use it in your radio ads.

You can use it to write more effective web copy.

You can use it to inspire people to open their wallets at your business, because you’ve secretly used it to open their minds.

Here’s what it looks and sounds like when Kanye West, Rihanna, and Paul McCartney team up.

Order the marketing book Brand Like a Rock Star and learn the core strategies that propelled the biggest names in rock to the top of the charts, and how you can use those strategies in your business. You can order it with one click here.


“Steve Jones knows a thing or two. Listen and take notes” – Gene Simmons


Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Rihanna 5,145 Comments

Growing The Bieber Brand

Justin Bieber picture courtesy of

Justin Bieber picture courtesy of



The Justin Bieber brand hasn’t grown up nearly as gracefully as the Miley Cyrus brand, the Taylor Swift brand, or the Justin Timberlake brand. While those stars have successfully navigated their way from teen sensation to legitimate pop star, Bieber has struggled to gain respect and credibility.

How do teen idols evolve?

Miley Cyrus did it by being safely dangerous. She appeared in suggestive photo shoots, but stopped short of pornography. She smoked pot, but was never caught with hard drugs. She took nude selfies, but did so in the name of the Free The Nipple equality movement.

Justin Timberlake did it by showing off his mature versatility. After Nsyc, he had a string of solo hits. Then he showcased his singing, dancing, and acting on Saturday Night Live, earned some major acting roles, and teamed up with artists like JayZ to reinforce his credibility.

Taylor Swift evolved from teen star to pop culture phenom through transparency. Because she wrote personal songs about her experiences, he fans felt like they watched her grow up, start dating, enter serious relationships, and feel the heartbreaks when they failed. She remained very wholesome and true to her brand through the evolution.

But Justin Bieber has stumbled repeatedly.

Instead of the “safe danger” of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber has been arrested for drunk driving and drag racing. His home was raided and police seized cocaine.

Instead of the true entertainer that Timberlake has become, Bieber has yet to score any respect for his talent beyond being a teen idol.

And instead of offering fans the transparency of Taylor Swift, Bieber spends plenty of time denying allegations. The drugs weren’t his. Bad milk made him vomit on stage.  He wasn’t drunk while drag racing. And instead of being human and real, Bieber has done strange things like travel with a pet monkey and wear a gas mask shopping.

But perhaps Justin Bieber is about to turn a corner.

March 7 he’ll appear as the guest of (dis)honor at a Comedy Central Roast. Previous roastees include James Franco, David Hasselhoff, William Shatner, and Bob Saget. They have also roasted troubled celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Pamela Anderson.

By appearing on a Comedy Central Roast, Justin Bieber is now being mentioned in the same breath as these established celebrities, as opposed to being lumped in with other teen stars.  He is going to be given an opportunity to laugh at his missteps and be laughed at for them. He will have a chance to come face-to-face with his own public image, and possibly through humor grow beyond it.

Once people develop a set of opinions about a brand, overcoming them can be nearly impossible. But as Miley, Timberlake, and Swift have proven, it can be done.

Whether Justin Bieber can use the Comedy Central Roast as a catalyst to growing his brand remains to be seen.

But it is a positive step in the right direction.


To grow your brand or evolve your personal brand, read Brand Like a Rock Star and Start You Up by Steve Jones. You can order with one click here. 

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The Difference Between Advertising and Branding





 Advertising is an interruption.

Branding is an invitation.

Advertising gets in the way of what you were otherwise listening to, watching, or reading, and attempts to convince you to buy something.

Branding, on the other hand, invites you to satisfy your soul through a product or service. Branding solves a problem for you. Branding speaks to your heart, knowing that the buying decision is made there… and not in your brain.

You generally avoid advertising.

You often share branding.

The advertiser wants to tell you about themselves. They want to tell you when they are open, where they are located, how helpful their service people are, and how great their prices are. They don’t care about you, as long as you are willing to listen to stories about them.

The brander wants to talk about you. They want to reflect your world with their product as a part of it. They want you to use their product to make your world better.

When branding is done properly, your customers (fans) don’t avoid it. They embrace it.

Watch this 90 second Apple branding piece.

It doesn’t tell you where to buy a Macbook Air. It doesn’t brag about the processor speed, memory size, or screen resolution. It doesn’t mention the price or the discount or the warranty.

In fact, it tells you absolutely nothing practical about the product.

Instead, it makes your heart sing.

It shows you how your world will be better if you buy it.

So simple.

Yet most small businesses think that branding like this is beyond them. They think branding is for Apple and Nike and Ford and McDonalds.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Branding versus advertising is a choice that you as a business owner make.

Your 30-second commercial on your local radio station can create the same kind of magic, creating a powerful and lasting bond between your company and your customers.

Or you can tell people all about you and hope for the best.

Order Brand Like A Rock Star with one click here in paperback or digital download from Amazon.

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Why You Should Hate Groupon

* This is an updated version of a popular post from 2012 in which I outlined why Groupon (and others like them) are killing businesses


I feel dirty.

