What Bon Jovi Can Teach Us About Marketing

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My name is Jeff and I love Bon Jovi.  Yeah, I said it.  Maybe it’s the Jersey in me.  Maybe it’s my fondness for 80s hair bands.  Whatever it is, Bon Jovi holds a special place in my heart.

When I was twelve years old, I remember buying one of my first vinyl albums, “Slippery When Wet”.  It was Bon Jovi’s second album and featured several songs that have stood the test of time – “You Give Love a Bad Name”, “Wanted Dead or Alive” and my personal favorite, “Livin’ on a Prayer” (which was actually my Bar Mitzvah theme song).

Fast forward 27 years later.  It’s February 27, 2013 and I’m at a Bon Jovi concert in Phillips Arena in Atlanta with 30,000+ screaming fans who know every word to every song.

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Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora rocking Philips Arena in Atlanta, February 27, 2013.

Bon Jovi isn’t one of those 1-hit wonder bands that faded into obscurity, playing concerts at Six Flags and making appearances on random reality shows.  They have been putting out hit albums (12 total) and packing large stadiums for years.

Sure, they might be a bit cheesy. But, when you’re at a bar at 2am and the DJ plays Livin’ on a Prayer, not even the most cynical among us can resist belting out the lyrics.

It made me think about all the bands from the 80s that had a few hits and then faded away – Winger, Warrant, Whitesnake, Cinderella, Skid Row, Tesla, Dokken, Quiet Riot, Scorpions, etc.  What made the Bon Jovi brand survive and flourish so much longer than the others?

Well, I think it’s a few simple things that can teach marketers how to build brands that last.

1) When you have a formula that works, stick with it: A lot of bands gain success and then start to take themselves too seriously. They go through an “experimental” phase and release artsy albums that no one wants.  But, Bon Jovi has always had a simple formula – hard rock tunes with a catchy chorus.  This has worked very well for them album after album.

2) Consistency: Bon Jovi still has all its original band members – Jon, Richie, Tico and David.  They’ve been playing together for a long time.  So, when you go see Bon Jovi in concert, you’re seeing the same guys that were rocking in the 80s.  It’s that consistency that keeps fans engaged.  You can click here to read an older post about the importance of brand consistency.  

3) Don’t take yourself to seriously: Bon Jovi continues to be the epitome of the 80s hair band.  Even though they evolved their sense of style, they are still easy to make fun of.  But, they don’t get mad, they have fun with it.  In fact, they’re laughing all the way to the bank.  Here’s a classic video from the Conan O’Brien show featuring Bon Jovi and Triumph the insult comic dog.

Click the to play the video.

4) Expand your fan base: In 2005, Bon Jovi released the album “Have a Nice Day”.  It was mostly what you’d expect from Bon Jovi.  Except there was one song on the album that was a duet with Jennifer Nettles —  “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”.  It was #1 on the country charts brought a whole new audience into Bon Jovi fan base.  If you want to build a brand that lasts, you have to find new ways to keep bringing new customers in.

5) Give the fans what they want: Have you ever been to one of those concerts where the performer doesn’t play their hit songs?  I remember seeing Prince many years ago and he was only playing songs from his new album.  He didn’t play any of his classics.  No “Little Red Corvette”.  No “Let’s Get Crazy”.  No “Purple Rain”.  WTF!  You’ll never get that experience at a Bon Jovi concert.  Sure, they’ll play some songs from the new album that you don’t want to hear.  But, that’s the perfect time for  a bathroom break.  Last night at Philips Arena they played for over 2 1/2 hours.  And of course they played “Wanted Dead or Alive” and “Livin’ On a Prayer”.  Check out the video below.

So, the next time you think about reinventing your brand, just ask yourself WWBJD (“What Would Bon Jovi Do”).

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