In the 1960s, the Grateful Dead made a series of difficult, often-unpopular decisions in order to differentiate the group from competitors by providing the highest-quality service to fans. In so doing, the band pioneered many social media and inbound-marketing concepts that businesses across all industries can use today.
1. Rethink traditional industry assumptions. Rather than focus on record albums as a primary revenue source (and touring to support album sales), the Dead created a business model that focused on touring. Entirely new opportunities are now emerging for those willing to challenge established business models. The Grateful Dead teaches us that business model innovation is frequently more important than product innovation.
2. Turn your customers into evangelists. Unlike nearly every other band, the Grateful Dead not only encouraged concertgoers to record live shows, but established "taper sections" where fans’ equipment could be set up for the best sound quality. Today, while many companies experiment with offering valuable content on the Web, the Grateful Dead teaches us that when we free our content, more people hear about our company—and eventually do business with us.
3. Bypass accepted channels and go direct. In the early 1970s, the Grateful Dead was one of the first bands to create a mailing list through fans heard first about upcoming tours. Later the group established its own ticketing office, providing the most loyal fans with the best seats in the house. The Grateful Dead teaches us that building a community and treating customers with care and respect drives loyalty.
4. Build a huge, loyal following. The Grateful Dead let its audience define the Grateful Dead experience. Concerts were happenings, destinations that made 20,000 or more audience members part of the experience. By having made the fans equal partners in a mutual journey, the Grateful Dead teaches us that our community defines who we are.
These lessons are important tools for helping us to understand today’s marketing environment in a way that is familiar to us all. What the Grateful Dead has been doing for more than 40 years can be applied to your small business today.
David Meerman Scott
Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead
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