Published on: October 26, 2010by Michael Sansolo
Brand power in all its forms is one of the most discussed topics in business today, but the simple truth is there are few simple truths. Everything comes with complexity and nuance, which is why a clear brand position of any product, store, service or individual is so hard to attain. It’s why the mythical “elevator speech” - the simple one paragraph explanation - is so hard to build, but it’s also why we keep trying.
Luckily, the world possesses a perfectly clear brand model. His name is Jimmy Buffett, the singer, songwriter and performer with a brand so simple, so clear and so easy that it can almost instantly be understood, enjoyed and passed on to others. Jimmy Buffett, to use his own words, is the endless summer vacation.
Think of what that conjures up. Summer vacation in my youth was the time that always went by too fast, full of fun and free of care. It’s something we can all relate to and Buffett’s brand sits exactly in that space. In that is a huge lesson.
Let me explain this epiphany. Truth be told, I knew only a little of Buffett’s music. I’ve been to a Margaritaville restaurant, tried many of the name-sake drinks and eaten many cheeseburgers. And I knew a little bit about the legendary concerts filled with devoted fans dressed in varying degrees of tropical wear.
But really I knew nothing. That is, until last week when Kevin Coupe took me to a Buffett concert in Portland, Oregon. I entered as maybe the only non-fan in the crowd of 14,000 and I left changed. What I experienced was more than fun. It was energetic, enthusiastic and silly. It was summer vacation.
If you have never seen Buffett in concert, be warned: this is not a concert in the traditional sense. For long stretches it seems meaningless that Buffett and his band are playing hard on stage. While many devoted fans religiously sing along while watching their favorites perform, Buffett’s fans go many steps further. They sing, dance and act out almost in unison around a chock full NBA arena. Buffett gleefully leads them.
The concert is a party in every way and at the center of it all is Buffett, now in his 60s and clearly having a great time performing for his fans in a t-shirt, shorts and barefoot. It’s the endless summer vacation for a man who found a talent that enabled him to live a dream life.
The reality is that Buffett’s fans don’t have his talent or his charmed life. Their lives are filled with work, mortgages, bills and even jam-packed rail cars and roads to leave the concert. They can’t approach every day looking for a salt shaker to make margaritas, but in their minds, Buffett can take them there briefly. Buffett’s brand keeps giving and giving, reinforcing itself as it goes.
A day later as I waited for my bag to show up at another airport, I realized I was humming a Buffett song and the brand came back to me. It occurred to me that marketing classes should be taken to a Buffett concert because there on display is a great brand with simple clarity. Buffett concerts aren’t about the quality of music, stage sets, costumes or lighting. His concerts are about summer vacation. The experience delivers on its promise and does so with passion that oozes off the stage.
What’s more, it’s a brand that allows devotees like Kevin to confidently bring a neophyte like me knowing the result is sure to please. That’s the truest test of the brand.
So ask yourself if your fans/customers feel the same way about your product, your store or your service? Do you and your associates understand what customers come looking for each and every time? If the answer isn’t an emphatic yes to both questions, get to work. Margarita time comes later.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
- KC's View:
- I would have paid real money to have been standing next to Michael at baggage claim when he started humming a Buffett song...he’s obviously come a long way since the concert, when he was seated next to this guy who hardly ever sat down, and spent almost the entire time singing, clapping and dancing in the aisles.
The point is that Buffett enables people to change their attitudes. In fact, he facilitates it. And Michael’s right ... that ought to be the goal of every brand.