“Brands That Rock” by Roger Blackwell and Tina Stephan 2004

This is a book after my own heart – marketing lessons inspired by the Rolling Stones, AC/DC, KISS and Madonna.

And yet it’s not trivial to compare how great artists inspire loyalty, emotional connections, identity, community, and repeat purchases. And the very best ones understand the business concepts of delivering value, consistency, reinvention while staying loyal to the core values, merchandising, packaging, adoption of new technologies, and seeking out niche markets where there is little competition.

Consider the Stones. The Greatest Rock N Roll Band in the World is also a global enterprise who’s CEO Mick Jagger also happens to be the product and pitchman. The “Tongue and Lips” logo is instantly recognizable worldwide, and is tattooed on an unknown number of men and women. Beginning with the Steel Wheels tour of 1989, the Stones have delivered a consistent product in a manner surprisingly similar to Disney: a Stones concert is a true experience with an outrageous stage set, plenty of familiar songs with enough new ones to keep things interesting, pyrotechnics, and a band that plays the songs true to the recordings you have heard a thousand times over. And of course, plenty of unique souvenir merchandise which can only be purchased at a concert. Gone are the days of sloppy riffs, forgotten words, Keith barely conscious enough to stand, and alienating the core fan base by straying too far away from blues based rock and roll (like their disastrous psychedelic experiment in 1967). Today you get what you want, and what you need – which is why millions of fans shell out hundreds of millions of dollars every time the Stones decide to crank the machine back up.

Loyalty - Stones Tounge Tattoo

Loyalty - Stones Tongue Tattoo

So in compiling these comparisons between Elton John and JetBlue, The Rolling Stones and Cadillac, KISS and Wal-Mart, Aerosmith and Volkswagen, there emerge several key themes that are common between great Bands and great Brands:

  • They truly understand their fans and customers
  • They create strong emotional connections with fans and customers
  • They reinvent themselves to stay current, but don’t stray from their core offerings
  • They understand that the product is closely tied to the experience
  • They are unique, one-of-a-kind, often imitated but never duplicated.

Take Away for Marketers: Of all the examples in the book, many of the best ones are those that relate to brands that create true passion among their customers. Starbucks, KrispyKreeme, Harley Davidson, Apple, Google, JetBlue all stir strong emotions and passion among their fans – for them there is no substitute. Read this book because it’s fun, and think about how you can create that same passion, and sense of identity between your brand and your fans. After all, it’s only rock and roll but I like it. Yes, I do.

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