6 Marketing Lessons from 1980’s Rock’n’Roll

Fair Warning: In preparation for this article, I have listened to a lot of The Police, Quiet Riot, Van Halen, and Ozzy Osbourne as “research.” Please, whatever you do, don’t tell Julie Arsenault.

For many, the 1980’s probably bring back fond memories of big hair, Ronald Reagan, and iconic power ballads. Those were the days. The decade was blessed enough to still experience the power of a vinyl album, but privileged enough to see the end of the Cold War. It was an exciting time.
However, the bands from the 1980’s can teach you more than just how to rock out with great riffs, crazy stage shows, and power ballads. While many bands from the decade had a few hits and then faded away – Whitesnake, Warrant, Cinderella, Tesla, Skid Row, Dokken, Scorpions, and etc. – there were many others who are still touring, and enjoy the perks of having huge fanbases.

Despite all those times someone told you to turn your music down, you can learn a lot about marketing from the bands who wielded the most staying power.

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1. Turn it up to 11!

As every good rock band should know, you have to play so that the fans in the back row can hear the music. In the immortal words of Spinal Tap, “Most blokes play at ten. It’s all the way up, and they’re playing at ten. Where can you go from there? Nowhere…if we need that extra push off the cliff, we go up to eleven.” The hard rocking bands from the 1980s understood this, and used the lesson to good effect.
Spinal Tap
As a marketer, you need to find a way to distribute your messaging so that you can get it in front of as much of your audience as possible. You should be incorporating and integrating social media, blog posts, SEM, print ads, and any other applicable channels into your campaigns. Your content isn’t doing anyone any good if they aren’t visible to your audience.

Utilizing as many marketing touch points as possible will improve your chances of connecting with your audience.

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2. Be consistent.

Many bands from the 80’s that are still touring and releasing albums have many of the original band members. There may be some lineup changes here and there, but most bands have been playing together for a long time. So, when you see these bands on stage, you’re seeing many of the same guys that were rocking venues 30 years ago.
Consistency keeps fans engaged. Providing a consistent brand message will ensure that you don’t reduce the potential impact of your marketing. Consumers are exposed to more than 3 million ads every day, and brands that regularly change their message can’t expect to break through the clutter. Providing brand consistency allows your brand to become instantly recognizable.

Don’t underestimate the power of brand consistency.

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3. Give the fans what they want.

Most likely, you have either been to or heard of a concert where the performer refuses to play their hit songs. There have been many complaints about artists like Prince, the Eagles, David Bowie, and Bob Dylan refusing to play their hits during a few of their live shows (yeah, I know that some of these artists aren’t from the 1980’s). Ultimately, these shows leave fans disappointed because they don’t get what they want.
While I don’t advocate stagnation (see point #5), I do advocate for knowing your audience well enough that you can innovate and attract. You can’t ask your customer to do your thinking for you, but you can become so familiar with their habits, problems, and patterns that you are able to surprise them with the solution they want and need.

By intimately knowing your customer, you can present them with products and services they didn’t know were possible until you gave it to them.

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4. Every song is part of an album.

Bands have always looked to release full length albums. Many bands even launch tours to generate interest around their new albums. While a lot of bands still release singles and EPs, albums have always been at the core of music creation, especially as rock’n’roll has progressed.
All of you marketing should be part of a unified brand story. And this story should be more than just what you tell people or the text in a brochure or presentation.
Your brand story should be everything you do. It is every element of your brand: it is the colors that you use on your business cards and website, it is the staff you hire, and it is the logo you choose. Every element of your story should reflect the truth about your brand back to your audience.

To build a successful brand with sustainable business and customer loyalty, you have to start with a story.

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5. Expand your fan base.

Bands that have staying power are constantly trying to find ways to expand their fan base. One example that comes to mind is Bon Jovi’s 2005 album “Have a Nice Day.” The album is exactly what you would expect from Bon Jovi, except for one duet with Jennifer Nettles – “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.” The song was a hit, but to a different audience than you would expect, it was #1 on the country charts.
To build a brand that lasts, you have to be constantly looking for new ways to bring in new customers. Don’t create the exact same content over and over just because it worked once, or rely on the same banner ads to connect with your audience. Allowing your audience to dictate your marketing will make your brand stagnant. Those who have created market-disrupting ideas know that what people think will attract them to a new product may often be different from what actually does.
[testimonial author=”Steve Jobs”]It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.[/testimonial]
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6. Put your street team to work.

You have probably seen the fliers, posters, and gear advertising an upcoming show. What you may not see is the “street team” that has been put to work getting the word out. A lot of bands have an informal group of fans known as the street team who go out and do this in a fairly organized manner.
Fortunately, brands have the ability to create a similar group of enthusiastic fans, known as brand evangelists, to spread the word. These passionate supporters are the fans that every brand craves. These are the consumers that eat, sleep, and breath your brand, and their ultimate goal is to convert the unconverted. They do so by employing the one form of marketing that you can’t create from an office, word-of-mouth.

Employing brand evangelists is ensuring that you are maximizing the effects of word-of-mouth marketing.

The rock bands of the 1980s were the epitome of the hard rocking bad boy stereotype, but they created albums and brands which live on in the collective public conscious. By loosely following their example (seriously, please don’t bite the heads off any bats) you are well on your way to being a marketing rockstar.
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