Lessons from one of our greatest singer/songwriters can help build your brand.
Bob Dylan never set out to become a marketing expert. He’s probably never sat in on a lecture about how to maximize marketing ROI. But the fact is, he probably knows more about creating mystique, selling product and building a core audience than many people in music.
After all, he’s not just a legendary global artist. He’s a highly profitable music brand that’s been going strong for over 50 years. Here are a few marketing lessons music executives can learn from Bob Dylan.
Make sure you have a great brand name.
Bob Dylan started life as Robert Allen Zimmerman. A good name, but when he landed in New York in 1961, he began performing as Bob Dylan. The name has a feeling of indefinable cool and poetry. It’s easy to pronounce and has sticking power. Remember, you can have the best product around, be it a guitar, amplifier or microphone, but if you don’t get the name right, it’ll be a drag on your marketing efforts.
Find your audience.
Your music brand won’t appeal to everyone. And it shouldn’t. Dylan’s unconventional singing voice and longish songs that are often dense with poetic lyrics aren’t for the masses. And that’s great. His audience is smaller than many other major artists of the past 50 years, but he has a hardcore, loyal group. He knows his listeners and creates art for them. He, in turn, is rewarded with sales and adoration. It’s critical to know who’s buying your product and understand what makes them tick. It will help you build a core of enthusiasts who will stick with your brand through good times and bad.
Don’t fear change.
Embrace it. Dylan sheds musical styles the way most people change cars. Every few years, he’s doing something different. Folk, rock, country, blues, gospel. Or an inventive mixture of them all. He invigorates his career by switching things up and exploring new musical territories. But even through the changes, Dylan remains true to what he’s always been about: creating new songs grounded in American roots music. The marketing lesson here is to figure out what your brand stands for and then explore strategies and tactics that keep your audience engaged. The key is staying true to whom you are. In other words, the essence of your brand should be timeless. Your marketing efforts should change with the times.
Never stop experimenting.
Dylan has performed at least 100 or so live shows each year, every year since 1988. He routinely alters his old songs, giving them different tempos and infuses them with new feeling. His classic folk songs may get a regGae treatment. Rock songs get a country flavor. Refresh your brand by experimenting with new products, designs, advertising and ways to reach your audience. If you’re a music brand with a storied past, repackage your history in unexpected ways. Experimentation keeps your brand invigorated and helps you figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Bob Dylan. Singer. Songwriter. Marketing pro. Who would’ve thought?