Marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead

“Our strong suit is what we do, and our audience,” Jerry Garcia

I’ve been thinking a lot about nonsense, short-sighted marketing trends lately, and that got me thinking about Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead. I suppose it’s no coincidence that a new live recording is out this month, too.

The Grateful Dead, for our younger readers, was a popular rock band from the ‘60s that still (kinda) tours with John Mayer. It’s hard to explain why they are popular, but they are.

Their leader, Jerry Garcia, might have looked like a happy hippie, but he had a keen business sense. The band experimented with many new ideas, and each left a mark on their brand.

Listen to your audience. When your life’s work is improvisation, you learn to listen. How are you creating feedback loops to hear from your customers? Me? I wished the Dead would have practiced a little more.

It’s O.K. to be fun. The Dead’s brand is always personal, quirky and fun. With more companies wondering how to delight their audiences and more anxious people than ever before, don’t count out the power of fun in your stuffy ol’ brand.

Deliver. Some Dead shows were terrible, but The Dead never promised greatness – they promised fun. The lesson? Do your thing, not someone else’s. Play to your strengths.

Be a catalyst. If this article gets a lot of web traffic, it’s because many of the early Internet pioneers were Deadheads. Seriously.

Try new things. Some people call the Dead “early adopters,” but I say “experimenters.” The Grateful Dead tried new things; from them they adopted tape trading, PR coordination and good mailing list practices. Don’t be afraid to branch out.

Did the Dead inspire your business? Tell us in the comments below.

D. White & Company are not Deadheads, but they are Marketing Heads. Brand results are their jam. Want to schedule an appointment to discuss a problem? Let’s talk.