“Come over and listen to this band from Ireland.”
Those words reshaped my life in February 1983. A high school friend invited me over to hear War, the third album from U2. Every song captivated me. The energy, the lyrics, the emotion, the passion. Until that night, I had never been a huge music fan. I immediately bought U2’s first two albums Boy & October (on cassette tape!) before launching out to explore different genres and sounds from a broader spectrum of artists. It was my gateway to appreciating, if not always embracing, new artists.
I frequently listen to XM satellite radio’s dedicated U2 channel, particularly the “Desire” program. Fans play their top five U2 songs and explain what the songs and the band have meant to them. Every episode is compelling. People recount how specific songs and concert experiences shaped relationships with friends, families and lovers; how lyrics and videos got them through heartbreak, sickness and tragedy; how the band’s activism, resilience and commitment to reinventing themselves over the past four decades has inspired people to make difficult decisions and positive life changes.
U2 is not alone in creating passionate connections with fans. Bruce Springsteen is preparing to launch a global tour that is instantly selling out despite insanely high “dynamic pricing.” The Rolling Stones still sell out the largest stadiums. I was never a big Grateful Dead fan but was fortunate to attend a few shows in the early 90s and was always amazed at the commitment and passion of Deadheads traveling from show to show across the country. I do confess to being a member of The Herd for Donna The Buffalo.
Brands need to act and think more like this. Make fantastic products that tap into perhaps unexpressed but deeply felt emotions. Deliver in an amazing and memorable fashion. Stand up for what they believe and give customers a reason to be passionate about them. Some brands have figured that out and taken their companies to the next level – Trader Joe’s (grocery) and Buc-ee’s (convenience store), Warby Parker (eyewear) and the stalwart, Apple.
At a recent Worldcom meeting, a guest speaker talked about a holy grail of finding positioning for your company that enrages 49 percent of your potential audience but thrills 51 percent. Leave no one in the middle. That’s not generally advice I would provide clients, but I strongly believe that consumers value authenticity. And when they believe in a company, they’ll brag about them, buy from them and return over and over again. The same is true for employees.
This Labor Day weekend, put on music from your favorite band (it does not have to be U2!) and take a few minutes to reflect on the core mission of your organization or company, why you do what you do and what you can do even better. When you have clarity on that, the odds are good you’ll generate more passion, loyalty and connection with the audiences that matter most. You’ll earn their loyalty… and their desire.