Grateful Dead – Rock legends, marketing pioneers


"Sometimes the light shines on me;
I can hardly see other times.
Lately I'm reporting,
How long, weird it was. "

"Truckin" by Grateful Dead, 1970

On a long, strange journey somewhere between Omaha and North Platte on the I-80, I met Grateful Dead. And while Dead Music brought us to our destination, we missed the ability of the band to share the market share.

Looking back, the decision to drive my Ford Pinto from Collingwood, Ontario, in Sun Valley, Idaho in 1975, is probably triggered by an excessive number of tequila on Saturday night. But, again, it was a decade in which we all believed in our invincibility and accepted the "go for it" person. So, we are.

Bald Mountain is 2,200 miles west. Or, 42 hours at 55mph, American inter-state speed limits at that time. We tested this border unsuccessfully in Weyoming with financial constraints that would later impact on our victories and eating (beer and burgers, more precisely).

There were no fun choices in Ford Pint in 1975. iPod / USB connections were not included in the seller's list of options. Sony Walkman would not reach retail stores in North America for another 5 years. Stock reports and C & W music from Iowa to Wyoming, we were warned.

Initially, Pinto is equipped with a cassette recorder and cassettes carefully captured from the LP. The usual things of the 70's. John Denver was in a prominent position. Linda Ronstadt is not far behind. Gram, Emmylou and Neil are always nearby.

Somewhere in the middle of Nebraska, the Denver Rock is old. My Pinto co-pilot went to Skeleton from the Grateful Dead cabinet. Truckin, Friend of the Devil and other songs from the album took us to the rest of the way to our destination, Pioneer Saloon.

Thirty-five years after the Great Dead Epiphany, I discovered in Toronto an ingenious "lesson marketing from grateful dead, what every business can learn from the most iconic band in history."

Marketing Hours From Grateful Dead … I admit … not the wisdom I thought when I avoided rolling over an interstate track on our long, weird journey from Collingwood to Sun Valley.

David Meerman Scott and testimony of Brian Halligan about the marketing genius of Grateful Dead, as the legend of basketball and life story Deadhead Bill Walton writes in the book's preface, "a fascinating story about how grateful Dead & Contra-intuitive ways of doing business are truly best practices that work for everyone.

Formed as the California Hippie Band in 1964, Grateful Dead performed over 2,300 concerts live until it was disbanded in 1996 after the death of Jerry Garcia. The Dead has performed for millions of freaky and loyal fans who have become the most popular tournament in the history of rock and roll. Amazing for industrialists in the industry, not for a top 10 album or one chart except 1987. "Touch of Gray".

But again, the top 40 was not the focus of the Grateful Dead. The dead were (and are) a rock band unlike others. A focus on establishing lasting relationships with loyal, informed fans and providing authentic concert experiences, not radio games.

Authenticity, relevance and loyalty over four decades. A consistent standard of success was equal to the number of marketing and business leaders.

A review of the marketing lesson of Grateful Dead is the creation and execution of a unique and sustainable business model that relies on communication techniques that we know today as social marketing.

According to the authors, Dead is "a large case study in countermarket marketing … the band's marketing innovations are based on doing exactly the opposite of what other bands (and publishers) are working at the time."

The book describes the decisions of the dead that distinguish them from the competition. Decisions that were extremely unpopular in the industry. Conventional wise and musical business models dictated rock bands to record and release albums, and then use concerts to promote album sales. The Dead turned this business model upside down: the first and the second. Let the fans record and distribute concerts – the early LimeWire model.

Marketing Lessons from Grateful Dead explores the whole range of marketing concepts that Dead used during their exceptional run.

This is the climax of four concepts that GrayHawk believes are essential elements for the success of the organization:

1) Consider the traditional assumptions of the industry:
Instead of focusing on albums as the primary source of revenue, Dead created a business model focused on the tour rather than on radio and for sale albums.

Marketing Lesson: Challenge established business models and recognize that business model innovation is more important than product innovation.

2) Turn your clients into evangelists:
Unlike other bands, Grateful Dead has established "taper sections" where fans are; the equipment could set the best sound quality for recording their shows. In this way, Dead created a huge network that carried tape in the days before the Internet. Think about the 1970's Limewire. Wide exposure has led to millions of new fans and sold out live shows.

Marketing Lesson: When knowledge and content is free and distributed, more and more people learn about the company and its products that run the business in that company. Consider the power of communication, social networking.

3) Get around the accepted channels and go directly:
In the early 1970s, Grateful Dead became one of the first bands to create a mailing list where they announced tours to fans. Later, the band established its own ticket office, providing the closest fans the best places in the house.

Marketing lesson: community building and care and customer respect encourages passionate and lasting loyalty.

4) Build a huge, loyal:
Grateful Dead allowed its audience to define the Grateful Dead experience. Concerts were an event, a destination, a "family gathering" where 20,000 or more members of the audience were part of the experience.

Marketing lesson: the company community defines who it is. In our current era of communication, companies can not force their customers to think. Companies and brands must make loyalty through consistency and authenticity.

Did the Grateful Dead business model succeed?

In a word, yes. Fifteen years after Jerry Garcia's death and decay, the reformed "Dead" band visits and consistently sells the concert to its loyal base.

Is this business model scalable?

That's right. Testify to the success of U2, Jimmy Buffett and Bob Dylan and their long-standing loyalty to fans for decades and generations. In fact, the billboard chart for 2010 tells us that every artist on the top now earns 40 more than a concert tour than record sales.

Compilation with marketing lessons approved by GrayHawk Consulting Group.

And, if you do not appreciate the book … Truckin will take you from Omaha to Pioneer Saloon in Sun Valley. GrayHawk was there. I have done that.


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