Four Business Lessons From Freddie Mercury

Next week, Bohemian Rhapsody hits theatres, telling the incredible story of Freddie Mercury.

Freddie Mercury is widely regarded as having one of the most amazing voices in the history of rock music. You can discover the unreal range of Freddie in this fascinating 10 minute YouTube video from Polyphonic.

Looking back at Queen after all of these years, some very cool things stand out that can be applied to almost any business today.

  1. Be amazing. Not only was Freddie an incredible vocalist, but the entire band was considered amongst the best at their craft. Brian May, Roger Taylor, and John Deacon could play with the very best of them. There are very few business secrets anymore, and customers expect you to be great. No exceptions. You need to deliver, every time. The days of accepting mediocre service are long gone.

  2. Stand out. While it is important to be amazing, it is equally important to stand out from the crowd. There were plenty of people who loved Queen, but plenty of other people disliked the band. It is, however, almost impossible to find people who don’t know about Queen and don’t have any opinion on the band. They stood out in a way that forced people to pay attention them. That’s the essential first step for any business! Stand out!

  3. Persevere. All these years later, the song “Keep Yourself Alive” from Queen’s 1973 debut album stands up as one of their all-time greats. But at the time, the album was considered a flop. It sold poorly. In 2008, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Keep Yourself Alive” as the 31st greatest guitar song in rock history! But in 1973, nobody seemed to care. Despite the initial lack of success, Queen kept forging ahead. They were not deterred. And perhaps a greater example of perseverance is the song “The Show Must Go On”, recorded while Freddie was gravely ill and barely able to walk. Does failure deter your team? Great businesses accept that failure is simply a sign that you’re trying new things and pushing the envelope. Plenty of smart people believe that if you aren’t failing, you aren’t trying hard enough!

  4. You can’t replace the irreplaceable. After Freddie Mercury died, Queen has continued to perform live… but never as “Queen”. They toured with Paul Rodgers singing under the name Queen + Paul Rodgers. Today they tour as Queen + Adam Lambert. They continue to honor Freddie’s legacy during every performance. They never try to pass off this version of Queen as the original thing, despite the fact that Brian May and Roger Taylor are still there. You can’t replace Freddie Mercury, and Queen has always acknowledged that. Your business needs to know what parts are replaceable and what parts cannot be recreated. Customers have certain expectations, and if you can’t meet them because of a change you need to acknowledge that… not hide the reality.

Bohemian Rhapsody opens in North America on November 2, 2018.

If you’d like me to play some Queen music and talk to your group about the connection between rock history and business success, just click here and we’ll make it happen.

And if you’d like to read more on the topic, you can order Brand Like a Rock Star here.

Embracing Your Opposite

John knew that he needed Paul.

Paul made John’s dark, bluesy, and melancholy songs happier. He added more melody and harmony.

And likewise, John made Paul’s optimistic and melodic songs deeper and more brooding.

That’s what made Lennon/McCartney into the most successful songwriting duo in rock history. Together they wrote some of the biggest hits of their generation, and possibly of any generation ever. Their body of work is unrivalled.

Great companies embrace diversity. They understand that their Lennons need McCartneys. A company of clones becomes boring and one-dimensional very quickly. Meanwhile, companies that embrace diversity thrive in all kinds of ways:

  • Different types of people bring different types of ideas. Great products are made better by people who see things from a different perspective. When an engineer and an artist collaborate, the results can be incredible. Some of the coolest products, like the iPod and iPhone, have emerged from that type of collaboration.

  • Cultural diversity in a company reflects the cultural diversity of society, meaning companies can react smarter to opportunities and issues. Companies that reflect society will connect with customers who live and breathe that diversity on a daily basis.

  • Some of the brightest minds exist outside of our usual sphere. When we look outside of our industry or outside of our borders for talent, we open our companies up to all kinds of different ways of doing things. Unfortunately, most companies never look beyond their current frame-of-reference for talent.

Does your company value it’s Lennons and McCartneys equally?

Does your brand embrace diversity?

Just like the greatest songwriting team of all-time was built on two very different people, great corporate cultures and great brands are built on diversity of opinions and perspectives.

