Dead to rights


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There’s a line in the Don Henley song “The Boys of Summer” in which the singer spots a Deadhead sticker on the bumper of a Cadillac. “Don’t look back, “ Henley sings, “You can never look back.” The point, I believe, was to juxtapose modern consumerism and the spirit of the Deadheads, as ardent fans of the Grateful Dead, one of the most successful counterculture bands of the ‘60s and decades following, are known.

Despite Mr. Henley’s advice, authors David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan have looked back at the Grateful Dead and derived from their then-counterculture self-marketing techniques to come up with tips that today’s marketers can use to succeed well enough to afford Cadillacs and their ilk, and put whatever the heck they want on the bumpers. Their book is Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History.

Many of the lessons addressed within were precursors of the sort of counterintuitive marketing that’s been forced by (or perhaps we should say “proven by”) social networking and other factors in these new-millennium years. While music companies fretted over rampant free-music sharing via the web in recent years, Scott and Halligan note that back then the Dead encouraged fans to create bootleg tapes of their shows—even setting up an area behind the sound board where bootleggers could get the best sound quality. The tapes were distributed from hand to hand, from fan to fan to potential fan. The result? Fan-driven publicity, new listeners, and more interest in paying for the polished (and profitable) studio recordings.

One of the book’s lessons that should ring true to loyalty marketers—and is somewhat the opposite of the free-music sharing—is the Dead’s control of ticket distribution. Through their self-owned ticketing company, they controlled who got the best seats—the best customers, of course, tracked by the band and offered first choice of tickets before the general sales began. Insider privilege. Retention over acquisition, because acquisition follows retention if done correctly. “While we’re all for growing a business, we don’t think it should come at the expense of annoying existing customers,” says Scott. “Always remember, your most passionate fans are also the people who tell your stories and spread your ideas.”

And my final note: despite Mr. Henley’s ironic juxtaposition (in a song that makes me crank up the speakers, by the by), I suspect that the Dead never minded if their fans drove to the shows in a Cadillac.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Bill Brohaugh
As managing editor, Bill Brohaugh is responsible for the day-to-day management and editorial for the COLLOQUY magazine and, the most comprehensive loyalty marketing web site in the world. In addition to writing many of the feature articles, Bill develops the editorial calendar, hires and manages outside writers and researchers and oversees print and online production. He also contributes to COLLOQUY's weekly email Market Alert and the COLLOQUYTalk series of white papers.


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