How Musician Alison Goldfrapp Creates Social Media Mystique

August 10th, 2015 by ddeal

BannerRecently, I was talking with a director about how artists use social media. He vowed never to use it. “Lifting the veil to your private life ruins the artist’s mystique,” he said. And he has a point. Sharing on social can connect artists with their fans, but social media can be problematic for musicians such as Beck, Jimmy Page, and Prince whose personal brands are built on the power of mystique. Their appeal comes from the walls that surround them, which makes them unattainable. But as musician Alison Goldfrapp demonstrates, artists can actually use social media to create mystique.

Alison Goldfrapp is one half of the duo Goldfrapp, which melds pop, dance, and electronica to create a sound that shimmers. The group is all about atmosphere. Its songs can sound lush and dreamy on an album such as Seventh Tree, and provocative on Black Cherry. The duo has carefully constructed a chic, ethereal vibe, grounded in Alison Goldfrapp’s mystique. Whereas Nicki Minaj is loud and sexual, Alison Goldfrapp is cool, sensual, and beyond our reach. She is like Ingrid Bergman reincarnated as a singer.

And Alison Goldfrapp treats Facebook and Instagram as an extension of her mystique. Many artists, such as Tame Impala, use Facebook to share tour dates, new singles, and contests. Other artists, such as Miley Cyrus, seemingly report every detail about their backstage lives, including posting photos of their friends and their fans. Goldfrapp takes neither approach. Instead, she shares photos that are every bit as evocative and mysterious as Goldfrapp’s image, often accompanied by cryptic captions that explain nothing. One day, Goldfrapp might share a ghostly image of a woman walking in the dark, like so:


Another day brings a striking close-up of a bee:


Seldom does Alison Goldfrapp provide context for the photos aside from cryptic captions. She leaves it up to her fans to fill in the blanks. In the fan comments section, she responds to no one, thus keeping everyone guessing as to how closely she pays attention to the content people post on her page.

For Alison Goldfrapp, Facebook and Instagram are canvasses, not social media tools. She lets her fans socialize with each other through their speculation and critiques. She is faithful to her fans, providing a steady stream of visual content. But always, she is behind a veil. Rather than make you feel like you know Alison Goldfrapp better, Facebook and Instagram add color and texture to the veil of her creation. (And, of course, the idea that you can actually get to know artists through their gushy social posts is, in itself, an illusion, but a more conventionally acceptable one.)


Alison Goldfrapp offers three lessons through her use of social:

  • Powerful visuals can say more than words if your goal is to make an impression instead of explaining yourself to your audience.


  • You create a mystique by sparking a conversation. When no one pays attention, there is no mystique. Judging by the comments on Alison Goldfrapp’s Facebook and Instagram accounts, she creates a conversation.
  • But sharing does not have to mean joining the conversation. Allowing others to form their impressions of your art builds mystique.

Being social does not have to mean being chatty. You can create a conversation and build a community though actions, not words. Who creates mystique on social media in your opinion?


Would Led Zeppelin Succeed Today?

August 3rd, 2015 by ddeal


Led Zeppelin. The name evokes the hammer of the gods, hypnotic music forged in the mists of Mordor and the mountains of Kashmir, and the heavy gravitas of legend. Here is a band whose place in rock history is secure. Five of its albums are listed in Rolling Stone‘s ranking of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and Led Zeppelin’s music is so influential and powerful that it resonates with generation after generation of fans. But Led Zeppelin achieved renown at a different time, when the music industry played by different rules, and artists made their mark through an art form — the record album — that has become anachronistic. If Led Zeppelin were just starting out today as an unknown group, would the band break through and succeed? I believe Led Zeppelin would indeed become a household name — but only by adapting its game plan to play by today’s rules:

Rule 1: Make Great Music

Let’s first look at an obvious ingredient for success: artists must produce consistently great music. It sounds obvious, but musicians possess zero margin for error in the here-today, gone-tomorrow environment that characterizes the music industry. Groups are competing against distractions that did not exist in the 1970s: the Internet, mobile apps, video games, and a proliferation of television channels, to name a few. A sensation such as Psy can create a massive breakthrough with “Gangnam Style” only to be tossed on the dust heap of one-hit wonders if he lacks a compelling follow-through. But bands anxious about generating the next hit also have to exercise caution: the proliferation of digital channels such as SoundCloud makes it too easy for artists to release music that is not ready for prime time. Good bands must resist the temptation to release music too early; they also must transcend the blizzard of white noise emanating from multiple channels.

Assessing the quality of an artist’s music is entirely subjective, but I believe Zeppelin’s style would resonate even in today’s climate, where an explosion of music formats such as electronic dance music and hip-hop have diluted rock music’s influence. The band’s music defied categorization. Certainly songs such as “Kashmir” and “Dancing Days” were exotic and versatile enough to appeal to listeners beyond rock. In fact, Led Zeppelin’s music has been sampled heavily by hip-hop artists such as Dr. Dre and Eminem, with “When the Levee Breaks” alone sampled numerous times. All Led Zeppelin’s music was carefully developed under the exacting standards of Jimmy Page, who had the unusual role of lead guitarist, co-writer, and producer. That the group has won so many accolades such as the Kennedy Center Honors is a testament to its attention to detail. Even Led Zeppelin’s rough works in progress from the slew of deluxe editions issued in recent months are better than much of what passes for polished material that you find on SoundCloud.

