In a time of peace, free love and rock ‘n’ roll, the Grateful Dead was writing the proverbial book on marketing. Decades later, David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan wrote an actual book of lessons chronicling the secrets to the group’s success and how its strategies can be applied to today’s digital and social media marketing tactics.
It breaks down how the Grateful Dead mastered marketing in ways many businesses practice today. Despite occupying the bottom half of the charts for decades, the band’s greatest hits foretold today’s emphasis on consumer experience, personalized engagement and community building.
Lesson No. 1: Putting a Name to the Face
Your business’s name doesn’t have to be as iconic as Grateful Dead, but it does need to be memorable. And consumers will find it easier to commit your name and info to memory if it’s consistent everywhere.
Sure, clever and cheeky names — such as Florist Gump or Eye Carumba Optometry — are no-doubt crowd pleasers, but consider whether you’ll be able to keep it consistent everywhere.
Clever name or not, consumers will remember you because these digital marketing strategy tips made you easy to find.
- Claim your Google Business Profile
- Make all social handles the same
- Get an email to match your domain name
- Let Thryv sync your business info across 40+ online listings
Lesson No. 2: Word of Mouth
Getting thousands of people to promote your brand every night took some doing in the 1960s. However, the Dead were ahead of the curve.
According to the book, the band was known for swimming upstream — they encouraged fans to make bootleg concert recordings and share them freely with others, long before Napster came on the scene. And while other bands focused on album sales, Grateful Dead chose to tour for income.
Now that the conversation is digital, you can make your business word-of-mouth worthy in countless ways. For example, sharing professional expertise freely will get people talking, without you having to give away the store.
An electrician could film a how-to video about replacing an outlet. An exterminator could write a blog about basic insect prevention methods. This content marketing strategy keeps you top of mind if the reader needs to hire you in the future.
Lesson No. 3 : Experiment and Change
Grateful Dead was no stranger to reaching beyond the norm to give fans the best experience possible. In fact, the book mentions how they created unique shows for each audience, brought new talent on stage and elevated the standard in audio technology.
The willingness to innovate and adapt catapulted the band’s community fellowship and can do the same for your business.
1. Identify changes and evolve
The digital marketplace is ever-changing, and you have to change with it. The marketing strategy you use now might not be the same one you use next year or even next quarter. Keep your ear to the ground and adapt when your strategy gets a little long in the tooth.
2. Create specific content
Measure your content’s success by the amount of engagement it generates. Use analytics from your website, social channels, email and more to understand what worked. Then replicate the same qualities to create more content.
3. Try new ideas
Sometimes you have to break eggs, shake things up and do other cliché idioms for trying new things. The Dead taught us you can stray from the path once a while and still follow foundational marketing strategy tenets.
Lesson No. 4: Build a Community
Community is the lifeblood of any business’s marketing strategy. The Grateful Dead “cultivated a dedicated, active community and collaborated with their audience” to create a fellowship of fervent followers, better known as Deadheads.
According to lifelong Deadheads and authors Scott and Halligan, the band connected with and grew their fanbase in many ways. For instance, they sold tickets directly to fans instead of through a middleman and allowed fans to sell their own merchandise at shows. They even hired fans as community organizers.
While the sentiment is the same, those examples might not apply to lawn care experts and home remodelers. So try out these marketing ideas to build a community of your own.
Whether your small business is just starting or entering its fourth generation of family ownership, the Grateful Dead’s decades-old marketing strategy can set you up for success.