If you’d like to book me to help make your next event absolutely rock, please contact gsb speaker management at 860-580-7043 or email

The Rock Star Comeback

It is one of the most powerful stories in movies, books, and music... the comeback. And it has incredible implications for business.

Rock stars simply never give up, No matter what obstacle they are up against, they power on. They believe, beyond any doubt, that greatness is within them. Almost every great rock star story has a point where it looked like all hope was lost, before the right song catapulted the star back into fame. 

What's your favorite rock star comeback?

Meat Loaf is one of rock's great comeback stories. After Bat Out of Hell made him world famous in the winter of 1977-78, Meat Loaf went broke, fell into depression, and suffered a series of poor-selling albums. It seemed like his career was over. When it was rumored that he was working on a Bat Out of Hell sequel, nobody paid much attention. According to his manager, the industry treated it like a joke. But in 1993, sixteen years after his first hit, Meat Loaf went to #1 again with Bat Out of Hell II. The album went to #1 in 28 different countries. Today Meat Loaf continues to tour, record, and collaborate, but for that dark sixteen year period, it looked like that would never be the case.

Aerosmith stands up as one of the best comebacks of all time. After an amazing run in the 70s that gave us "Dream On", "Walk This Way", and numerous other hits, the band splintered. Drugs and infighting put the future of the band in doubt. It took extensive rehab and a call from hip hop giants Run DMC to put things back together. Run DMC was doing a version of "Walk This Way", and wanted Steven Tyler and Joe Perry from Aerosmith to help out. They did, and the remake went even higher on the charts than the original did! Knowing there was still an audience for their music, they went into the studio and created Permanent Vacation in 1987. That album powered their comeback and became their best-selling album in over a decade. 

And more recently, the comeback of Justin Bieber is noteworthy. The Beebs had descended into obnoxious punk status with his behavior, getting arrested for impaired driving, vandalizing a neighbor's home, and other antics. While he was often in the news and continued to sell concert tickets, Justin Bieber wasn't scoring hit songs. With his management team overseeing things, Justin disappeared for almost a year. He wasn't on TMZ or making headlines for bad behavior. Behind the scenes, he was collaborating with credible hitmakers. When the time was right, Justin appeared on "Where RU Now" with Jack U. He then released "What Do You Mean?", a sonic sequel to the previous hit. He has since collaborated with Major Lazer, DJ Khaled, DJ Snake, and Luis Fonzi and Daddy Yankee on "Despacito". He's appeared with Quavo, Chance The Rapper, Lil Wayne, and Bloodpop. These days Justin Bieber is one of music's most consistent hitmakers. 

What rock star comeback story inspires you, and keeps you going through the ebbs and flows of building a great business? 

Customer Service is Now Customer Experience

Customer service, as we know it, is dead.

If you're just serving your customers, it's game over. That's because today's customer demands more than service. With more choices than ever before, and pretty much anything delivered to her door in 24 hours with one-click, your customer is seeking more than just plain good old fashioned service.

Rock stars understand this.

Taylor Swift is a master at the customer experience. Her fans dress up in costumes, make signs, and get very, very into it. Taylor gives them more than just a concert... she puts on a total show. Her songs come alive, and Taylor's personal passion comes through.

The fans lucky enough to be invited backstage to meet Taylor get serious treatment. She reviews everyone's picture before the meet-and-greet, so that she can greet her fans by name. When each fan meets Taylor, she gives them her full and undivided attention. She makes every single fan feel special.

I've watched so many fans be disappointed backstage at a concert, finding out that their idol isn't nearly as nice as they hoped. Taylor defies that. She's nicer.

And it takes work. Taylor works at it. Her mom works at it. Her management team works at it. Every night, every fan gets an experience.

Do you give your customers that kind of experience? Use Taylor Swift for your role model, and treat every customer like your very best customer and give them an experience they'll never forget.

PS - the pic in this post is Taylor and my 14 year-old niece who became fast friends backstage.

How To Make Price Irrelevant

How do you make price irrelevant to your customer?

You sell something to their heart.

The heart doesn’t think in numbers.

If you create an amazing product that I love and your marketing repeatedly shows my heart why I love it, my heart will decide to buy it.

If my heart decides to buy it (and not my head), the price will be secondary. It might not even matter at all.

