Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marketing and Branding the Sammy Hagar Way

A few weeks ago, I started writing on the theme of how rock stars are using marketing. You can read the first article here. I then wrote about Bon Jovi's use of marketing here. Today, I'm continuing this theme (I don't want to call it a series as that implies a specific number of articles) with Sammy Hagar, who just may be the best businessman/rock star from a success standpoint that we've seen.

If you've been to a Sammy Hagar (or Van Halen or Chickenfoot) concert (and I've been to a bunch), you know that it's not so much a concert as it is a party. Many bands may say that, but Sammy means it. He's famous for saying, "I don't drink before the show. I drink during the show!" He's not shy about sharing either. One of his tours included a brief intermission in which he made his signature "Waborita" made with his Cabo Wabo Tequila (since sold for roughly $94 million) and passed it to the lucky fans in the first few rows. What a perfect way to promote your product...directly to your most die hard fans every night across the country on tour. 
Cheers from the Cabo Wabo Cantina in Las Vegas!
Sammy Hagar is a rocker first (Red Rocker, to be exact) and a businessman a very close second. Perhaps best known as the lead singer of Van Halen after David Lee Roth left, he's had an extensive solo career and formed Chickenfoot. On the business side, besides Cabo Wabo Tequila, he's owned a clothing business, has multiple Cabo Wabo Cantinas, Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill restaurants (including one at Cleveland Hopkins Airport), additional restaurant partnerships with world class chefs and wrote a best selling autobiography. While the Sammy vs. Dave debate will continue for years to come, there's no arguing Sammy's success in business.

Authenticity and Branding
In an article with Forbes.com (read it here) back in 2011, he attributes his interest in business to being poor growing up. He started out with some investments and got addicted when they worked out. Unique for him was the ability to build his brand and promote his products on tours around the country with sold out shows. Beyond that, he attributes his success to the authenticity of the products. Specifically with Cabo Wabo Tequila and Sammy's Beach Bar Rum, he created (with help) what he truly believes is the best tequila and rum available. He didn't just endorse someone else's creation and slap his name on it (as is becoming very popular...in part, due to Hagar's success). That authenticity shines through to his fans.  

Do What You Love and Give Back
Hagar is in the enviable position of having made enough money with his music, that his business ventures are fun for him. Add the success and huge selling price of his Cabo Wabo Tequila and you know he's set for life (and his kids' and grandkids' lives...). These days he only takes on projects that are fun or that allow him to give back to the community. In each of his Sammy's Beach Bar and Grills (currently four locations: Cleveland, Las Vegas, Maui and New York City and two more coming soon), all of the money he makes goes directly to help kids in the cities each restaurant is in. The profits of the Cleveland restaurant will go to the Cleveland Food Bank and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (to be used for children's music appreciation programs). 
My wife, Kristen at Sammy's Beach Bar and Grill at Cleveland Hopkins Airport
So what can we take away from Sammy Hagar's successes? Regardless of your product, you need to own it. Customers can see right through you if you're phony. If you don't believe in your product, neither will they. While we may not have sold out concerts to promote our products to our biggest fans, we do need to find where our best customers are and speak to them there. Target our biggest fans and get them to help spread the word about our products. That might be Facebook, email or an event. Whatever it is, take advantage of your most loyal fans to help you. Most of all, have fun! Nothing is more contagious than having a good time. That will make your customers come back again and again.

Do you have a different take? I'd love to hear your thoughts. And, just for fun, who do you prefer in Van Halen - Sammy or Dave? I love both eras and I see them as two completely different bands. My personal favorite is Sammy though. He gets the edge because he can actually sing.

Reminder that Content Marketing World is less than two weeks away in Cleveland! If you're going, let me know. I'd love to meet up and talk a little marketing...or music! Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cleveland Concert Review: Tesla at the House of Blues 8/19/14

Stormy night under jet black skies, Tesla pulled into town. Thunder rolled and lightning bolts came crashing to the ground! The lyrics to “Modern Day Cowboy” fit perfectly for their concert at the Cleveland House of Blues last night. A huge thunderstorm rolled its way through downtown Cleveland shortly before Tesla took the stage. They then came in and stormed through an incredible set!
It’s hard to believe that Tesla has been around for 27+ years as Jeff Keith pointed out during their show last night. Touring in support of their newest CD, Simplicity, it clear there’s still plenty left in the tank for these guys. Jeff Keith has one of the most unique voices in rock. While the years have seen his voice altered a bit, and they clearly tune their instruments down quite a bit on a few songs to help him out (most notably Edison’s Medicine), his voice is as strong as ever. Nobody saunters around a stage the way Keith does. It’s entertaining in its own right. Add the rest of the band, highlighted by one of the most under-rated guitarists, Frank Hannon, and you’ve got one of the most entertaining bands you’ll ever see.

