Positioning Yourself as a Market Leader: Lessons From The Most Dangerous Band In The World
The crowd grew restless. For over an hour, they waited in the muggy stadium. There was no announcement from the concert organizers. No preliminary entertainment to distract them from the delay. Packed in like cattle, over 100,000 fans stood uncomfortably waiting for the same thing: The most dangerous band in the world. Suddenly, the crowd lights went dark and the stadium erupted with cheers of relief and anticipation. After a few seconds, from the darkness came a screeching howl, “You know where the *&%$ you are?!” and the stadium ignited as Guns N’ Roses began to play.
In the late 80s and early 90s Guns N’ Roses (GNR) was the most popular band in the world. For 5 years, there wasn’t another musical act that matched the popularity and marketability of these five young men from Hollywood, California. It wasn’t that they were more accomplished musicians than the other bands. They were often ridiculed by the press for being musically inept in comparison to their contemporaries. It wasn’t that their lyrics were seen as deep or meaningful. Songs like Mr. Brownstone and My Michelle centered around the excesses of drugs, sex and the rock and roll lifestyle. No, what made this band so successful was their image.
Guns N’ Roses was known as the most dangerous band in the world, a marketing ploy by Geffen Records to appeal to the angry and apathetic youth of the day. Their lead singer typically ranted and made controversial statements in the band’s songs and at concerts, the lead guitarist smoked cigarettes during his solos, and every member was constantly drinking hard liquor during their performances (Lead guitarist Slash was at one time sponsored by Black Death Vodka). They were notorious for showing up late and wasted at their shows, and the audience never knew when one of the band members might lose his cool and shut down the show. A couple of times this actually resulted in city wide riots. Imagine, all because of a band. The band that your parents didn’t want you to hear. That society rejected. That every teenager loved.
More mysterious was the bands elusiveness from the spotlight when not touring, leading to rumors that turned to legends about the members of the group. They were one of the least seen bands in the music world, and yet they were the most popular and talked about group on MTV and in Rolling Stone. In the span of five years, GNR went from an “every other” band to the most dangerous and powerful band in the world. Their original album, Appetite for Destruction, is still the most sold debut album of all time.
Today, popular songs like Welcome to the Jungle and Paradise City are played at sporting events and in movies, which nets the band even more money. They’re name is plastered on designer clothing and other merchandise, which continues to spread the band’s fame while generating royalties. Greatest Hits and Tribute albums have been released and outsold most newer band’s material. GNR remains a popular force in the music industry even though the original members have been separated for over 15 years!
So how can we apply this to your business? Should you start saying and doing controversial things in public? Should you incite riots (allegedly)? Show up late to every meeting you schedule? The answer to these questions is a big NO. Remember, GNR was appealing to teenagers, mostly male, who were angry and felt neglected. They fed into that demographic and manipulated it better than any other band at the time. They studied their marketplace, appealed to it, and created disciples out of the people that embody it. They appealed to their market.
So how can you appeal to your market and position yourself for success?
You have to know who is in your market.
This is assuming that you already have a product or service. If you don’t, go create one now, and come back when it’s ready. Now, to determine who is in your market, you need to do a little research. Create a list of your clients and prospects and then organize them based on age, gender and any other demographic that is pertinent to your product. The more specific you can organize your clients, the better prepared you will be to reach them.
For instance, if you are selling weight loss supplements, you would want to find out the weight of your clients and prospects. That’s not an easy one to discover, especially if you operate online. Or is it? If you provide the option in your order form and gloss it over (i.e. a current weight section followed by an ideal weight section), you’ll be surprised at how many people opt to fill in those two sections.
“That sounds too controversial and invasive.”
University and business applications and forms have an optional place for you to identify your race. They tell you they are doing it to get a better grasp of the demographics of their places of operation, so why shouldn’t you with your clients and prospects?
Maybe your product or service caters mostly to retailers or other businesses. Research and discover everything about those companies. What makes them all similar to each other? What makes them different?
By getting a better understanding of who is interested in your product you can do the next thing…
Create an image that appeals to the customer base
That’s right. You aren’t going to be yourself, not at first. I’m not saying you have to put on a clown costume and parade around with a bullhorn on the television. You do have to position yourself a little bit to the market to which your product or service appeals, at first.
GNR wasn’t as dangerous or fierce as they portrayed themselves, but more on that later. You’ll find that some of things about your customer base doesn’t fit with your personality or ideas because…gasp…they aren’t you. They may not be extremely different from you, but they will be different. In order to get the customer to buy, you’ll have to be the one to change first.
