Know Your Audience

Last week, The Rolling Stones wrapped up the latest leg of their “No Filter” tour with a show at the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami.

The band played 19 songs that night. Only one of them, the 1997 song “Out of Control”, was from an album released after 1981. Everything else the band played that night, and on almost every night of the tour, was from their most prolific years, from 1965 to 1989.

The Rolling Stones haven’t had a bona fide hit song since late August of 1989 when “Mixed Emotions” peaked at #5.

Yet the No Filter Tour grossed almost $400,000,000 and sold north of two million tickets, playing across Europe and North America over the course of three years. The tour was postponed while Mick Jagger recovered from heart surgery, but quickly continued. Night after night, hit after hit.

The Rolling Stones are brilliant because they know their audience.

Great companies know who they appeal to.

The Stones know that their fans want to hear the hits, so they play the hits. They sprinkle in some long-lost gems for the hard core fans, but they don’t play songs from the recent albums. Instead, the band delivers “Start Me Up”, “Satisfaction”, and “Sympathy for the Devil” night after night. Exactly what their fans want!

Discount airlines like Ryan Air and Southwest Airlines know what kind of traveler they attract, and they deliver on the needs of the traveler who puts low price first. Emirates and Cathay Pacific attract a different kind of traveler, and deliver an entirely different experience geared toward the traveler who puts luxury ahead of price.

Marriot does a great job of understanding the customer at each property. They have a brand for pretty much every type of guest, from the upscale Ritz-Carlton, to long-term stay Marriot Executive Apartments, to the hip but budget-friendly Aloft brand. Each brand understands who they attract, and they deliver on their brand promise. One hotel brand might focus on families, another on convenience, and another on luxury.

The takeaway from The Rolling Stones is clear: know what songs your audience wants to hear, and play the songs they want to hear. If you do that, they’ll keep coming back for more, night after night. The minute you stop delivering what they want… they drift away.