They may have come out in the midst of the 80’s hard rock scene, but they’re hardly a hair band. Their songs have always been straight forward rock and roll with substance. No glitz or glamour, just straight up rock that will kick you in the ass. Their authenticity has been the calling card of the band and clearly separated from many of the bands from that era. And, luckily for their fans, they show no signs of slowing down. I’ve seen Tesla a bunch of times since the early ‘90’s and this show was as good as any I’ve been to.

The show started with the slower (but still heavy) “MP3”, the opening track of their new CD, and it didn’t take them long to settle in. They blazed through a 16-song, 90-minute set highlighting their hits, along with four of their new songs. While I like the new CD, hearing the songs live gives them a whole new depth and passion. The best of the new songs by far is “So Divine”. It just has the classic Tesla sound and comes off live very well. Other highlights, as always, are “Love Song” (I can watch them play this over and over. It never gets old) and “Modern Day Cowboy”. The only complaint I had (and a small one) was that they didn’t include any songs from “Into The Now” which I think is one of their best CD’s.
Back to the 27+ years, that makes them eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I haven’t heard their name in any discussions as far as who should be in the Rock Hall, but I’m going to start the argument. There are plenty of bands that haven’t made it in yet that clearly deserve to be (see www.rocksnubs.com) and I’m adding Tesla to that list. Should they go in before some of these others? Not necessarily, but they do deserve to be in there at some point. Let’s make it happen!
Have you seen Tesla live (if not, what are you waiting for)? What do you think of the band? As always, thanks for reading and please share it with your friends!

Edison’s Medicine
I Wanna Live
Hang Tough
So Divine
Heaven’s Trail
Mama’s Fool
Life is a River
The Way It Is
Burnout to Fade
What You Give
Love Song
Gettin’ Better
Modern Day Cowboy
Little Suzi (Encore)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Two Things Bon Jovi Can Teach You About Marketing

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, rock artists can teach us a lot about marketing (read it here). Celebrating their 30th anniversary this year, Bon Jovi has grown from the darlings of MTV to a global band that have enjoyed even larger success in the 2000's than in their 80's "heyday". From a marketing standpoint, there are two things that Bon Jovi does better than any band has, other than the Beatles. First, they managed to transform their brand image while also staying true to who they are. Second, they've embraced digital marketing and the opportunities it has created for them. Many brands can learn from them.

When you think of Bon Jovi these days, a far different image comes to mind than in the '80's. They've done more than just grow up from the hair band days. They've completely lost their association with that era. Not the songs mind you, "Livin' on a Prayer" and "Wanted Dead or Alive" still hold up easily all these years later. But the image and connotations of the hair band scene have been replaced with a multitude of new anthems, philanthropy and their never-give-up messaging (yes, cliched, but they've worked).
Even my cat, Echo, can't keep her eyes off of Bon Jovi!
 Their transformation started with their "Keep the Faith" CD in 1992. After a band break (and some making up in the band), they announced their return as "chapter 2" with a more socially conscious approach to lyrics. The CD sold well, despite a changing music scene. Fast forward to 2000 with their next "come back". After another hiatus that saw Jon Bon Jovi explore acting and appearing in a number of movies, they roared back on the scene with "It's My Life" from their "Crush" CD. This amidst another shift in the music scene...this time mostly known for boy bands and Brittany Spears. The CD was huge. People were starting to notice their longevity and ability to flourish by staying true to who they were and continuing their optimistic lyrics.

Tragedy struck in the form of 9/11 shortly after. Bon Jovi was front and center offering support and doing what they could to help those suffering. They weren't the only ones, but they may have been the most visible. At the concert for New York, they played an incredible set, and when everyone came out to sing with Paul McCartney at the end of the show, Jon Bon Jovi was planted squarely behind him. I guarantee that was no accident. They were sharing the stage with the biggest names in rock royalty and standing proud.

Jon Bon Jovi began appearing all over the place with big names in politics, business and general celebrity. They began multiple philanthropic efforts to help those effected by 9/11 and homelessness. Jon bought the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League and used them to further enhance his charitable missions. The band even donated $1 million to Oprah Winfrey on her show.

During this time, they continued to release new CD's and sell out arenas around the world. They even crossed over into the country music world...and did it well (I say begrudgingly). I wasn't a huge fan of it at the time as I'm not a country music fan at all. But, the CD is actually one of their better CD's...again, I say begrudgingly. A move like that has killed many bands, but Bon Jovi had an authenticity to the music. They described it as Bon Jovi music with a Nashville flavor. It didn't feel or sound like a stunt or quick money grab.

