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Mack Collier

Why Amanda Palmer is a Better Marketer than Your Brand

By: Mack Collier | February 21, 2013 | 
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Why Amanda Palmer is a Better Marketer than Your BrandOne Friday night in 2011, I was on Twitter when I suddenly started seeing a flurry of tweets from friends in Boston about a concert they had been to that night.

It was a ‘secret show’ given by Amanda Palmer, and as I watched dozens upon dozens of tweets flying by, I decided to see what the big deal was.

What Amanda had done was organize a ‘secret show’ by giving away tickets to the show.

In order to be eligible to win tickets, you had to go to Amanda’s Get Glue profile and leave a comment sharing your favorite experience at an Amanda Palmer concert.

The show was a wild success, and Amanda holds these ‘secret shows’ often, using social media to connect with her fans and create an amazing experience for them.

Now, the Skeptical Marketer will hear this, and immediately spot the big problem: She didn’t sell any tickets! Hello! And not only did she not sell any tickets, she gave all the tickets away to her biggest fans, the people who would likely be the ones to buy tickets from her!  All this rocker chick did is leverage social media to lose ticket sales! Right?

Wrong!

In May of 2012, Amanda launched a project on Kickstarter to fund a tour to promote her new album and art book. She set the funding level for the project at $100,000, which was the highest level Kickstarter would allow. She leveraged the same social media channels that she had used to promote and give away thousands of free tickets to her secret shows. But this time, she asked her fans to help support her and help her raise her lefty goal of $100,000.

Did it work? In 31 days, Amanda’s project was backed by almost 25,000 of her fans, who pledged a grand total of $1,192,793. This exceeded her funding goal by more than one million dollars, and at the time made Amanda’s project the 2nd most funded project in the history of Kickstarter (today it remains the most funded music project ever on the site). There was some controversy around the project, and you can read about that here.


Amanda Understands: Successful Marketing is about Delighting Existing Fans

If you research the top goals for marketers, you’ll see ‘acquire new customers’ mentioned early and often. In researching my new book, Think Like a Rock Star, I was trying to discover what the ‘secret sauce’ was for a rock star’s marketing success. Why is it that Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Amanda Palmer, and dozens of other rock stars can cultivate armies of passionate fans, while most brands cannot? What are rock stars doing that most brands are not?

First, I realized most brands focus on acquiring new customers. They position their marketing so it appeals to new customers, with the idea being that new customers equal new sales.

There’s a couple of big problems with this approach:

1. New customers have little to no loyalty toward that brand. So ,while you may get that initial purchase from them, there’s no guarantee you will get a second one.

2. Since new customers are frequently leaving, there’s a high churn rate. You might need to bring in 5,000 new customers to eventually retain 500 of them as current customers. That means the cost of marketing to this group goes through the roof.

Second, I realized rock stars are also focused on acquiring new customers. But here’s the important distinction: Rock stars connect with their biggest fans and then let their biggest fans acquire new customers for them!

What happens when Amanda Palmer does secret shows for her biggest fans? She gives her biggest fans another reason to love her. Those fans then go out and tell all their friends about how amazing Amanda is, and they acquire new customers on her behalf.

Rock stars understand their ability to acquire new customers tomorrow depends on their ability to delight their existing fans today.

About Mack Collier


Mack Collier is a social media strategist, trainer, and speaker located in Alabama. He specializes in helping companies better connect with customers, as well as cultivate fans via social media and other marketing initiatives. Mack is a highly sought-after speaker and has been quoted in some of the world’s most prestigious news sources, including The Wall Street Journal, Time, ESPN, The Washington Post, and others. He founded and moderates #Blogchat, the largest Twitter chat on the web. His first business book, Think Like A Rock Star: How to Create Social Media and Marketing Strategies that Turn Customers into Fans will be published in April, 2013 by McGraw-Hill.

114 comments
CatieRagusa
CatieRagusa

Awesome post, Mack!  It sounds like she's really got the right idea.  I feel like that's how it should be with most brands--really focus on your current fans/clients, and go from there.  Obviously acquiring new customers is a necessity, but how can that happen if you don't have some sort of following to begin with?

 

But, when a rock star (or other brand) DOES get that new customer for the first time, how can they make sure they stay fans and keep coming back?

 

Super interesting topic.  I really enjoyed the read.

CarrieMorgan
CarrieMorgan

Love it, @mackcollier - I think that the challenge is in translating what works for a rock star into what works for a business in today's environment - and social media is a beautiful place to make that happen.

 

Rock stars have the advantage of connecting emotionally with their fans - their customers. People love them for the music that speaks directly to their soul and touches their heart. It forges an immediate, strong bond.