Today, against my better judgement, I purchased something using Groupon.

I feel bad for the local business who just got completely and utterly ripped off by Groupon, and subsequently by me. As a marketing and branding writer and speaker, I am paid to help businesses succeed. So buying something from a service I ethically despise made me feel terrible.

Here are five reasons Groupon sucks:


1. They force your business to put a value on your product or service that is far below it’s actual value.  Once you’ve established that your $100 product is actually worth $25, you’ve screwed yourself out of any chance to charge $100 again with any credibility. In my case, I just bought a $1000 product for $199.  You can be damned sure that I’ll never pay $1000 for it again. Ever.

2. They reward bargain-hungry customers who have no loyalty to the business. Instead of giving your biggest discounts and best deals to your loyal customers, Groupon forces you to give your biggest discounts to those who have zero loyalty to you. The biggest discounts and rewards go to customers who will abandon you the moment your competitor offers a lower price. How do you think that makes your long-term loyal customers feel?

3. They give you the perception of increased business thanks to a rush of transactional customers who are only concerned about finding the best price. The moment you stop offering the very best price, these customers will go elsewhere and never come back… until you drop your prices again. Every time you try attract a customer like that, your profit margins go down. Never has a great business been built on the back of low profit margins.

4.They create a rush of artificial business that, quite often, overruns your ability to care for customers in the manner you are accustomed. Because of the inevitable drop in customer service, you piss off your regular customers who give you the bulk of your business. This is especially true in service industries like restaurants, spas, and places where spaces are limited. Regular customers who love you can’t get in, or don’t get the high level of service they expect, because you’re too busy accommodating people who bought through Groupon.

5. They are crack cocaine; highly-addictive with a short-lived bump. Once you’ve experienced the high, you want it again. And again. And the only way to get it is to keep going back to your dealer to hand over your profits to them. Pretty soon, you’re broke. And there’s no rehab for bankrupt businesses. If you do a Groupon run today and see a short term bump in sales, what will you do this time next year when your year-to-year tracking shows a huge sales week? You’ll run back to Groupon so that your week matches last year. And repeat.

Rock Star brands would never work with corrupt concepts like Groupon.

Can you imagine Apple offering a Groupon discount on the iPad?

Can you even dream of Harley-Davidson offering a Groupon discount on a Fat Boy?

Can you fathom Starbucks going to Groupon to sell more Vanilla Bean Frappacinos?

Groupon and their clones are not valid advertising options. The only thing being advertised is low price. Is that what you sell?

They are not great ways to bring in new customers who will eventually pay full price. They don’t attract that type of customer.

They are not a viable way to build a long-term business. They rely on you making less money. Is that your business plan?


Instead of the short-lived rush of a hundred new bargain-hungry discount shoppers, start building a rock star brand.

Rock Star brands don’t compete on low prices alone.

Rock Star brands provide value to their customers, because true value transcends price.

Rock Star brands turn those customers into fans who keep coming back.

Rock Star brands deliver the kind of emotional satisfaction that customers want to pay for!

Learn how to build a Rock Star brand by reading Brand Like A Rock Star, available now for digital download or home delivery.


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Price vs Value


FMacRumours cover


So often the topic of “price” comes up when I’m speaking to business owners.

Our competitors have lower prices.

We can’t lower our prices anymore without losing money.

The market won’t support our pricing strategy.

I don’t buy it. And rock ‘n’ roll history is on my side.

Last week I saw Fleetwood Mac at the Rogers Centre in Vancouver, BC. The place was packed. Sold out. Just like the rest of the stops on this tour that reunites the epic Mac line-up that includes Christine MacVie.

My tickets weren’t great. They were good, but not great. We were eight rows up, at the side of the stage.

Each ticket was $225. So my wife and I paid $450 to see a band we had already seen a dozen or so times.

And there were plenty of people who paid that – and more – to experience Fleetwood Mac that night.

I could have seen another band that night in Vancouver for a fraction of that $225!

Hell, I could have been entertained by buskers in the park for pocket change.

But that night, 18,000 people chose to pay at least $100 a person to see Fleetwood Mac.

It was never about the price.

When the product is so unique, the price no longer matters.

When the service is so special, price isn’t an object.

When the heart craves something, the mind doesn’t care what price tag comes with it.

Fleetwood Mac gave 18,000 people the chance to relive memories, take part in a reunion, hear amazing music, and see a legendary band at their best. That was an experience well worth the money.

If you find yourself constantly fretting over your prices, you’ve got a bigger problem.

If price is the issue:

* You aren’t providing a service or product that is unique enough.

* You aren’t creating an experience for your customers.

* You aren’t appealing to your customer’s emotions.

Unless low prices is your defining characteristic (like Wal-Mart, the dollar store, Southwest Airlines, etc), stop worrying about price.

When price becomes an issue, think instead about the experience, value, and reward that you provide. Think about the emotional needs you satisfy in your customer. Think about the things that transcend price.