They've embraced digital marketing and social media wholeheartedly. They've launched  many iterations of their website (www.bonjovi.com) with each new CD. They extensively build their email list to send newsletters and announcements. With "Crush", they did something not many bands were doing yet at that time. They streamed live footage of their recording of the CD online. I remember logging in and saw them recording backing vocals and drums...not the fun stuff like lead vocals and guitar. This was early on with the technology and it wasn't necessarily pretty, but they gave us a view we hadn't seen before and it built excitement for the new CD.

They were among the first to stream portions of concerts online. Their past tour had them streaming quite a few shows in their entirety, including their last show in Cleveland in 2013 (one of the last shows with Richie Sambora). Last month, Jon Bon Jovi sold "tickets" to stream a live solo concert with the proceeds going to the Parker Family Health Center.

They even put together an online promotion in which fans could submit videos of themselves performing "Livin' On a Prayer" and the band used them in a collage on their giant screens in concert when they played the song.  With their last CD "What About Now", they experimented with augmented reality. With their Bon Jovi App, there was a feature that interacted with the CD cover that brought it to life with animation. The band members themselves were even fully painted to blend into the cover.
So what has all of this gotten them? Besides a ton of content that they can repurpose over and over, they've grown their fan base so that they're now one of the biggest bands in the world. They consistently have the top grossing tours. They're the only band that had insane success in the '80's as a hair band and are even bigger now. It's basically been the vision of Jon Bon Jovi.

What other marketing lessons can we learn from Bon Jovi? There's more, but this is just what stands out the most to me. I didn't even spend much time on the amount of content they have, his storytelling or the hundreds of TV appearances that led to much of their success. Thanks for reading and if you like this post, please share it with your friends.
Let me know if you'll be at Content Marketing World next month in Cleveland. I'd love to spend a few minutes talking about marketing!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

When Rock Music and Content Marketing Collide

My guitars in my little corner of our basement
The lights go down. Anticipation rises. The intro music gives way to silhouettes taking their place on stage. Excitement gives way to goose bumps as the lights come up revealing your favorite band as they kick into their opening song.  The journey is just starting. They're about to take you on a ride unlike anything else out there. There might be 20,000 other fans on the same ride, but it feels like it's just you and the band. That's what the best bands are able to get you to feel when you see them in concert.
Rock stars are some of the best content marketers. They use their content to grow their audience and sell their products (CDs, DVDs, concert tickets, etc.). How do they do it? It starts with their songs and the stories they tell. Storytelling is at the heart of content marketing. There are great writers, amazing TV shows and movies, speech writers, etc. But does anyone do it any better or get hold of you like a rock band? They can tell you a complete story in three minutes, and the best ones make you feel like it's all about you. Jon Bon Jovi once said about song writing (slightly paraphrasing), "It's nice when you hit a story and it's about you (meaning him). And then the magic of it is when you all think it's about YOU! (referring to the audience)". He just happens to do that very well. Want proof? How many of you instantly know who Tommy and Gina are? 
The results that brands are seeking with content marketing are exactly what bands seek in building their fan base. Musicians that do it well capture engagement that most companies can only dream about. Many bands focus on their songs, CD's, concerts and books. Some branch out to other artistic endeavors like acting or painting. Some create their own products from liquor to wine to coffee to signature instruments. Then there's Kiss that will sell anything they can slap a logo onto. It's all content. They use it to help grow their fan base or grow their band's brand.

Nowadays, with social media, fans have much more access to bands and their offstage life than ever before. Fans get a much clearer view of behind the scenes material (intended and unintended) through Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc. It also gives bands more ways to promote their concerts and new music. Last year at a book signing, I asked "That Metal Show" host Eddie Trunk about social media's effect on the music industry. His answer is below. Needless to say, those that do it well are reaping the benefits.
In the upcoming weeks, I'll be highlighting some of my favorite rock artists and their use of content marketing. You'll have to stay tuned to see who they'll be. In the meantime, there are a few marketers that I've been following that I really enjoy how they weave marketing and the music business together for great case studies, examples and stories:

  • Mack Collier (@MackCollier) - Author of "Think Like a Rock Star" and founder of #Blogchat: His examples are more country and pop than actual rock (Rock Star is one of the most overused terms anymore...), but the premise of his book about turning customers into fans is right on. 
  • Jason A. Miller (@jasonmillerCA) - Sr. Content Marketing Manager at LinkedIn and owner/photographer of Rock N Roll Cocktail: His marketing presentations include examples of Judas Priest and Kiss...how can you not love that? He's also got a book coming out soon, so keep an eye of for that!
  • Ruth Blatt (@ruthblatt) - Contributor at Forbes: I recently just discovered her writing and began following her on Twitter. She describes her writing as the "intersection of rock 'n' roll and business".
Check them out for some great insight on marketing with a rock and roll twist. One thing I've learned from them and many more is that it's ok to look for marketing best practices from the industries you're passionate about and I hope to share more of that.