 

So, that being said - the challenge for every marketer is how to touch that same emotional space. How to get past the product benefits and attributes that very few people care about, and focusing on the EMOTIONAL need their product meets, the pain points it solves, the frustrations it fixes. Nobody will spend time figuring it out - as a marketer, you have to feed that to them and strike just the right note that resonates. 

 

Businesses that can do that are winning the battle for customer retention and loyalty, and new business.

 

Can't WAIT for your wonderful book to come out! Carrie ~ http://rockthestatusquo.com

robotpainter
robotpainter

@JonMikelBailey every thing I've read about Palmer is about her marketing skills, not once have I read a thing that she's a great songwriter

MackCollier
MackCollier

@_rebeccajackson @trevoryoung Hope you both enjoy it! Thanks for the RTs!

smd
smd

.@dbvickery @ginidietrich @amandapalmer is successful in her use of social media because she is authentic. #yesibackedherkickstarter

techguerilla
techguerilla

@ShellyKramer @ginidietrich Because she was with the Dresden Dolls and wife of Neil Gaiman and I'm not? Wrong answer? :P

MackCollier
MackCollier

@sarahkayhoffman @SpinSucks Hey cowgirl, happy Friday!

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

I love this post ...  and I absolutely cannot wait for your book, @MackCollier !  I think another piece of the puzzle is the sense of community that these artists encourage around themselves. I like to talk about Lady Gaga as the best example of this. She seems to reciprocate the traditional one-sided, fan-to-celebrity, "parasocial" relationship -- or she at least does a good job of creating the illusion of doing so. You get the feeling she knows and understands her fans intimately.

 

And in Ms. Palmer's case, we see an artist actually delivering access in person at times through impromptu insider-only performances. Isn't she also famous for never paying for drinks because her fans buy them for her? It's a little edgy and maybe even questionable at times, but ... it looks like a sign that her community is manifesting itself through her, not the other way around.

 

And isn't that the essence of marketing? Listen to your market. Be what they want or need.

 

Certainly, artists aren't the only ones who have the opportunity to create community. Big implications for brands and companies who get it! Of course it might take a wee bit more energy to get people rallying around socks, payroll services or termite extermination. But it's not impossible. Anyway, I get excited about this stuff!

MackCollier
MackCollier

@Ginidietrich I just wanted you to know that as of this morning, Think LIke a Rock Star's sales rank on Amazon is the highest its been since I first announced the book available for pre-order way back on October 1st.  It's so high because of the new pre-orders from Spin Sucks readers!  You have an amazingly supportive community here and I think it's awesome the connection you have with them, and they with you!  Thanks so much guys!

NickTNpt
NickTNpt

@SnippetPhysTher Time for PTs to tap into that rock star mentality?

MackCollier
MackCollier

@barrettrossie Converting just one into a fan that advocates on your behalf to other potential clients/partners could be huge for a B2B

MackCollier
MackCollier

@barrettrossie Thanks Barrett I don't think I did a great job of addressing your point about B2B, but if a small pool of customers...

Cision NA
Cision NA

Mack, 

 

I think your rock star insight will come full circle with this post. We have long been a fan of yours and this post solidifies why - you truly have great insight and can explain concepts in a new and unique way. So well that I think this post will resonate well with our followers and I will tell them how amazing you are!

 

I echo what @ginidietrich said - cannot wait for your book! I just pre-ordered it through Amazon. 

 

Have a good night!Best,

Lisa 

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

Excellent post  my friend.  I read a post on @shellykramer 's V3 blog yesterday that I can't get out of my head - it was about the ROI of building fiercely loyal communities.  THIS is what Amanda Palmer knows... how to build them..  And YES, it takes A LOT of time and money, but then it's starts to build itself.WHEN's the book coming out???? :)  I see, April. When can we buy it? 

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@techguerilla I don't think we meant *your* brand. Just everyone else's @ShellyKramer

sarahkayhoffman
sarahkayhoffman

@mackcollier Hey you! Happy Friday to you as well...great post via @spinsucks!

MackCollier
MackCollier

 @dwaynealicie I get excited too, obviously ;)  I think these rock stars are simply using role-reversal, they are treating their fans as if THEY were the rock stars!

 

Now what's really interesting to me is, what would marketing in general look like if most brands adopted the same strategy?  A few years ago I worked with Dell to put on a special event for some of its biggest fans.  They got to spend the day at Dell's HQ in Austin, they got to see all the new projects and products that Dell was creating.  Then after lunch they were all told to go into a small meeting room.  In walks Micheal Dell!  Michael sits down and chats with them for about 15 minutes, and at one point I just looked around the room at these customers, they were mesmerized by Michael and you could tell they were thrilled that they were even in the same room with him.  Your average Dell customer could care less, but these guys were some of Dell's biggest fans, an it was a complete thrill for them.