When my oldest son Isaac was just three years old, I took him to his first NHL hockey game. We went to see the Edmonton Oilers play the New Jersey Devils. After the game he gripped my hand as we walked through the crowds to the exit, and out of the corner of his eye he spotted a souvenir stand and pulled me towards it.

“That bear must be lonely,” he said, pointing at a glass case with a stuffed teddy bear wearing an Oilers jersey. “He’s all alone.”

The kid was right. There was only one Oilers bear left. And after those words melted my heart, the bear was coming home with us. He was lonely no more.

And the price didn’t matter.

My heart was going to have that bear no matter how much it cost.

Isaac is now 22, and he still has “Oily” the bear.

If you speak to your customer’s heart, everything else falls into place., and very quickly the heart convinces the head that the price is worth it.

Instantly download or order your copy of Brand Like a Rock Star and Start You Up with one click right here! You’ll learn the marketing secrets of rock music icons, and how to put those secrets into play to build a stronger business and personal brand.

Understanding Your Brand's Role

Great brands understand their place in the mind of the customer.

Sometime around 1990, The Rolling Stones realized that they were a nostalgia act. Their fans wanted to hear "Satisfaction", "Jumpin' Jack Flash", and "Start Me Up". In the era of grunge and the mainstream rise of hip-hop, The Rolling Stones suddenly sounded out of place on the radio. When they released new music, it wasn't the major event it was a decade earlier.

The Rolling Stones have only released four studio albums since 1989, and one of them was a pure blues record. That's four albums in 28 years. Contrast that to the band's first 25 years, when they released a prolific 22 albums between 1964 and 1989.

Today when the Stones play live, they play the hits and the gems and the lost classics their fans love. They don't focus on songs from their latest album, because they know what their fans want from them.

Does your team understand exactly what your customers want from your brand? Are you trying to force new songs down their throat, or are you playing the hits they want to hear?  Successful brands - and bands - give their fans what they want. Nobody ever left a concert complaining that the band played all of the hits they love!


The Price/Value Equation

Are you hearing that your prices are too high?
Do your customers tell you you're charging them too much?
Are you losing business to lower priced competitors?

If price is a complaint, there is a very good chance you're not providing enough value.

Instead of lowering prices, consider increase perceived value.

Rolex customers don't complain about price. Rolex doesn't lose out on business to lower priced competitors. After all, if you're in the market for a Rolex, chances are you're not settling for a reasonably priced Seiko.

Rolex provides status to it's customers, and status has value.

If Rolex lowered the price, they would lower the status... and hence the value.

Tickets to see Bruce Springsteen on Broadway are expensive. Quantities are limited, the experience is rare, and Bruce is an A-lister. A quick search of StubHub showed the cheapest tickets at $926... in the left corner of the mezzanine, three rows from the back. They aren't the worst seats in the house, but they are damn close. And those tickets will sell. 

People paying $1,000 to see Springsteen on Broadway are not wavering between that and a $50 TKTS bargain to see something else.

If you're hearing that your prices are too high, don't immediately jump to lower them. Maybe they are too high. Or maybe your customers just don't feel like they are getting enough perceived value. 

What Are You Really Selling?

When you go to see Coldplay, you get a bracelet to wear. That bracelet lights up in sync with the music, effectively making every fan in the venue into a part of the show.

That is an experience... not a concert.

Fans don't buy concert tickets. They buy the experience of being there in the flesh, witnessing history, and feeling the songs instead of just hearing them.

Fans don't download songs. They download the chance to sing along, feel great, and have something to transport them to another reality for a few minutes.

And your customers don't buy whatever it is you sell or provide! They buy the experience you or your product provide.

A great accountant provides the experience of knowing you aren't going to get haunted by the tax man for evasion, and that you've kept every penny you deserve.

Insurance provides you with the experience of knowing your family is looked after in the worst of times, should they happen.

An airline sells you the experience of walking into the arms of a loved one after a long time apart, or the experience of arriving hours later in somewhere new, exotic, and exciting.

Nobody ever had the urge to buy toothpaste, but everyone has the urge to have healthy white teeth and fresh kissable breath. 

When you stop thinking about what you sell, and start thinking about how you make your customers feel, you can create magic. That feeling is what is most important. Sell that feeling in your marketing! Stop talking about what you sell, and start talking about how you make me feel.