Thanks for reading and please sign up to receive my blog posts in your email. Share them with your friends too! If you're going to be at Content Marketing World in Cleveland in September, let me know. I'd love to meet and talk a little marketing, rock music or anything I might be able to help you with.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cleveland Concert Reviews: Black Label Society & Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators

This weekend, Cleveland was treated to two outstanding concerts featuring two world class guitarists. It seems like when I was in my 20's that this happened more often. I remember some weeks I had 3 or 4 amazing concerts. This was back in the days when Cleveland was a can't miss stop on most tours.
Friday night, while there was some country concert going on at Progressive Field, Black Label Society was rocking Cleveland at the House of Blues. There is no other player out there that attacks the guitar like Zakk Wylde. Couple that with his voice that sounds stronger than it has in years. It's hard to believe that Black Label Society has been around for 15 years already. Touring in support of their newest CD, Catacombs of the Black Vatican (see my review here), they mixed in the new with some early material and the fan favorites. Throw in a 10+ minute guitar solo and you've got a killer show.
I do have to say that he used some recorded music as the intro to more than a couple songs. That's a huge pet peeve of mine. Luckily, it was clear when the band roared in...the volume increase alone made it easy to see when they took over for the recorded stuff. That's my only complaint. The set list was great and included his heartfelt tribute to Dimebag Darrell during "In This River" which featured Zakk on piano. Here's to hoping that he finds his way back to Cleveland soon.
I was still basking in the concert glow of Black Label Society on Sunday night as I made my way to the Hard Rock Rocksino for Slash with Myles Kennedy and The Conspirators. This was my first time seeing a show there and I was very impressed. The concert hall was very new and clean and the sound and acoustics were great. If only it wasn't out in the middle of nowhere, but I'll definitely be back there for more shows.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Slash is currently opening for Aerosmith on their summer tour. I was mad they're not coming to Cleveland, but Slash more than made up for it with a 2-hour/20-song show that found him in top form.  He played 3 songs from his upcoming CD that sound like he's picking up where he left off with Apocalyptic Love. The highlight of the night for me was "You Could Be Mine". I was just watching the new Guns 'n' Roses DVD on AXS TV where they played that and thought I'd rather hear Slash play it. So that was an awesome surprise to have him pull that one out. "Rocket Queen" was also incredible as it featured an extra-extended guitar solo that almost seemed tailored to match Zakk Wylde's solo from Friday night.
You can no longer talk about Slash without mentioning Myles Kennedy on vocals, as well as the Conspirators. Myles has a great vocal range and is able to sing all of the solo Slash stuff, but also the G'n'R, Velvet Revolver and Slash's Snakepit songs as well. And, he nails all of them. the Conspirators, Brent Fitz, Todd Kerns and Frank Sidoris, provide the perfect rhythm section to round out the band. I'm hoping this incarnation of Slash will be sticking around for the long haul and they complement Slash very well.
Both of these shows were the types of shows that you just want them to keep playing for days and both have the catalogs that make it hard for them to play everything you want to hear. It was a perfect one-two punch for Cleveland that made for a great rock music weekend and the crowds were perfect examples of why Cleveland is the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Capital of the world...and deservedly so!
Did you see either of these shows? What concerts have you seen or are you going to see this summer? Or, just tell me your favorite concert of all time. Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends!

Set Lists:
Black Label Society
Destruction Overdrive*
Hard and Fast
Funeral Bell
Night Train
Bleed for Me
Standing in the Sun
Heart of Darkness
Back From Cali
My Dying Time
Shots Fired
Damn the Flood*
Stone Blind - NEW
Fire it Up
You Could Be Mine
Guitar Solo
Dr. Alibi
Godspeed Hellbound
Not For Me
30 Years to Life - NEW
Rocket Queen
Angel of Mercy
No More Heroes
In This River
The Blessed Hellride
World on Fire - NEW
Concrete Jungle*
Suicide Messiah
You're a Lie

Sweet Child o' Mine
*Not completely sure if these songs are right

By the Sword - Encore

Paradise City - Encore

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What I Imagine Cleveland Would Say to Lebron James About His Return