 

That's what I want to see more brands doing, embracing and delighting their biggest fans.  It makes complete business sense as there has been study after study done that proves that fans spend more AND refer more business to the brand.  

 

If most brands stopped creating marketing messages designed to attract the attention of people that don't care about them, and instead created marketing that was designed to connect with the people that LOVE the brand, how different would the world of marketing look?  I think it's a question worth pursuing the answer to.

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @MackCollier  @Ginidietrich That's AMAZING!!!! We do have an incredible community Mack, but you also wrote an extremely well received article. So glad for you! :D 

SnippetPhysTher
SnippetPhysTher

@NickTNpt Just from today... we make it difficult to have ambassadors! The lady who emailed me was right... no consumer advocacy venue

MackCollier
MackCollier

 @AmyMccTobin  @shellykramer Yeah how many times do you think rock stars like Amanda ask what the ROI is of connecting with her fans?  Rock stars WANT a close connection with their fans, they FEED off it.  

 

Sales are a happy byproduct.  A byproduct they LOVE, but the relationship they have with their fans isn't structured from their POV as being strictly about sales.  This is a mentality that most brands will never understand.

techguerilla
techguerilla

@ginidietrich @ShellyKramer You really need to be much more clear about these things. I don't even know you anymore.

DwayneAlicie
DwayneAlicie

 @MackCollier That is an excellent Big Question -- I think you just framed my thinking for today.

 

It seems like one consequence might be more signal and less noise in our lives.  I can't be the only person who wouldn't mind a little less interruptive advertising.... right? 

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @MackCollier  @rdopping Mack it's linked in the piece - I aded it for context (ex-journo here! LOL) - she caught some flack for the KickStarter thing. "There was some controversy around the project, and you can read about that here." 

NickTNpt
NickTNpt

@SnippetPhysTher How can a service industry have no place for consumer advocacy?

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @MackCollier  @shellykramer Well, I think some brands DO get it... zappos.  Starbucks.   The point of that post wasn't just about ROI, it was really about what it takes to build the community, AND what the benefits are. Don't tell me you think Amanda doesn't care about paying the bills.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@techguerilla You're right. I'll be more clear next time. MATT WINS THE INTERWEBZ (like that?)!

MackCollier
MackCollier

 @dwaynealicie That's the key, less interruption.  Less of a disconnect between the brand sending the marketing message, and its intended audience.

 

More efficient marketing for the brand (which lowers cost), higher satisfaction for the customer, because the marketing had more value for us.

 

Make it so! ;) 

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

@MackCollier@rdopping I kind of feel that in order to exploit someone, you have to somehow create terms where they are not aware of their potential to be rewarded. I have not read the bible, but this whole thing reminds me of Matthew 20:1-16- the parable of the landowner. If the reward is equal to the work for the volunteers, who is Albini to argue? Now, take this with a grain of salt as I spent 11 years as a rock widow- my local arena gives free tickets to rock shows in exchange for writing a review. These people do not even get free food and booze, let alone a chance to meet the artist and join them on stage. And people COMPETE for the chance to do so! And does the "writer's union" kick up a stink? Does Pressfield write snarky posts about how these bloggers should be paid scale or the venue is taking advantage of them? No. Why? Because musicians are whiney and self-entitled. (re-read the above caveat...) As AFP herself says "stop pretending art is hard.". Do it because you want to and the fire burns within your soul, or get a real job. BOOM.

 

MackCollier
MackCollier

 @belllindsay  @rdopping  @RebeccaTodd Exactly.  I've happily spoken for free on Think Like a Rock Star in the past because it's an idea I am so passionate about.  But Lindsay to your point, some of the musicians might have been willing to perform for free for the exposure, and to be able to say they performed with Amanda Palmer.  

 

Or think about this:  What if Amanda offers a musician the chance to play for free (and in the process she does so cause she knows she doesn't have to pay, that someone will do it for free).  And a drummer takes advantage of it, and plays for free.  Then as soon as they are done, the drummer asks Amanda if he can take a picture with her, then asks her on the spot for an endorsement of him.  She'd probably say yes, then the drummer goes and posts the picture and endorsement on his site and uses that to get paying gigs!  If we would fault Amanda for not offering to pay these musicians, would we also fault the drummer for playing for free, then leveraging it to get paying gigs?  Probably not.  

