Brands That Rock: What Business Leaders Can Learn From the World of Rock and Roll


"Reading Brands That Rock is like attending business school, where classes on customer loyalty, consumer behavior, and branding are taught by Mick Jagger, Elton John, Steven Tyler, and Madonna."
–Tommy Hilfiger, Designer

Cadillac and The Rolling Stones. Victoria’s Secret and Madonna. Wal-Mart and KISS. What could these corporate brands and legendary rock bands have in common? Fans–devoted customers who not only display long-term buying loyalty and an insatiable appetite for spending, but evangelize to others the ...

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"Reading Brands That Rock is like attending business school, where classes on customer loyalty, consumer behavior, and branding are taught by Mick Jagger, Elton John, Steven Tyler, and Madonna."
–Tommy Hilfiger, Designer

Cadillac and The Rolling Stones. Victoria’s Secret and Madonna. Wal-Mart and KISS. What could these corporate brands and legendary rock bands have in common? Fans–devoted customers who not only display long-term buying loyalty and an insatiable appetite for spending, but evangelize to others the reasons for their adoration.

Today’s competitive times demand that retailers and manufacturers alike identify new ways to attract and retain customers. But few venture far from what their competitors have attempted. Brands That Rock takes you on a bold leap into the world of rock and roll and reveals how great companies can turn customers into fans with the same marketing strategies used by some of the biggest rock stars in history.

Like the one-hit wonders of the music world, most brands come and go, failing to survive pricing and advertising onslaughts from competitors. Why? Most successful rock stars will tell you that achieving cultural icon status depends on creating emotional connections with fans–be it a music group, a retailer, or a brand of coffee.

Brands That Rock highlights strategies for developing deep connections between brands and people that are used by many of today’s biggest and longest-lived rock groups, including:

  • Building brand loyalty one fan group at a time
  • Staying fresh in the marketplace while staying true to your core strength
  • Evolving at a rate that doesn’t alienate current customers
  • Focusing on the entire brand experience
  • Exuding energy and passion to command respect and grab attention

Even the most popular customer service programs can’t transform customers into fans–it’s the personality of a brand that resonates in the marketplace. If you want to increase market share, enhance brand longevity, or get your brand on stage and keep it rocking for years to come, this book shows you how.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471455172
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 10/31/2003
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

ROGER BLACKWELL is a Professor of Marketing at the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University, as well as President of Blackwell Associates, a consulting firm that advises Fortune 500 companies on consumer trends, strategy, e-commerce, and global business. He has authored over twenty books, including Consumer Behavior, Ninth Edition, From the Edge of the World, From Mind to Market, and Customers Rule!. For more information, please visit
TINA STEPHAN is President of BTR Consulting, a firm specializing in branding and marketing services, and an associate with Roger Blackwell Associates. She has collaborated on seven other books, including From Mind to Market and Customers Rule!. Please visit for more information.

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Read an Excerpt

Brands That Rock

What Business Leaders Can Learn from the World of Rock and Roll

By Roger Blackwell Tina Stephan

John Wiley & Sons

Copyright © 2003

Roger Blackwell, Tina Stephan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-471-45517-2

Chapter One

From Band Loyalty
to Brand Loyalty

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.

Your first kiss. Your first car. The day you said "I do." Chances are
the most memorable moments of your life are connected by a
soundtrack of music-songs that heighten your senses and evoke
emotions that help you experience those memories all over again.