Photo by Mark Duncan/AP
Lebron James's article announcing his return to Cleveland was a masterpiece of humility, maturity, regret and hope. In a few heartfelt paragraphs, Lebron was able to not only make a lot of us forget the debacle that was his first Decision, but also show his growth. I know...I'm sure his marketing and PR people wrote it, but the President has speech writers, so I don't see this being much different. I do think it's appropriate that the city of Cleveland have the opportunity to respond. So, with that, I give you my take on that response (I'll be playing the part of the city of Cleveland):

We got some great news this week as Lebron James announced he was coming back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Lebron, count me as one of the most excited that you're returning. I truly appreciated your article on SI.com (read it here). Color me impressed and touched by the sincerity you showed. It was the perfect antithesis to your "Decision" TV show four years ago where you publicly humiliated me. I understand you were younger then and you've grown. I've grown too. Back then, I was way too reliant on your celebrity status to attract fans downtown and to our restaurants and bars. 

Your leaving had a huge effect on my economy. It was a wake up call that I desperately needed. It forced me to build myself back up...but not based on any one sports star or team. This time we did it right. I've now got numerous world class restaurants and bars, two casinos, a brand new convention center, new hotels...oh, I did I mention how many people now are living downtown! We've still got the Rock Hall, Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital and our incredible museums. It's truly amazing how many people have stepped up to make me a better city and then to tell as many people as they can how much they love living here. You're absolutely right when you say that we work for what we get. We've worked hard  while you were gone and the country and world is taking notice. 
What I'm trying to say is that your returning presence is great for the Cleveland Cavaliers and for me. However, now it's an enhancement that adds to what we've built. You're not my identity. I hope you do actually finish your career here and win a championship with the Cavaliers. But, whether or not you do, I'm Cleveland and I'm damn proud to be. So, come back for one, two, four, five years or whatever. I'm glad to have you and wish you all the success in the world. Let's take this to the next level and have some fun together.

Well, that's my response if I was Cleveland. What would you say to Lebron? Are you excited that he's coming back? Are you still mad about him leaving in the first place? Tell me below. Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends!

Also, if you're attending Content Marketing World in Cleveland, let me know. I'd love to meet and talk a little marketing!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Not a Fan of QR Codes? Heinz® Ketchup and Trivial Pursuit-TM May Change Your Mind!

If you're in marketing, then you know what a QR Code is. If you're not, QR Codes (or quick response codes) are the weird square bar codes you occasionally see on products or advertising. They take a special reader (most likely downloaded on your smart phone) to scan and read them.

I've never been a big fan of QR Codes. To me, they've always been confusing and clunky. They were a quick fad with marketers who saw them as a cool new tool. However, it was never made easy enough for the mainstream public to really catch on. First, you had to download a reader, but not all worked well, so it could be hit or miss if it would actually read the code. Second, I don't think most brands provided any real value once someone did get to the content from the code. A lot of brands just used it to take you to their website...what a waste! The one use that works well is with the entertainment industry. They have the ability to offer exclusive content to their fans, but I haven't even seen them utilized much there either.
I had pretty much given up on finding any mainstream uses for QR Codes...until a recent trip to Ann Arbor. My wife and I went to a restaurant for lunch and I happened to look at the Heinz Ketchup bottle on the table. On the front, it said "Up for a game?" with Trivial Pursuit. We both like trivia, so I picked it up to see what it was. I turned it over and there was a QR Code staring at me. It had simple instructions "Scan the code to start the fun!". So, I did. It brought you to a website (www.heinztablegames.com) where you could play a game of Trivial Pursuit on your phone (3 rounds of 6 questions). After, customers can share their experience on Facebook or Twitter. Some restaurants offer a reward once you play.
I have to admit that I love this use of QR Codes! The whole point is to entertain families in the time between placing your order until your food comes. The hope is that this will increase customer satisfaction and encourage repeat business. I can't say if it will actually increase repeat business (especially if it catches on at multiple restaurants), but the game itself if fun, easy and absolutely fills the wait time. Bottom line is that it works. Could they have just listed the Heinztablegames.com website? I guess, but the code is part of the whole experience!

Have you seen other mainstream uses of QR Codes that you've been impressed with? Tell us about them. Maybe you'll get me on board with thinking that they could catch on after all. Quick side note: Scott Stratten has written a book called "QR Codes Kill Kittens" that I can't wait to read. I think he has a similar view of QR Codes as I do (this Heinz example aside). Look for a review of the book in the coming months.

Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends! Also, if you're attending Content Marketing World in Cleveland, let me know. I'd love to meet and talk a little marketing!