What Aerosmith, Kiss, and Elton John can tell you about branding.
Besides great scarves, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith boasts a fan base that has stuck by him for 33 years. In other words, Tyler has built an enduring brand--one that serves as a model for marketers in all industries, says Roger Blackwell, co-author with Tina Stephan of the new book Brands That Rock. Blackwell, a marketing professor at Ohio State University, says, "Most bands have a quick hit and want to do something different." The ones that achieve longevity "innovate at a controlled rate--not evolving too fast," he says. Consider the band Kiss, one of Blackwell's favorite examples (others are listed below). It stumbled when it "took off the makeup," but for the most part, Gene Simmons's band succeeded by cultivating small-town America--playing in rural areas, for example--even as it gained wider popularity. Blackwell notes that at the time Kiss was rising on the charts, Wal-Mart was pursuing a similar approach in business. "Both penetrated the market through secondary and tertiary markets while remaining relatively unnoticed on competitors' radar screens," he writes. So will the Grammy people ever add a category for branding? Dream on.
They appeal to "antiestablishment, nonconformist types. [Early] fans invested time and energy in supporting their passion and in turn claimed partial responsibility for their success."
Though they are both obviously commercial, they are also style-conscious. Both have very distinctive personalities and have relied on clever cobranding campaigns. And they appeal to customers of all ages.
"Both brought a new experience to the heart of America. Both sell more merchandise than anyone in their respective industries. Both deliver their product with attention to detail and with a constant eye on their fans."
These "masters of the mainstream" sell consistent, dependable products. "It's not what a gourmet aficionado brags about eating, but Kraft sells millions of dollars of Velveeta," Blackwell says.