Technology, journalism, social media and social responsibility
It’s dressed up to look interesting and provocative but, when you look at it again, you realize you’ve read it before, with a slightly different twist. That’s because affiliate blogs are typically canned or at best, a slight variation on a canned blog.
The ones that make me really smile are those with a musical flare, for instance: “What Eminem Can Teach Us About Blogging” and “What the Grateful Dead Can Teach Us About Giving Something Away.”
That last one even prompted me to write a reply the first time I saw it.
Now before I go further, I want to say that it turns out that the blog in question borrowed its premise from a new book, Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, that has just been released by David Meerman Scott, an avid Grateful Dead follower who is better known as the author of the now famous The New Rules of Marketing and PR.
According to the blogger and David Meerman Scott, the Grateful Dead had perfected the marketing technique of giving something away – the right to tape a live show as it happened – in order to get something in return - in this case, fan loyalty.
The problem with this idea, of course, is that the Dead never looked at it that way. To them, the concert was the experience, and if people wanted to somehow try to save that experience on audio tape, they could do that, but it would never live up to the real deal.
You had to be there.
The authors will tell you differently, suggesting that the Dead had a board of directors and more, who carefully thought through this decision. But if memory serves – and it may not – the group didn’t form its board until 1980, well after fans began taping its concerts.
Still, the decision to allow taping was innovative. Whether they realized it or not, the band turned the music industry on its ear, if only for its own audience. More importantly, they created a special connection with the audience.
Marketers today think of this phenomenon in terms of evangelists – people who, without pay or incentive, promote a company or product out of the sheer pleasure of experiencing it. In fact, that is closer to the real value the tapers where creating. They were making tapes to share with close friends, which created new fans. But nobody was looking at it this way at the time or measuring to see how effective the results were.
So it was really just an act of improvisation, more than anything else. The band simply decided to let it happen.
Eventually, they realized that the tapers and their friends were becoming “Deadicated” followers. They were creating and buying T-shirts, bumper stickers and albums and helping more friends find tickets. An entire commercial enterprise was growing up around the concerts; soon, vendors in tents were hawking every conceivable kind of Grateful Dead paraphernalia.
Of course, once all of this happened, it caught the attention of people watching the music scene, and word quickly spread of this innovative approach. That was 35-40 years ago. The World Wide Web wasn’t created for another 15 or 20 years.
So, is there a new marketing lesson we can draw from the music scene?
Actually yes, there are many. A ton of them. And I’m sure David Meerman Scott and others can shed light on many of these.
But in my humble opinion, the most important thing to remember is this: The music was fun.
Being at a concert was a blast. If it wasn’t, live concerts would have long ago given way to televised broadcasts. The experience of being there, with thousands of other fans, kicking it up and yelling out your favorite lyrics or dancing in the isles, is like being a kid all over again. It’s a communal trip back to a time when there were no rules, when your parents weren’t watching, when songs made you happy or sad and music really meant something.
It can, however, adapt to the community that connects with a band or singer, just as the Grateful Dead adapted to the tapers.
So if you really want a marketing lesson, consider this: It’s not about the music, or the band. It’s about the community.
Music breaks all the rules, shatters our illusions of who we should be and what we should be doing. It breaks the chains of our daily routine and allows us to freely associate with complete strangers and for a brief, but significant moment, we share a priceless common bond.
In the lingo of Internet marketing, it’s a disruptive force that creates entirely new communities.
So the lesson isn’t about a transaction or a marketing scheme.
It’s about creating an organic connection with an audience, and nurturing the community that grows from it.