Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead is a short and sweet book on a self-explanatory subject. The authors David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan dissect how the Grateful Dead became one of the most successful touring bands of all-time, partly though unconventional marketing and business approaches that can be applied to modern marketing. Here are some of the memorable ideas from the book.
Give away content for free
During concerts, The Grateful Dead would encourage fans to record their songs, a stark contrast to the rest of the record industry that often prohibits concert attendees from using recording devices during shows. The Grateful Dead fans were able to share their experience and their passion with their friends by sharing their recordings, which probably resulted in many more fans.
Takeaway: Give away valuable content and it can generate demand for your product or service.
Do the opposite of the competition
There were many examples of how the Grateful Dead debunked conventional industry practices. Instead of performing the same scripted list of songs every night, they improvise and play songs that often aren’t their greatest hits. Instead of banning third parties from selling Grateful Dead merchandise outside their shows, they partnered with them and encouraged it. Instead of using a concert ticket broker, they sold tickets directly to their fans.
Takeaway: If everyone is your industry is doing the same thing, do the opposite to stand out from the crowd.
Reward your best fans
The Grateful Dead offered a mail in ticket service for fans in which they did not know the location of the seats until they received them. David Meerman Scott comments that although the location of their seats seemed random, they were always better than the second class citizens who purchased through Ticketmaster. This commitment to fans helped build loyalty from their best customers.
Takeaway: Reward your best customers to build a lasting loyalty to your brand.
You may think building community may be easy for a rock band but how do you create community around a simple product or service. In another book by David Meerman Scott, he describes the fan club of the WD40 which has over 70,000 members which demonstrates that you can build a community around almost anything if you take the right approach. The Grateful Dead quickly developed a community of loyal fans who were known as Deadheads. Long before there was Facebook, The Grateful Dead sent out a newsletter to help fans stay informed and connect with each other. “The fans could opt in, connect with each other at shows, share common interests, be informed of upcoming events, feel like they were part of a community”. The Grateful Dead created a sense of community that was so strong that the common interest often turned strangers into great friends.
Takeaway: If you can build a community that connects fans with each other, your company can add additional value to customer’s lives and increase brand loyalty.