On August 27, 1990, I sat in Mr. Stanford’s Advanced American Studies class (first period, senior year) as the news flashed across the television set: Stevie Ray Vaughan died in a helicopter crash earlier this morning. Here, in this first period class where we had great debates, told James Nowak to shut up every day and were free to be anyone we wanted to be, I heard words that would crush me on into my adult years. An admitted audiophile, I’d sit on my bedroom floor with liner notes from vinyl and cassettes strung about me (and yes, CDs hadn’t made their appearance yet so keep on keepin’ on with your Old As Dirt comments) and SRV was one of my guilty pleasures I’d never cop to owning to my goth friends.
Always the sucker for a sick blues riff and wicked guitar lick, it occurs to me that there might be some fans out there just like me who learned more than they know from Stevie Ray. From the first moment I heard Lovestruck to the day I learned that Stevie couldn’t read music and beyond, he’s held a piece of this Texas girl’s heart in his talented hands. As a marketer and writer, I think there’s plenty we can (and have) learned from music. It has a way of telling us we’re doing shit wrong, reminding us that we’re not doing shit, and calling us shits when we fuck it up. Lemme take you through my reasoning that all I ever needed to know about marketing I learned from Stevie Ray Vaughan and who knows – maybe you’ll feel the same way or find some wisdom in the music that makes your life a better place to live.
Couldn’t Stand the Weather
Like a train that stops at every station,
we all deal with trials and tribulations
Fear hangs the fellow that ties up his years,
entangled in yellow and cries all his tears
How often do we waste time wrapped up in our own bullshit? Marketing is an -ing verb. It’s not a noun, for all that’s holy. Sure, use it as one if you want, but in my world, it’s a doing kinda thing. If you let fear paralyze you from taking a leap, you’ll never have truly exceptional results, truly appreciative clients and you’ll find yourself crying because the competition is doing what you really want to be doing. So why not just do? If you got into business only to give up, you let yourself be washed up because you couldn’t stand the weather.
Love Struck, Baby
I still remember and let it be said
The way you make me feel take a fool to forget
I swore a ton of bricks had hit me in the head
And what you do little baby ain’t over it yet
This is what a good marketing creates: unforgettable impressions. Brands we remember. Words to live by and an emotional impact on your target demographic that a ton of bricks can’t make you forget. But after the initial woo, you can’t stop there. You have to create lasting impact that carries over. Your audience? They need to be lovestruck and under your spell. If you can’t do this, then you’re doing something wrong, Vern. Take yer ass back to the drawing board and figure out how to make your audience a fool for you.
Sometimes you don’t need words to say what you need to say. The elements of some of the most successful marketing campaigns and brands have been what’s unsaid. Jingles, logos, unspoken moments and mere glances in the heat of the moment – those are things just as memorable as words.
Walkin’ the tight rope, steppin on my friends
Walkin’ the tight rope, was a shame and a sin.
You don’t walk on people to get business done. Great marketing requires a team of people to get the message out there in every possible channel. We’ve all run across the colossal douchecopter who thinks he or she is an island. We collide with shitty work ethics and have to pick up the slack, which at times isn’t unlike clawing your way back up a slimy, moss-covered ravine. But we do it. People help people and no matter if you dwell in corporate walls or your own living room, there’s no arguing that people are the reason you can get your job done for the client. Learn to walk the tightrope and ask for help when you need it – don’t step on people along the way because you fall out of balance.
Pride and Joy
Well I love my baby, like the finest wine
Stick with her until the end of time
She’s my sweet little thing, she’s my pride and joy
She’s my sweet little baby, I’m her little lover boy
It’s the song every marketer wishes a consumer would sing about what they pour their heart and soul into. Our brands, our customers – they’re our pride and joy and we do all it is that we do to hope that others will feel the same way, too. Maybe it’s your MacBook. A Mini Cooper. A custom Tiemeyer bicycle. Whatever your passion, we want our pride and joy to be the pride and joy of others. It’s why we do what we do.
And finally…while this isn’t originally a Stevie Ray Vaughan tune, it’s brilliance and it’s one of those songs that reminds me that things don’t have to be complicated. Simplicity is what we most often overlook when we’re trying to design the Next Big Thing. Maybe we can work with what’s already there and find a way to make it our own. Make people happy to see it again. And in the process, remind ourselves to stop making things so damn complicated for complication’s sake.