Sunday, December 23, 2007

How to Market Like a Rockstar

By Mack Collier

The above photo, at first glance, looks like a photo from your average concert. But if you look closer, there's some powerful marketing happening here. Every person, the singer on stage, and every member of the audience, has their arm up and is excited about the music they are hearing.

This is why I love writing about music marketing, because musicians do such an amazing job of exciting the people that buy their music, and turning them into fans. Does it happen by accident? Is it just easier to create fans for music than it is for umbrellas or paper clips? Possibly. But that doesn't mean that companies can't create fans just like musicians do. Here's how to get started:

1 - View your customers as a community, and join them.
If there is a 'big secret' to how musicians create fans, this is it. Let's go back to the above photo. It was taken at a recent concert by The Donnas. But if you look closer, you'll notice that the singer on stage is just as excited and a fan of the music she is singing, as the people that are hearing it. Everyone, the audience, and the singer on stage, has their arms up, and they are cheering. Everyone belongs to the same community of fans.

But it's just as easy to join your community of customers in other industries. Willie Davidson explains that 'market research' to Harley-Davidson means spending a weekend on the open road with other Harley owners. Davidson is a fellow Harley owner, and as a result, is part of the same culture as his company's customers. The line between Harley-Davidson's customers, and the company itself, is very hazy. Since the company is participating in the customer's community, they better understand their customers, and as a result market to them more effectively. All of this makes it easier for Harley owners to be excited about the brand and proud to be a member of a very loyal and unique culture.

2 - Make sure you view your company and its products as your customers do.
Hugh MacLeod had a great point once about making sure that your company is having the same conversation that your customers are. Apple thinks its products are cool, and so do its customers. Remember when the iPhone was introduced? Remember seeing customers proudly camping out for days outside Apple retail stores prior to the iPhone going on sale? Did you realize that in almost every case, there was a Cingular store close by selling the same iPhone, with no one waiting in line? But it was 'cool' to stand in line to wait for an iPhone, at the Apple store. Apple thinks the iPhone is cool, and Apple's customers agree, AND think that THEY are by extension cool because they have an iPhone!

3 - Empower your existing fans to market for you.
Another secret to marketing like a rockstar is this: Evangelist=Fan. If you have evangelists, then you have fans. So obviously, you want to find your existing evangelists, and make it as easy as possible for them to tell others about you. Remember this post from last year about how Maker's Mark created their Brand Ambassador program? All the distillery did was organize its existing evangelists and empower them to better market for Maker's Mark. IOW, they made it easier for their evangelists to engage in pre-existing activities. These customers were passionate for the Maker's Mark brand, so the distillery empowered them to market for them. And remember, customers are far more likely to listen to other customers who endorse a product, than they are the company selling the product!

4 - Give customers input into your marketing.
Dell's Ideastorm is a great example of this. The company has created a place for customers to not only submit their ideas on how Dell's products can be improved, but they then let other customers vote on which ideas are their favorites. Dell can look and see which ideas are the most popular, and then have a great idea of which improvements/changes customers want to see happen. And when the company acts on the changes that are suggested, it lets Dell's customers know that their input is valued and appreciated. It lets them know that they have some ownership over Dell's marketing. So naturally that leads to more customers giving more input and suggestions on what they want to see, which results in even MORE efficient marketing from Dell!

5 - Have FUN with your marketing!

So how is Warner Bros. promoting next summer's hopeful blockbuster movie The Dark Knight? With posters and trailers online, right? Yes they are doing that, but they are also creating websites that must be decoded. If the lucky visitor can do so, they will receive an address of a nearby bakery, where a real cake is awaiting them, with a phone number to call written in icing, and containing a cell phone that receives both calls and text messages from 'Rent a Clown'. This is supposedly a company set up by one of the movie's main characters, The Joker! This is marketing, but it's also a great way to get people talking about, and excited about a movie that won't come out for seven months.

And yes, you could argue that it's much easier to create 'fun' marketing for entertainment vehicles like movies and music. But look at this post from Daily Fix about how CD Baby has spiced up the traditionally boring as hell 'thank you for your order' email. They take a mundane marketing activity, and add a sense of flair and show their sense of humor in the process. As you can see from the comments, most people seem to prefer CD Baby's approach! Notice that Ginny even says that she now looks forward to getting emails from them!

6 - Follow the Threadless example.
Threadless does a fan-damn-tastic job of marketing like rockstars. With Threadless, their business is their community, and their community is their business. The customers design the t-shirts that are sold, and vote on their favorites. The winning designs are given prizes. The more t-shirts sold, the more money Threadless makes and the more prizes they give away. Threadless' customers are literally marketing partners from the get-go. And the company is thriving because there is no line between the company and its customers. Everyone belongs to the same community, in fact Threadless calls it 'business by accident'.

This is something else that musicians understand that many marketers don't. Marketing doesn't have to be a chore and boring for everyone involved. It can be fun, in fact it can be a blast. And the fun factor comes into play when you involve your customers in the process! That excites them and in turn excites you! Passion grows and everyone feeds off that passion.

But companies in many industries do great jobs of marketing like rockstars. Think of how many flyers are Nuts About Southwest. What about The Cult of Mac or the fandom that surrounds Harley-Davidson? Hell the Fiskateers are so popular that they get autograph requests at scrapbooking events!

Which goes to show that marketing doesn't have to be viewed as just a necessary business function, but instead could be seen as a way to excite your customers into becoming fans.

Besides, don't we all really want to be rockstars?

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