What do you call someone who pays $300 to watch a bunch of old men prance around the Air Canada Centre? Well this is a trick question. If you said a Toronto Maple Leafs fan, you would be right — most of the time. But this is the post-season, and that is a Maple Leafs-free zone.
In this instance, the person watching septuagenarians waving their tushies would be a Rolling Stones fan.
And while I was watching the mad, brilliant Mick belt out the soundtrack of my adventurous youth, I realized this is not just the greatest rock and roll band in the world; this may be one of the greatest marketing organizations in the world.
At the age of 50, here is a brand at the top of its game, despite no new product releases, no mergers and acquisitions, only one best-selling executive biography and aging assets that can’t be replaced. Here is what we can learn from The Stones:
Invest In Your Product
I would imagine that rock stars age faster than the rest of us, and can measure their journeys in something more like dog years than people years. So having an intact group after fifty years is more about good luck than good planning. That said, it’s not enough to show up, you have to play. And this band can still play. Mick can still sing and swagger and ooze charisma all over the place, and the whole band has a fitness level that puts even their younger fans to shame. The lesson: good brands keep investing in their products, even as their products age and even when the end game is pretty much certain (though you never know with Keith).
Don’t Let Your Brand Party with Just Anybody
We’ve talked in this space before about the need to keep tabs on your brand and, more specifically, who its hanging about with after hours. The Stones don’t let just anyone open for them, and if there’s nobody good enough, they don’t have an opener. The look and feel of the entire show is tighter than Mickey Rourke’s last face lift, and you wont find any of those flimsy concert shirts here. No siree, that tongue and those lips are silk screened on quality tees with just as much brand authentication as a certain hockey team’s merchandise. They can probably thank Marianne Faithful for that bit of wisdom. The lesson: You’re only as good as the last-mile people your customers interact with. That includes your social media team, concert program designers and the guy who sells your over-priced coffee mug.
Deliver All the Time, Every Time
If you show up at a Stones concert an hour after the start time on the ticket, you will be, well, an hour late. Unlike so many other, less tenured rock bands, this one chooses not to sneer at its fans and waste their time by showing up hours late and rather too many drinks into the evening.
They also manage not to barf on stage, lip sync, fall over or scream racist insults at their fans. They play their tried and true hits, even when they’re trying to flog a new album, because they understand that brand equity has as much to do with meeting expectations as it does with having something new to say. Like all great brands, they recognize that one failure to deliver has a greater impact than countless flawless executions. The lesson: marketers need to spend time on the minute details of the delivery; it’s far too important to leave to engineers or logistics people.
Keep it Classy
Whatever Keith may be swigging from that red Solo cup seems not to be hampering his performance. It’s also rare to read any nasty rumours about the imminent break up of the band, violent arguments amongst its members or silly shopping accidents by their children. Doubtless, these things happen — all brands have giant spiders in their closets. The Rolling Stones may even need an airport hangar to keep their spiders safely stored. But they understand the incredible value of keeping those spiders hidden away. The lesson: put extra padlocks on the spider vault and treat the people with the keys incredibly well.