Don Pierre Pérignon invented champagne, which is famous for it’s carbonated bubbles. However, for years he attempted to prevent the now famous signature on the wine because bubbles in wine were a sign of a low quality vino. It wasn’t until a few upperclass Frenchmen tasted the concoction and fell in love with that Pérignon relented and began creating the now famous beverage. Today, champagne is known and loved for it’s bubbly texture and enjoyed all the world over.
You might not like where your product or service is heading at first, but you’re not the one who is buying it. Find a way to make what you sell appeal to the people who are buying it and you will find success. Manipulate your product or service to better fit the needs and wants of your customers. Even if it’s something as simple as the color of the product or logo of your service company, you can increase your profit margin by adapting to the general thoughts of your customer base.
“But that’s selling out.”
There are plenty of starving artists and proud business people who didn’t adapt in the name of not “selling out”. There are also plenty of successful people who adapted and were able to bring their customer base to where they wanted them to be, but that comes later. Next up…
Only Find the Spotlight Where and When You Need To Be
The old adage that any publicity is good publicity is not all that true. Yes, it is good to get your name out there and to promote what you do, but people start to sour over things when they are inundated with it. Over expose someone to something and they get bored or sick of it. Stay in the sun too long and you get a sunburn. Eat too much chocolate and you get a stomach ache and cavities. Over advertise and publicize yourself and you become the company from which everyone runs. Like that relative who won’t stop talking, you become an annoyance instead of a service.
In the mid 90’s McDonald’s came up with an idea for a new sandwich, The Arch Deluxe. It was supposed to be the sandwich that revolutionized the fast food industry, bringing gourmet food to customers at a quick pace and affordable price. The idea sounded good, but over $100 million dollars later and an excessive promotion campaign, people were sick of the sandwich before it was even on the menu. Think it was just because people don’t buy gourmet-style food from fast food places? Arby’s has for years had several gourmet sandwiches that are popular with their customer base. The difference is they didn’t drown their customer base in ads about the sandwiches before they were released.
You have to do the same thing with your product or service. You know what you are selling is good (at least you better), so let it sell itself. Limit your advertising to key areas that your customer base goes (to go back to the weight loss supplements, imagine having a billboard next to a McDonalds advertising weight loss solutions). This may sound controversial, but if you are a personal injury lawyer, research where the most dangerous intersections are in your community and put advertising near there (I guarantee you somebody else is). Sell toys? Have an advertisement across the street from an elementary school. Strategically pick where you want your spotlight to shine and your product or service won’t become the next flop.
Change Their Minds
What was innovative about the Arch Deluxe, was that McDonalds was trying to shift their demographics tastes. As mentioned before, it didn’t work out because of the excessiveness of their advertising. That doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have, though.
Remember how I said GNR wasn’t really all that dangerous? It’s true. Though Appetite For Destruction is considered one of the most violent and controversial albums of its era, the follow-up to it was anything but. Use Your Illusion I and II was full of ballads and deep searching lyrics. The tone and tenor of the band had completely changed…or had it?
Several of the main songs on the double album had been written before Appetite was released. The band withheld the songs because they knew the fan base wasn’t quite ready for them. When they did release the songs, what did the fan base do? They made the albums No. 1 and 2 on the Billboard Charts. Why? because the fans were in love with the image of GNR, not what they were playing, and they were willing to adapt to what GNR did.
You can do the same thing with your customer base. Once your service or product is booming, you can adapt your message and even the product of service to fit more closely with what you want. You just have to bring the customer base along slowly. About a year before the double album release, GNR started previewing the main songs from the upcoming album at their concerts. If you take your time, your business can be operating the way you dreamed in the end.
You wanted that weight loss supplement to cater to people who would then take a muscle builder supplement? Start transitioning them to it once you have them hooked. The personal injury law thing was just until you could start representing corporations? Take the success of the former to promote to your new customer base. You really wanted that toy to be blue instead of green? Release the new, improved one! Your reasons for wanting to change will be different from the next reader. It might be a business model change, a philosophical change or just a superficial change, an aesthetic adjustment.
These changes can happen once you have earned your base’s trust (Just remember if you end up like the Coca-Cola Company, make sure to go back to what you were doing in the first place. You and they just weren’t ready).
It might seem silly to apply lessons that were inspired from a rock band. Even more silly, they were one of the most self-destructive bands ever, having lasted for less than a decade. With over 100 million records and tons of merchandise sold, their failure to stay together clearly wasn’t for lack of success or salesmanship. They knew the market with which they could succeed, how to create an image for their market, they only marketed themselves where they needed to be, and they manipulated the people to change to what the band wanted. So find out where you are and dive into the jungle – just be sure you are positioning yourself as a market leader.
Have your own steps to creating a successful sales image? Share them in the comments below.
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