 

As you said, sometimes doing something for free is worth it if it opens doors to get you something else you want as well.

belllindsay
belllindsay

 @MackCollier  @rdopping  @RebeccaTodd Yup, I agree. That's art baby. It's also why people contribute to each other's books or films (or blogs!) - I've always said - be prepared to do some free work if you want exposure, a professional connection to a person or an organization, or simply to just get ahead. It really does work. As long as you're not being abused. 

MackCollier
MackCollier

 @belllindsay  @rdopping Oh the New Yorker piece?  @RebeccaTodd and I were talking about that below.  Here's where I come down on this issue:  Who is upset about what she did and that she didn't want to pay the musicians that joined her?  It's outside sources.  The musicians that joined her were THRILLED to do so.  Did she know that she could offer them the chance to play for free and that would be happy to do so?  Yeah I am sure she did, but if those musicians were absolutely thrilled to have a chance to perform with her, I don't see the problem.  And I am betting a lot of the problem others have with this is because of how wildly successful Amanda's Kickstarter project was.

 

If she was taking advantage of these musicians I could see it, but if the musicians are willingly joining her to play for free, and are thrilled to do so, then I don't see the problem.  

NickTNpt
NickTNpt

@SnippetPhysTher Amazing. How many more people like her could we have? There needs to be some sort of APTA advocacy council promoting this.

SnippetPhysTher
SnippetPhysTher

@NickTNpt Seriously, this lady will light a fire! She's actually going to the virtual summit... she's dang serious about being an advocate

SnippetPhysTher
SnippetPhysTher

@NickTNpt They BOTH are! If you're going to do it, do it right or DON'T do it. lol You don't wax 1/2 a car and stop, quit & smile, do ya?

NickTNpt
NickTNpt

@SnippetPhysTher Which is worse? That or none at all?

SnippetPhysTher
SnippetPhysTher

@NickTNpt The MI "advocacy" site sucks... not cute... not eye appealing... not helpful... not welcoming to all.

NickTNpt
NickTNpt

@SnippetPhysTher I'm dumbfounded by this. Seriously.

SnippetPhysTher
SnippetPhysTher

@NickTNpt It wasn't thought of yet... now that it has been requested BY a consumer, well... let's hope that changes

RebeccaTodd
RebeccaTodd

 @MackCollier  @AmyMccTobin  @shellykramer Yes there is a great video about how she set the initial limit for her Kickstarter- shows she knew exactly how much money she would make and at what price points to set the perks. Smart cookie, she is. 

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @MackCollier  @belllindsay  I think the music industry may be a little different - the way you look, marketing and LUCK all play a part.I'm speaking with a prospective client now - an artist who went to school with Chiluly... he is a brilliant artist - but wants to be a commercial success. He's had a few licensing agreements here and there, but never really made it big.  Why? Because he won't commit to marketing...   that means $$ AND time.  I know you've all seen that before.Now, I mince no words.  I tell them: if you don't want to be successful, that's totally your choice. But there is a REASON that the 'other guy' is raking it in. 

MackCollier
MackCollier

 @AmyMccTobin  @belllindsay It's really interesting when you consider that talent alone won't make you rich and famous in many cases.  But a little less talent and a little more marketing chops can make you a LOT of money!

 

But here's a question I have:  You can look at successful artists like Beyounce and Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga, if you actually listen to their songs, many of them are not exactly the most amazing lyrical creations ;)  But is that a result of these artists being 'less talented', or smart enough to create a product (a song) that will sell to the masses?  

 

There are no doubt thousands of unbelievable songwriters that will spend their lives playing in local bars simply because they will never get noticed, and a big reason why they will never get noticed is because while they are amazing artists, they are terrible marketers.  I think there definitely needs to be a balance, in many cases.

AmyMccTobin
AmyMccTobin

 @belllindsay  @MackCollier Master marketer, but he's a FACTORY, not an artist.  The perfect juxtaposition is Paul Stankard, a brilliant, brilliant artist but not a great marketer. Guess who has more money?

MackCollier
MackCollier

 @AmyMccTobin  @shellykramer Oh of course Amanda wants to pay the bills, in fact I had a conversation with someone earlier about this and I said that I thought Amanda was one of the most savvy marketers out there, and a lot of what she does with her fans is purposely done because she KNOWS it will lead to sales later on.  

 

That doesn't mean she also doesn't love her fans.  I think most of the biggest rock stars in the world are also some of the best marketers in the world as well.

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  1. […] Collier recently released his new book, Think Like A Rock Star, detailing the genius marketing strategies employed by some rockers. Strangely, he did not focus on such classic elements as hairstyle and […]