Perhaps that soundtrack includes Wagner's triumphal "Bridal
March" from Lohengrin, sparking an overwhelming sense of joy and
expectation, or Sarah McLachlan's "I Will Remember You," recalling
the painful breakup of a love not meant to be. Or perhaps it's a pulsating
refrain from Aerosmith's classic rock song "Love in an Elevator,"
reminding you of-well, you get the idea. Regardless of the style
of music included in your soundtrack, the magic lies in the ability of
music and the bands that create it to connect with people at an emotional

Think of what happens when U2, theRolling Stones, Janet Jackson,
or Pink Floyd enters the stage in front of a crowd of 50,000. People
scream as a band member walks toward their side of the arena,
they cheer at the opening riffs of their favorite tunes, they belt out the
words to most of the songs, and they dance, jump, and rock for
hours. These are not just "crazy" teenagers; they are people with families,
good jobs, college or graduate degrees-in fact, we may even be
describing you. And while you probably don't walk around your
office building or community screaming, singing, and dancing, you
become swept away by the concert experience-letting yourself
behave like every other fan in the house.

The power of music is undeniable; the loyalty showered upon
those who create it, unmatched; and the lessons for corporate America,

It is difficult to think of any product or industry that evokes
more emotional intensity from its followers than rock and roll.
Their attitudes and behavior shatter the traditional measures of
customer loyalty in terms of reach, quantity, and degree to define
outright fanaticism-the ultimate level of devotion a firm can
hope to receive from its customers.

What is it about music and rock stars that transform people's emotions,
behavior, and lives? Enlightened marketers have asked the question,
but few have ever bothered to look for the answers. Yet corporate
executives sit day after day scratching their heads, looking for insight as
to how their brands might inspire even a fraction of such emotional
response, loyalty, and commitment. They benchmark the success of
others; analyze what promotional and design strategies have worked in
the past; and review their advertising and promotional campaigns.
And while marketers have been proficient in analyzing how to create
successful brands and satisfy customers, most of their strategies mirror
those that other businesses have already implemented.

But what of the companies looking to go one better than what
other businesses have been able to accomplish in the battle for customer
loyalty? Creating such a breakthrough often requires a bold
leap out of one's comfort zone and into the unknown. Only then can
marketers identify the processes and strategies that, when applied to
the business world, can provide a leg up on their competitors.

Few look beyond the world of commerce for answers. Why, after
performing for over 30 years, do the Rolling Stones continue to sell
out venues around the world? How has Elton John been able to have
a top-10 hit each year for 30 consecutive years? And how is Neil Diamond
able to sell out concerts with minimal PR and advertising
expenditures night after night? The answer is band loyalty-the
fanatical devotion and propensity to spend that rock-and-roll followers
have to a specific performer or band.

How bands create loyalty and devotion in their fans is the focus of
this book. The book is designed to help unlock the secrets of how to
build emotional connections between your brand or company and
your customers similar to those associated with legendary rock-and-roll
acts and their fans. It will take you behind the music and reveal
branding and marketing lessons that can boost creative thinking,
increase market share, enhance the longevity and success of a brand,
and create a brand that becomes a cultural icon.

The artists, however, are the first to admit that some of their successes
were not necessarily by design. In retrospect, the process of
examining why some bands have increased in popularity, remained
commercially successful, and increased their fan bases for several
decades yields tactics that marketers might use to boost their brand

Analyzing the phenomenon of band loyalty is not for the close-minded.
It requires marketers and managers to abandon the language
and corporate-based thinking they probably engage in day in,
day out at work and escape into the wild, fun, larger-than-life world
of music and entertainment. Marketers must look beyond the values
of bands that they may not personally endorse and open their minds
to the ideas and creative processes used in the entertainment arena to
cultivate long-term, die-hard fans. Only then can they understand
band loyalty and the lessons they can apply to enhance their own
brand loyalty.

Beyond Customer Loyalty: Creating Singing, Screaming,
Money-Spending Fans

In today's competitive arena, the battle to attract and retain customers
is intense. Firms of all sizes continue revamping their product
and service offerings, honing their customer service skills, and
revising their loyalty programs. Yet few achieve an emotional connection
with their customers.

