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Book Review: Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan

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At first glance you may think that Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn From the Most Iconic Band in History by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan, is a joke. However, this book is no joke! After reading it, you realize the members of the Grateful Dead were marketing geniuses.

I always liked the Grateful Dead, but I wasn’t a “dead head.” Many of my friends were. They traveled around the country to see their shows night after night. And to tell you the truth, I really didn’t understand why. Once you see a band, you see a band.

But that wasn’t the case with the Grateful Dead. Every night they played on the road, they played a different set. They constantly changed their set list, which enticed their audience to keep coming back.

What David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan are saying in the book, is that everything The Grateful Dead did, they did with reason and purpose to build a strong brand.

For starters, the Grateful Dead didn’t do what other bands did. They didn’t put out albums and then tour like most other bands. They toured and then put out albums. They also chose a unique name that stuck. Think about it, when you are starting a business, you need to come up with something that will stick, like Coke, Xerox, and Lady Gaga.

In the book, the authors talk about how the band was diverse and when building a staff you should think about diversity in terms of experience. They say to hire people from different fields of expertise to shape your team.

The Grateful Dead were ahead of their time in terms of embracing technology. Social networking and the Grateful Dead should be synonymous. They let their audience tape concerts and share with their friends, just like audiences do today on Youtube and other social networking sites. The Grateful Dead teaches us that by embracing technology, it enhances creativity and success.

A couple of other great takeaways from the book include:

  • Put Your Fans in the Front – it’s important to take care of your existing clients and make sure that they are happy and satisfied. They will sell your business. The Grateful Dead controlled their tickets and put their loyal fans up front at every show.
  • Cut Out the Middleman – cut out the brokers and go direct to your customers. The Grateful Dead did this by sending out mailings and other information including tickets themselves. Although you could still get a ticket from ticket master, they weren’t the best tickets you could get.
  • Free Your Content – by giving information away for free, you will build your base and increase your audience. The Grateful Dead did this by giving away their music.
  • Loosen Your Brand – don’t be so stuffy, loosen up. The Grateful Dead did this by allowing their audience input into album covers and artwork. The authors are saying that all too often people get stuck on one person policing corporate colors and logo. By doing this, companies stifle creativity.
  • Do What You Love – do something that you are passionate about. The Grateful Dead loved their music and their audience, which helped them prosper.

What I loved about the book is that each chapter was set up to describe something that the Grateful Dead did right, followed by an example that can be used in business, followed by a real life case study. I thought the book was a real eye-opener and gave me many “a-ha” moments.

David Meerman Scott wrote the New Rules of Marketing & PR, which was one of the first social media books on the market. He clearly defined the role of the marketing/pr practitioner and his writing style was easy to read and interesting. Brian Halligan, the CEO of HubSpot, is the leading provider of inbound marketing software to “grow traffic, leads and sales.” His company has been highly publicized and one of the first of its kind on the market. Both Scott and Halligan are huge Grateful Dead fans and they studied the band for more than 20 years.

So now looking back on my friends who traveled around the world with the Grateful Dead, I understand why. I now have a new appreciation for The Grateful Dead for their intelligence and their marketing genius.

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