Tag Archives: business lessons

What My Disdain for Grateful Dead Can Teach About Branding

Music has played crucial part of my life. It started with hiphop and heavy metal and has throughout the years expanded to almost every possible genre. One cult band that I have however never truly understood has been Grateful Dead. The hippy band is know for their marathon gigs like this:

I am not the biggest fan on The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Frank Zappa or Bruce Springsteen, but I still can get why people love them so much. I noticed that Grateful Dead was doing their farewell gig (to celebrate their 50th anniversary) on this July and that prompted me to again test some of their material on Spotify.

Nothing.

Nada.

Zip.

I totally fail to realize what makes people to devote a cult following to band so bland. Maybe it is because I don´t do drugs or have not been part of the hippy movement. On the other hand I don´t gangbang, but I still truly enjoy and find resonance in N.W.A.´s music. Grateful dead remains as a big enigma for me and to many others as well.

Grateful Dead

Some old hippies

“We’re like licorice. Not everybody likes licorice, but the people who like licorice really like licorice.”
Jerry Garcia

But why would I care about Grateful Dead? Or why would Grateful Dead care about me? I am not their core audience. If you are selling licorice, you don´t need to care about people who don´t like or licorice. This is the fault that many marketers have. They mistakenly believe that their target audience is everyone, which is hardly ever the case. If your target audience is everyone the individual purchase is small. When you have focused audience, you can ask for premium price.

Brands get super touchy-feely when blogger outside their target audience says something negative. It does not matter at all. Focus on your cult following. If you want to create a cult around your brand, you have to also alienate the non-brand followers. For deadhead, there are only “we” and “they”. If your product is only meant for alpha-male blokes, why should you worry about offending women ot vice versa?

“In the 1960s, Grateful Dead pioneered many social media and inbound marketing concepts that businesses across all industries use today.
Brian Halligan and David Meerman Scott (Marketing Lessons From Grateful Dead)

Although listening to Grateful Dead is equivalent of water torture, I have to applaud their business acumen. They were never high on the charts, but were able to focus on small devoted and lucrative audience. They kept the loyal customers happy and did not waste their efforts on trying to get new and fickle customers. Funnily enough, there are at least two books dedicated to business lessons from Grateful Dead.

Brands spend much of effort on parity. They want to make their brand easy to compare with other brands. That is the main fault. If you create your own category, the customer has only two choices: either buy or not. Love it or hate it. Ambivalence is not an option.

“They’re not the best at what they do, they’re the only ones that do what they do.”
-Bill Graham

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The Rest I Have Learned About Business is From Basketball

joshsmith

Everything I have learned about business, I have learned in basketball court (with some additional help from Wu-Tang Clan). Whether it has been great (or usually horrible) leadership, importance of the team or the value of hard work. This recent incident is a good proof of that:

Detroit Pistons waived their highest paid player and star Josh Smith at the end of December. Waiving is not a little feat, because waived player is included in team salary. The results have been interesting: Pistons has been on a 8-1 winning run only losing to the hottest team in NBA right now: Atlanta Hawks. Interestingly Josh Smith has been good with his new team Houston Rockets as well, so currently it has been win-win for both the of the participants. What can be learned from this whole episode?

1.Don´t play safe: bold moves will be remembered
Sometimes you have to wake up your whole team with dramatic actions. Stan Van Gundy is not just a coach for Detroit Pistons; he is also their president of basketball operations. Waiving Josh Smith was a demonstration of his power and also a dramatic call for their team to wake up. Was it exactly wise is an another question. He had to do something to catch attention of the team. Off-the court jury is still out for Van Gundy´s strategic perspective but on the court his defensive instructions on the video below have strategic clarity that only a few business leaders (or even coaches) have:

2.Even a bad plan is better than no plan
You cannot totally fault bad Pistons season start on Josh Smith and to say so is ludicrous. They did not have proper plan in the place for the team when he was there. Josh Smith had to play a role that did not suit his skills set. When he was waived from the team, Detroit Pistons was forced to have a different game plan and missing one key player made putting a coherent plan into action much easier.

3.Take the responsibility: You either sink or swim
You can never underestimate the importance of mental aspect of sports or business. You need to feel that you are contributing to the team. Because Josh Smith was gone, the rest of the team had to rise up. Other option would have been to tank. The season is now on halfway, so the newly established Pistons can still be a boom or bust. Currently it seems that they have regained their self-esteem and if they continue like this can even make it to the play-offs.

4.Failure is an opportunity to reborn
I like Josh Smith as a player, when he is playing right role. No one denies the physical talent he has, but his attitude to the game has been a question. He has showed maturity by asking to come out of bench with Rockets. Being waived is definitely a slap in the face and you definitely want to show that you still have the skills to be a great player.

5.Team can be more (or less) than its parts
Basketball and advertising industry are similar in a way that you can fill your company or team with stars and still suck. Chemistry plays crucial role. Josh Smith is playing in Houston with his longtime friend Dwight Howard, which probably will be a good thing. Sometimes there can be only one rooster in the coop and if there are too many stars fighting for the attention the end results can be disastrous. Many combinations can work on the paper, but if it does not work on the court it does not really matter. Therefore crazy-sounding ideas like waiving your star player can actually make sense on the long run.

How the episode will pan out, we will see at the end of the season. Currently it seems that everyone seems happy with the end result.

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