Ask the most successful music acts of the past three decades about
customer loyalty, and they'll tell you it's all about creating fans-people
willing to stand in line for hours to buy the latest albums of
their favorite bands or plunk down hundreds of dollars to buy concert
tickets. Although this category of customer is not exclusive to the
world of rock and roll, fans are far more prevalent and the lessons are
more profuse than in the world of commerce.

Why? Because the music world is fan-oriented; in fact the word
customer is rarely used. Customer implies that a person walks into a
store wanting to buy a CD and decides, after scanning the thousands
of albums available, which one to snatch up. A fan walks into the
store with the intent of buying the latest Alanis Morissette CD; the
person made the decision long before he or she entered the store,
because the fan's desire is not just to buy the latest music but to create
a further connection with a particular band or performer. Often
the need is even more innate-helping people deal with emotions
and express what they are feeling, achieving what Hallmark does in
written communication and human emotion.

Although all firms in business today have customers, only the most
successful have fans. Why all the interest in creating fans? Because of
the effect attitudes and buying behavior have on long-term sales and
profit levels. In short, customers buy from a variety of retailers and
choose many brands, often influenced by temporary price breaks or
other promotions. Firms spend more promotional dollars securing
purchases from cherry-pickers (whose tendency to buy a specific
brand can be described as sporadic at best) than they do capturing
more sales from loyal or frequent customers. Friends (loyal customers)
tend to buy certain brands and shop specific stores more often than
others-often because of good past experiences. Loyalty programs
have helped retailers and consumer product companies foster relationships
with consumers and modify their cherry-picking behavior.

Fans, however, take loyalty to the next level, seeking out specific
brands, shopping only certain retailers, and closing their minds to
other alternatives, as seen in Figure 1.1. Fans invest time, attention,
energy, emotion, and money into building and maintaining a relationship
to a brand, and these strong emotional attachments between
company and customer are difficult, if not impossible, for others
to break. And fans are vocal-they not only tell others about their
favorite brands, they recruit others to buy what they buy and shop
where they shop. Customers and devotees can be described more in
terms of their frequency of behavior, while fans are described more in
terms of the emotionality and intensity of their behavior. Fans don't
drink coffee, they crave Starbucks. Fans don't drive a car or ride a
motorcycle, they pilot a Saturn or a Harley-Davidson.

In that category is Target, or "Tar-zhay," as so many of its devoted
fans like to call it. A mass retailer to the casual observer, Target has
bridged the gap between discount store and department store by
combining the best of both worlds, offering value-oriented prices to
customers who don't want to sacrifice quality, aesthetics, and style.
Its affordable, up-to-date clothing, hip accessories, and design-forward
home fashions have made Target a cool place to shop and
branded the people who buy there as shopping-savvy. No longer categorized
as merely a department store's stepchild, Target has moved
discount retailing from outcast to star status, with more than half of
its customers having college degrees and incomes over $50,000. In
the past, many consumers were reluctant to give someone a gift from
a discount retailer, afraid of the negative connotation. Today, a gift
from Target is not only accepted, it's often requested-with the help
of Target's national gift registry program.

Have branding and fans made a difference to Target? You bet. Similar
to bands that evolve from warm-up acts for their better-known
counterparts to top headliners, Target's image, supported by its operations
systems, became the retailer of choice rather than retailer by
default for millions of loyal buyers. This translated into $44 billion in
sales in 2002, after a decade of growth and profitability based on the
strength of a brand that gave consumers a reason to drive past Kmart
or other competitors to get to Target. Just as the Dave Matthews
Band evolved from opening for Big Head Todd and the Monsters to
headlining and selling out stadiums (Big Head Todd still delights its
loyal following at smaller, more intimate venues), Target's brand,
image, and strategies were more successful than that of its parent,
Dayton Hudson. Soon, the parent changed its family name to Target,
capitalizing on the company's strong fan base and brand presence to
create a stock market darling in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

But even a superstar such as Target can face problems and fall
from its fans' graces. Diana Ross discovered during her 2000 tour
that one surefire way to alienate fans is to create high expectations
and fall short at the execution stage. Billed as a glitz and glamour
concert extravaganza, with ticket prices to evoke high expectations,
Ross missed cues and forgot the words to many of her songs. Critical
disdain and fan backlash forced her to cancel the rest of the tour.
Cher also created high expectations for her farewell tour-but unlike
Ross, Cher delivered.

