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How the Grateful Dead Pioneered Viral Marketing

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Brian Halligan argues that the Grateful Dead was a pioneering pre-viral viral marketing machine. The ticket? Letting fans tape their concerts:

As a result, thousands of folks like me would return from a series of concerts with tapes of the shows. I'd pick the best show and make copies for all my friends. My friends would play these tapes over and over in their dorms and end up infecting others with a love for the music (and culture), which would turn hundreds of new folks into Grateful Dead ticket buyers. Each tape became a viral magnet that pulled in new customers. The more concerts they played, the more viral magnets sprang up.

Interesting point. Got me thinking, what other marketing lessons could we learn from musicians?

Here are a few tried-and-true methods of harnessing the power of musicians to market your brand.

The Beatles

Arguably the best selling artists of all time, The Beatles knew a thing or two about marketing. Sure, the great music helped, but one exciting technique they used to “get the music out there” was faking the death of Paul McCartney. Fans played and replayed tracks from albums looking for clues as rumors of Paul’s death spiraled out of control.

The lesson? If you’re the CEO of a major publicly-traded company, go “off the grid” for a while and release a series of complicated clues that point to your death. Then sit back and watch as the free PR flow. Just when things are about to get real bad, suddenly reappear and watch those shares shoot through the roof.


With over 300 million units sold, Madonna is the biggest selling female artist in the history of recorded music. Sex appeal certainly helped, but like most brand strategies, it all comes down to a catchy name. In the case of Madonna, the religious implications really make her stand out.

The lesson? CEOs should change their names to something biblical. It’ll stick.

Case in point: What’s more catchy? Steve Jobs. Or Sepharvaim Jobs?

Donald Trump? Or Dophkah Trump?

See! It works!

This Guy

I have no clue who this guy is, but sometimes the best lessons are learned by paying attention to what NOT to do.  In this case, releasing a video on YouTube could get you hundreds of thousands of clicks, but in today's world, not all publicity is good.

Ladies and gentlemen: the worst music video of all time.

POSITION:  No positions in stocks mentioned.