March 12, 2020
The Pontiac Conference Centre was packed on March 12 for an evening of marketing advice and rock and roll.
Organized by SADC Pontiac, “The Rock Star Startup” event was a success, attracting dozens of entrepreneurs and business people from across the region to hear Steve Jones, a music industry veteran for more than 30 years. Before Jones took centre stage, local band !Abstract got the crowd fired up with a high-energy set of classic rock tunes.
Attendees had plenty of food and drinks to choose from, with local beer, wine and cider from the vendors on the Tap and Cork and also build-your-own poutine bar.
SADC business advisor Amy Taylor gave a brief introduction of Jones, as well as a warning about hand sanitation due to COVID-19 concerns.
Jones, the author of two books on marketing and entrepreneurship, started off his spiel by noting how similar rock bands and performers are to more typical brands and businesses.
“This is really cool for me, I’m a kid from a small town in northern Ontario, so for me to come here, to a kind of that same community I was raised in and see that entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well, and help foster it, it’s a real honour,” he said prior to the talk.
He said that a brand is more than a logo or a jingle, but rather a feeling that customers have when they consume your product or use your service. He then listed ten key points about branding, with comparisons from the music industry for each.
Number ten was consistency. Customers expect a certain feeling when they interact with your company and Jones used the example of AC/DC, a band with three different lead singers over 45 years who nevertheless managed to sound exactly the same throughout their career.
Having strong core values was the next points, and Jones pointed to Bob Marley as someone who stuck to their roots even after being catapulted to international stardom. Outside of music, he also spoke about the efforts that ESPN and Starbucks have made to carve out a niche in their respective industries.
The next tip was “different beats better”, a point that Jones drove home using the example of the band KISS, whose showmanship and outrageous stunts propelled them to stardom, despite their mediocre musical skills.
Jones made his next point about creating an experience, with one-hit-wonder Jimmy Buffet serving as the music industry example. Despite having only “Margaritaville” as his claim to fame, Buffet is able to foster a fun atmosphere at his shows that fans can’t recreate anywhere outside of a tropical island. Jones also pointed to Harley-Davidson, and their brand’s appeal to the suburban mid-life crisis crowd.
Embracing adversity was next on the list, and was illustrated by Fleetwood Mac’s hit album Rumours, which was created during a time of intense domestic turmoil for the band’s members.
Jones then gave the story of Mary Clayton and her powerful vocals on the Rolling Stones’ song “Gimme Shelter”, as an example of seizing every moment. Clayton got a random call in the middle of the night to record with the Stones, and not only did she show up with her curlers still in, but gave one of the most iconic vocal performances in rock music.
Jones implored attendees to take risks and related a story about a pizza delivery guy delivering to a studio and asking to perform the keyboards on BTO’s hit song “Taking Care of Business”. He added the comparison of Coca-Cola’s gamble on “new Coke” back in the 80s, and how to learn from risks that don’t pan out.
Knowing the competition was next on Jones’ list, and he used the business models and mottos of competing brands like Wal-Mart and Target as examples of adapting to rival enterprises.
The next tip was to be remarkable, with the examples of Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters and pop star Taylor Swift, who go out of their way to provide a memorable experience for their fans. From Grohl continuing a performance after breaking his leg, to Swift taking the time to interact personally with the public, there was plenty to learn from, according to Jones.
The final point on the list was the classic rock trope of “turning it up to 11” with the example of The Who’s Pete Townsend smashing his guitar after performing. Jones’ talk ended with the classic scene from the movie “Spinal Tap” about amps with volumes that go up to 11.
The evening ended with an announcement that every participant would be receiving Jones’ book “Start You Up”.
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