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.


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