Review: Brand Like A Rock Star by Steve Jones

This review first ran in the Sept. 10 edition of The Hamilton Spectator.

Brand Like a Rock Star: Lessons From Rock’n’Roll to Make Your Business Rich and Famous

By Steve Jones

Greenleaf Book Group Press


We’re headed back for another sermon at the Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

My wife and I will be in the stands and out of our seats when Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band bring their Wrecking Ball Tour to Copps Coliseum Oct. 21.

We caught their Toronto tour stop last month. Over three hours and 45 minutes without a break, the world’s greatest bar band tore through a playlist spanning four decades. The concert closed with 40,000 fans singing and dancing to Twist and Shout just 15 minutes shy of midnight.

So let’s imagine a world where all of us love our jobs the way Springsteen still loves performing Thunder Road for the 10,000th time. Where we treat our customers the way Springsteen treats his fans.   Where we hold nothing back, consistently turn in an inspired performance and never fail to surprise.

There are business and marketing lessons to be learned from the Boss and his fellow musicians, says Steve Jones who’s spent close to 30 years building radio brands across North America. If you want to build a great brand, look to great  bands.

It all starts with passion. It’s the stuff that legendary bands and brands are made of. “When you create something out of a deep desire to change the world, people pay attention. You believe; we believe. That root passion is where your rock star brand begins.”

From Springsteen and the Beatles to AC/DC and U2, great musicians and bands consistently meet their fans’ expectations. They deliver want their audience wants. Brands need to do the same, says Jones.

“When any brand creates a product that isn’t congruent with what their fans expect, it interferes with the mental real estate the brand already owns. It diminishes the brand’s value.”

Great bands and musicians know better than to try to appeal to everyone. Don’t expect a hip hop or death metal record from the Boss. Springsteen knows his fans want songs about promises kept and broken in Small Town USA where the rain’s cold and hard and the love’s mean and true.

“If you build your brand to appeal to everyone, you’ll never be the brand that people fall in love with,” says Jones. “You’ll never be their first choice. You might become the fallback second choice when the brand they love isn’t available, but that’s about as much as you can hope for.”

While Springsteen has legions of fans, there are some misguided souls who don’t yet appreciate his music. But this doesn’t bother great performers because they know the opposite of love isn’t hate.

“Love and hate aren’t really opposites in the branding world,” says Jones. “They go hand in hand. There cannot be one without the other.

“The opposite of love is simply not caring,” says Jones. “The opposite of love, when it comes to building a strong and powerful brand, is indifference. Any brand that stirs up attention is bound to have detractors.”

Great bands engage their fans and build tribes. What business wouldn’t want the equivalent of Dead Heads and Parrot Heads? “By not getting in the way of their fan’s passion, the Greatful Dead and Jimmy Buffet both created massive networks of passionate people to help spread the message about their music. That’s the opportunity brands have today if they are willing to lose some control and let the fans take over and own their experience.”

And while it starts with passion, it all comes down to your customers’ experience. Great brands deliver great experiences.

“The world  didn’t listen to Jimi Hendrix,” says Jones. “They experienced Jimi Hendrix. Watching him on stage coaxing the fire from his guitar was an experience. Experience is a vital word for brands, and not nearly enough brands understand that. No matter what you sell, it is all about the experience: the emotional reaction that your customers have when they use your brand. Rock star brands realize they don’t sell products or services, they sell experiences.”

Competitors can easily sell cheaper knock-offs of your services and products. But they can’t replicate the one-of-a-kind experiences that you consistently deliver and that your fans happily pay a premium to enjoy.

While there are almost as many marketing books as songs in Springsteen’s discography, this is the first to put a rock ‘n’ roll spin on brand building. It’s an informative, insightful and entertaining read.

@jayrobb lives and works in Hamilton and still finds reason to believe at the end of every hard-earned

Published by

Jay Robb

I've reviewed more than 500 business books for the Hamilton Spectator since 1999 and worked in public relations since 1993.

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