Rocking and Rolling to come up with a better brand

With over 30 years experience in the music industry, Steve Jones has had more opportunities than most to analyse the successes of many different bands. He’s put that to use in his book Brand Like a Rock Star, for which he presented to a packed audience at the former Vivendi. 

Jones is an engaging speaker with whom you get the feeling that a one-hour presentation is simply the tip of the iceberg in terms of, uniquely perhaps, genuine marketing analysis and unprintable rock and role lore. In a professional context, however, the points he makes are well-argued and certainly set off some rockets amongst the marketing professionals in attendance. 

Jones is big on pointing out that building a brand is a 360 degree experience, that it’s beyond logos and effectively a crucible of emotional connection between consumer and those companies intending to deliver the product. 

His method was to outline a Top 10 of what to consider in brand-building, and in true Top of the Pops style, here they are in reverse order. 

10: Consistency  

Examples – AC/DC’s unchanging sound and look, The Beatles’ consistent ever-evolving sound and look, Jeep, Coca-Cola. 

The message: The story doesn’t change but how you tell it may. Rock star brands are consistently consistent. 

9: Opening acts  

Examples – Bob Marley’s rise from niche performer to reggae superstar, Starbucks, Apple, niche TV channels. 

The message; All rock stars start as opening acts. Find an audience that likes you and make them very happy. 

8: Different beats better  

Examples: Kiss got attention by their stage show and makeup, Lady Gaga’s meat dress, Wii vs XBox, the Jamaican bobsled team. 

The message: Quality is important but being unique more important. 

7: Sell the experience  

Example: Jimmy Buffett and Margaritaville, the song that spawned casinos, hotels, clothing, footwear, restaurants. 

The message: Sell the experience, not the product; a temporary escape from reality is attractive. 

6: Meet expectations  

Examples: U2 decided to release their outre LP under the Passengers name to avoid perplexing their fans, Honda creating Acura for their luxury cars. 

The message: Know what your fans expect and never violate that or extend it beyond expectations. 

5: Get real  

Examples: The Barbara Ann recording session for Beach Boys descended into a party and you can hear that on the final recordings, therefore putting across the honest California party lifestyle, Marmite’s love/hate campaigns. 

The message: By allowing weakness to be seen you gain trust with customers and become human. 

4: The one thing  

Example: Lynyrd Skynrd’s one hit Sweet Home Alabama, Rolex as a high-end brand. 

The message: What is the one thing or one word you ‘own’? Generate passion by being great at one thing, not average at many. 

3: With a little help from my friends  

Examples: Run DMC vs Aerosmith, movie tie-ins at McDonalds. 

The Message: These partnerships do not work 90 per cent of the time if there is unequal value at each end, the values don’t match up or the consumer does not understand the strategy, but recognising the value of strategic partnerships in ways that work and make sense can be powerful. 

2: Know your enemy  

Examples: Lex Luthor vs Superman, Target vs Walmart. 

The Message: Know yourself and your competition. Rivalries drive stories forward and help define each brand. 

1: Leave ‘em wanting more  

Examples: The Who vs Led Zeppelin, with The Who continuing to tour after the death of drummer Keith Moon whilst Led Zep called it a day after John Bonham passed. When Led Zep did briefly reunite the demand for tickets was astronomical. Also see Tickle me Elmo. 

The message: Demand plus scarcity equals value. 


Tune in to next month’s Journal, 
same newspaper, same station, 
for business stories at the top 
of the charts. 

steve jones

Steve Jones