What Can Bruce Springsteen Teach Us About Great Marketing?

“The Boss” gives us timeless lessons on reinforcing an enduring brand.

Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band are synonymous with timeless American rock, but one could make the argument that their genius also lies in their ability to illicit undying loyalty from legions of fans. From the beginning, dating back to their days in Asbury Park, “The Boss” and his backing band cared deeply about their fans and didn’t hesitate to show it. They knew how to keep the emotional tie going to maintain an intense loyalty. 

With his authenticity and commitment to open, honest communication with fans, “The Boss” offers a marketing master class in how to reinforce an enduring brand. Here are three lessons that are worthy and relevant to all of us in this uncertain, still-a-bit-scary, and unprecedented marketplace.

Keep the emotional tie going to maintain an intense client loyalty.

As with any brand, product or service, there are inevitable tests along the way that can impact your position in the marketplace. They are sometimes dramatic and unexpected.  For Springsteen, these tests were manifested in the deaths of his beloved bandmates, Danny Federici in 2008 and Clarence Clemons in 2011.

With the loss weighing heavily after Clemons’s passing, Springsteen knew that he had to do several things at once – help the band heal, convey his commitment to his fans, and ensure the future of the band. It had to be real, coming from inside him and consistent with his core values. 

What did he do? He created a moment. Band intros were a signature event at every show. Fans looked forward to them, counted on them, responded to them. “The Boss” used this time to directly address the void that was on their minds: “That’s right, we’re missing a few. But the only thing I can guarantee tonight is that if you’re here, and we’re here, then they’re here.” Mission accomplished.

For clients taking a lesson from “The Boss,” any transition needs to be seamless, and it is best if they hear about it from you. Communicate with clients directly to solidify the value of your brand, especially during times of change or flux.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Determine who will tell clients, clearly define the story, and tell it with consistency.
  • Communicate changes in a way that is personal and heartfelt.
  • Ensure that your clients are confident that your commitment to quality will not waiver, the firm is healthy, and they will not be affected by internal changes.

The rest is just noise.

Give clients what they want.

Springsteen gives fans what they want. It is his hallmark. There are many stories about taking cues from the audience at the expense of his pride and his ego. One such example is making exceptions by accepting audience requests for songs that were not scheduled to be performed and that he did not want to perform. His initial reaction–outright refusal–reflected in the metrics as attendance and ticket sales plummeted. The new low numbers were attributed to a failure to connect with his audience.

After a change of heart, when two guys with seats backstage held up signs all night asking Bruce to play a certain song, he did. The whole audience rose up and celebrated. The fans said, “We celebrated the song because Bruce gave us what we wanted.” Thus, a lesson in audience engagement.

Takeaway Tips:

  • In giving clients what they want, you don’t have to change who you are; you don’t have to sell out. Simply adapt your model, perhaps change an approach or a method, to better suit them while remaining true to yourself.
  • Think long term. The connections you make sustain you and sustain your clients. They define your legacy.
  • Build in impromptu moments and spontaneity. They go a long way toward creating interactions that are memorable. Like “The Boss,” learn how not to overcontrol. For example, let go a bit, let your clients guide the conversation, and let attendees absorb what they want and how they want it.

In sum, listen to them.

Value is what clients get minus what they pay for.

Steadfast, loyal fans know to arrive early, sometimes a couple of hours before performance time, because they have learned that they can count on a double dose of Springsteen. In his cultivated style, he will come out on stage prior to the top of the concert to joke with fans, shake hands, and bring grandmothers and grandchildren on stage for a few dance steps together. This is all before the performance starts and, obviously, not included in the ticket price. It’s “connection time,” and it is invaluable.

Takeaway Tips:

  • Delight clients by giving them value as they want to experience it. Value is what they get minus what they pay for, and it is likely different for every client.
  • Get to know each client’s needs, wants and preferences so you can learn their unique definition of value. Then, deliver it in a remarkable way.
  • Convert customer service to customer experience.

As a client recently said in sharing what they think drives client loyalty, “The reality is there are thousands of smart, capable people at great firms. That is the price of entry, not why they select someone. They hire individuals that are best at the personal side of issues and never forget who the client is.”

Be client obsessed. It is all about them.