"Cher's entire concert tour sold out because of how she communicates
and connects with her legions of fans," explains Scott Shannon,
program director of New York's legendary FM station, WPLJ.
"Critics can't stand her; radio certainly doesn't love her; but her fans
are among the most loyal in the business. While Diana Ross fell flat
and didn't connect with her audiences, Cher wowed her fans night
after night with a string of high-voltage concerts that left fans dancing
in the aisles and screaming for more."

One of the risks Target faces in terms of its branding strategy is
creating expectations through its advertising that might not be met
when customers shop its stores. The images and expectations that
slick, design-oriented ad campaigns conjure up must be congruent
with the experiences inside the store or else retailers risk customer
dissatisfaction and fan backlash. Although a fate similar to that of
Ross seems harsh, success similar to Cher's seems unlikely for retailers
who fall short of customers' expectations.

Creating and strengthening relationships with customers has been
on corporate America's radar screen for quite some time-with the
need for intimacy creating the largest blip. In recent years, marketers
have implemented customer relationship management (CRM) programs
and strategies to guide their relationships with customers.
Much progress has been made in terms of creating customer databases
that track everything from individuals' product choices and
buying patterns to their birthdays and anniversaries. These data help
marketers forecast sales of specific items, narrow customers' product
choices to those they are most likely to buy, and even remind customers
it is time to buy a birthday gift.

Even the best CRM software, however, can't transform customers
into fans-that requires an in-depth, from-the-gut understanding of
and respect for human nature and behavior. The devotion of long-term
fans to their favorite performers and bands, from Tony Bennett
to the Kinks or 50 Cent, illustrates that it takes a connection at a
deeper level to develop brands that people will not only buy, but
incorporate into their lives and daily vernacular. And that is a primary
goal of brand strategies-determining how strong those emotional
connections are and how they can be reinforced or altered to develop
loyalty to the brand among a target group of customers.

Rock-and-roll bands are notorious for writing lyrics, creating
music and rhythms, and putting on shows that mirror what people
are doing and what they fantasize about doing-the right mix of
which entices certain fans to embrace certain bands. Once a performer
makes that connection with a fan, it takes song after song,
album after album, and concert after concert to cement the relationship.
If a performer veers too far away from what has made a connection
with a fan in the past, the connection may be jeopardized.
But a song that makes an emotional connection remains in a fan's
personal greatest hits collection; the loyalty and emotional connection
is only strengthened with each song that is added to the list.

Jock Bartley experienced much success in the 1970s when his
band, Firefall, topped the charts with a string of hits including
"That's a Strange Way" and "Just Remember I Love You." But it was
"You Are the Woman" that made the biggest connection with fans.
"Every female between the ages of 18 and 24 wanted to be the woman
portrayed in that song, and that caused their boyfriends and spouses
to call radio stations and subsequently flood the airwaves with dedications
of the song and the sentiment," explains Bartley.


Excerpted from Brands That Rock
by Roger Blackwell Tina Stephan
Copyright © 2003 by Roger Blackwell, Tina Stephan.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


1. From Band Loyalty to Brand Loyalty.

2. Creating Culturally Relevant Brands.

3. Elton John : Music Man, Marketing Man, Architect of a Brand.

4. KISS:  Keep it Simple, Stupid.

5. The Rolling Stones: Branding Strategies Beyond Satisfaction.

6. Aerosmith: Reinventing a Rock-and-Roll Brand. 

7. Madonna  and Neil Diamond: The Relevance of Sex in Branding.

8. Lessons from the Legends of Rock and Roll.



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