As the summer concert season is upon us, I’m reminded of my days back in college when I served as a marketing intern at Deer Creek Music Center (it was still Deer Creek back then). That summer, I learned the in’s and out’s of the concert industry. Looking back, little did I know that a meet and greet with the Foo Fighters would stick with me professionally after more than 15 years.

As an intern, I had many responsibilities, ranging from photographer wrangling to coordinating radio promotions with the bands – the type where the station promises backstage passes. These artist/fan events were fairly commonplace for most concerts. The typical drill was for radio winners to stand in a line backstage waiting to approach a table where the band would be signing autographs and posing for an occasional photo. Once the last person had their autograph in hand, the winners were promptly ushered to their place back among the commoners in the stands. While I’m sure the winners appreciated the brief brush with the band, this format always felt impersonal to me.

Then, one day the Foo Fighters rolled into town. They took a totally different approach to meet and greets. Gone were the tables and lines. Instead, Dave Grohl and the boys emerged from their dressing room area pulling a wheeled beer cooler and casually approached their waiting fans. Then, all of a sudden Dave roared, “Beer races, who’s in?” and proceeded to throw back a few brews and talk with the lucky fans in attendance.

I was shocked. Here’s the former drummer from Nirvana and one of the biggest rock stars in the world truly and genuinely interacting with the band’s fans, not because he was told to, but because he wanted to. Several years later, it occurred to me that what has catapulted the Foo Fighters into music superstardom is more than their music. It’s much more about how they approach and deliver their music.

Ever been to a Foo Fighters show? They play for HOURS. And, they truly care to please the people in attendance. It’s not some put on “you bought a ticket to subsidize my millionaire lifestyle, so I’ll pretend to care” attitude I witnessed many times that summer. It was real.

So, how do I connect this experience to helping my clients develop their brands? Four ways:

  • How you deliver (package, physically deliver, etc.) your product is just as important (sometimes more) as your marketing. Yes, it might cost more to change operational elements of your business, but your future marketing will be more effective and your customers will stay with you longer.
  • Be authentic and human. People are smart. They’ll see through a sanitized approach and turn away. Step outside of the expected corporate speak and communicate with your customers in a manner that’s relatable. And, don’t be afraid to show some personality. Remember, people want to connect with people, not corporate machines.
  • Truly connect. Don’t hide in the ivory tower (or behind the autograph table). Talk to the people you’re trying to reach. Understand what makes them tick, what they want, what their pain points are. When you do, you’ll have a better reflection of your own situation and the road you should travel down.
  • Delight your customers. Once you know what your customers want from you, find unexpected ways to please them. If you can delight your customers, they will naturally become advocates on your behalf.

Thanks, Foo Fighters. You taught me some of the best marketing lessons of my career.