Price is a logical element to the purchasing process. It speaks to the left brain, where numbers are calculated and figures are analysed.

Value is an emotional element to the purchasing process. It speaks to the right brain, where hearts sing and skin gets goosebumps and lifelong memories are made.

If you base your business plan on value instead of price, you’ll have a much easier time building a brand that is rock solid against competition, economic recession, and consumer fads.

But it’s up to you. You can take my advice. Or you can “Go Your Own Way”…

PS – thanks “gay concert dude” for the amazing video of this song.


Fleetwood Mac 1,313 Comments

Don’t Be Afraid Of Your Brand

AC/DC has a new song out called “Play Ball”.

It’s a three-minute three-chord sing-along with a catchy guitar riff, thumping backbeat, and plenty of sexual innuendo.

Essentially, it is just like every other AC/DC song ever.

There are no songs in the AC/DC catalogue about the plight of starving children in the third world, the angst of a broken relationship, or the politics behind the war in the Middle East. After all, we have U2 for that.

AC/DC songs are about rockin’, rollin’, drinkin’, women, drivin’, singin’, partyin’, and shakin’.

You can criticize it if you want, but I think it’s genius.

AC/DC has outlasted disco, grunge, new wave, and hair bands precisely because they always deliver the same thing to their fans.

They never apologize for what they are.

Why do some brands apologize for their very essence?

KFC is testing a new concept restaurant in Toronto called “KFC Fresh“. They sell fresh hand-crafted sandwiches, grilled wraps, and chicken bowls, along with beer, in an “urban fast casual” environment. Picture Chipotle and Kentucky Fried Chicken colliding.



I think the concept is great. KFC should absolutely pursue it… under a different name.

But they should never, ever, ever call it KFC anything. Let alone KFC Fresh!

KFC is famous for fried chicken. It is inherently not very healthy. At all.

It is greasy. Hell, it’s finger licking freaking good.

So why apologize for it? 

Yes, we live in a more health conscious world than we did a few years ago. But we all love to indulge now and again. KFC should be proud. They have the chance to be like AC/DC… a wonderfully guilty pleasure! KFC should be telling me to indulge now and then with big bucket of greasy Colonel’s recipe fried chicken.

Instead, they apologize with KFC Fresh.

The very name suggests that the original “real thing” KFC isn’t fresh… that it is somehow lesser than KFC itself.

Great brands can evolve, change, and try new concepts. It happens all the time.

But wise brands never apologize for their very essence. They celebrate it.

If you want to build a brand that can rock for decades like AC/DC, order the marketing/branding book Brand Like a Rock Star with one-click right now.

AC/DC, KFC 268 Comments

Making Every Element Count

Have you ordered your copy of Brand Like a Rock Star and Start You Up? These two books will revolutionize how you think about branding and marketing for your business… and for your personal identity. They are one click away right here!


Great albums are like great brands.

Dark Side of the Moon


Back in Black


Appetite For Destruction

Zepellin IV

Great albums are full of songs that connect and compliment each other.

While each song is unique, they are part of a greater tapestry that leave the listener with a certain special feeling.

Great brands do the same.

They understand that every aspect of the brand contributes to that greater brand “aura”. The brand isn’t simply the logo, packaging, retail display, distribution system, social media, marketing, and promotions. A great brand takes everything into account in order to leave people with a certain special feeling about the brand.

Even the legal department needs to be aware of the brand’s essence and aura.

Consider Jack Daniels, the famous whisky from Lynchburg, Tennessee.

Jack Daniels himself founded the brand in 1866. He chose square bottles because he felt they conveyed a sense of fairness and integrity. Jack used the finest corn and highest standards to create his Old No.7 whiskey. The “Old No.7″ was a reference to his government registration. When the government changed the registration numbers for distillers, Jack continued to use Old No.7 on his bottles because his brand was well-established.

It was Old No.7 that won the gold medal for the world’s finest whisky at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904. During World War II when access to quality ingredients was limited, the brand stopped production completely for five years.

Today Jack Daniels represents the same old school brand values. It is a premium product, famous for quality. It is the drink of Frank Sinatra and Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman. It is the drink of down home good old southern boys. It is tradition. It is Gentleman Jack himself.

When author Patrick Wensink used a variation on the famous Jack Daniels label for the cover of his 2012 book Broken Piano for President, the legal team at Jack Daniels took notice.

broken piano for president


Like most legal teams, they did what they needed to do in order to protect their property. They sent Patrick a cease and desist letter.

But they did it in a way to perfectly captured the essence of the Jack Daniels brand. They wrote a letter with integrity, honesty, fairness, old world values, and southern friendship.

It is quite possibly the kindest cease and desist letter you will ever read.

It explains the situation, suggests a rational solution, offers to cooperatively solve the problem, and expresses genuine gratitude for the author’s fondness of their brand.

As a result, the cease and desist letter has gone viral.

The Jack Daniels brand is being talked about. The brand’s values and attributes are being spread.

All thanks to a legal team that “gets it”.

You can read more at Patrick’s website here.


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