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Fake It Until You Make It

July 17th, 2015 by ddeal


Photo Credit: Brian Schultz

How would you like to have a job that requires you to be always on? Where the cameras are always rolling, and someone is always watching you? Where you smile and laugh no matter what kind of day you’re having? Would you be energized? Mortified? Maybe a little of both? Every weekend from July 11 to Labor Day, I have that job from early morning to evening. As I have discussed on my blog, I am part of the cast of the Bristol Renaissance Faire, a highly acclaimed festival in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where visitors pay $24 to experience a re-creation of the port of Bristol, England, in the year 1574. I portray a garrulous windbag of a barrister named Nicolas Wright, whose personality mixes bluster with a vulnerable need for approval. In real life, I am a quiet, reflective person who prefers chilling out with music and a book in my spare time. You might argue that by becoming Nicolas Wright, I’m faking it. And yet, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Being always on keeps you connected with people. And you need to be connected to be creative.

When you join the Bristol cast, you make a commitment to uplift others. All cast members, entertainers, and merchants adhere to a sacrosanct rule: make every patron who walks through the Bristol gates feel like an honored guest to be celebrated, revered, and welcomed. Bristol is also a dream for anyone who creates. As cast members, we create our own characters and skits, and hone our talents through acting lessons, improvisational training, and dialect coaching. The creativity and customer service complement each other: the characters we develop, ranging from Sir Walter Raleigh to Martin Frobisher, exist in order to offer an immersive experience to our guests — namely a sixteenth century town hosting the Queen of England.

And we are “on” for the patrons from 10:00 a.m. until the faire closes at 7:00 p.m. — without exception. We want patrons to forget their cares for a day, which means we must do so as well. It doesn’t matter whether I’ve had a long week at work, I woke up with a headache, or I’m stressing over an unexpected $1,200 bill from the auto repair shop. When it’s show time, I’m going to mingle with patrons, joking with them, praising them, handing out trinkets to kids, and performing scheduled skits, including the Queen’s Show that follows our daily parade. And there is only one way to do it: with a smile, a wink, and a laugh, for hours. There is no going halfway, nor should there be. That one moment when you let your guard down and act impatiently with a child at 6:45 p.m. after you’ve been enduring heat, humidity, and mosquitoes could tarnish a family’s first visit to Bristol. That instant when you grimace because your toe aches as you march in the Queen’s parade just might be the moment when a happy couple celebrating their wedding anniversary is taking your photo for their Facebook album. If necessary, you fake it until you make it. But here’s the thing — being always on is both exhilarating personally and essential to creativity. Here’s why:

  • Uplifting others is a selfless act. When your attention is focused on making other people happy, you stop thinking about your own problems and direct every fiber of your energy outward. You, in turn, are rewarded. Just last week, I handed one of my Nicolas Wright calling cards to a patron, who noticed that I had written a runic symbol on the back of the card. It turned out that he was an expert on runic symbols. He happily produced several runic stones he had hand-crafted and eagerly discussed his passion with me. A small gesture on my part was returned 100-fold. What if I’d blown him off? I would have lost.
  • Faking it until you make it really does make you happier. As the saying goes, love is a verb. Action creates emotion. At first you might truly feel like you are acting when you hit the streets of Bristol in the morning, but the energy from the patrons and my castmates uplifts me. It never fails: be friendly to one person after another, and no longer do you feel “on.” You naturally feel energized and positive.
  • Being always on spurs creativity. Our directors encourage us to deepen our character development through interactions with patrons. Each time I meet a patron, I have an opportunity to test a new joke or gauge a response to a revelation about my character. When I first developed the character of Nicolas Wright, I cast him as a nobler leader. But then I experimented by making him a bit more devilish, and I noticed patrons became more engaged and interested. They liked him more as a villain than as a saint. But I would not have achieved this kind of creative breakthrough unless I had constantly put myself out there, interacting with people and giving them my all. Sometimes my jokes bomb, but Bristol is the kind of place where trying and failing is not only expected but celebrated. You just cannot grow unless you’re pushing yourself to inhabit your character and learning from everyone around you.

Learning how to “fake it until you make it” has taught me how to take energy from other people, internalize it, and then build on it, whether I am acting at Bristol or living my everyday life. That energy not only uplifts others, but it strengthens you. And the dynamic of being with others leaves you with fresh ideas that won’t necessarily arrive when you are alone.

You don’t need to be an actor in a Renaissance Faire to apply this lesson. For instance, occasionally I attend business conferences as part of my job as a consultant and writer. The events usually include social functions as well as more formal learning sessions with presentations. Instead of blowing off the cocktail parties as I once did, I force myself to not only attend them but to mingle with other attendees, no matter how busy my day is or how many unanswered emails I need to address. I almost always walk away from the social functions learning as much or more than I did by sitting through a PowerPoint presentation because the real-time insights from other attendees build upon each other through conversation. What are some opportunities you might try?

“Amy” and the Unsolved Mystery of Amy Winehouse

July 16th, 2015 by ddeal


Amy, the new documentary about Amy Winehouse, is an unsolved mystery and an all-too-familiar one. You know the story: a mercurial artist dies before her time, leaving behind grieving fans and an unfinished body of work. The movie leaves us pondering why she self-destructed and provides no easy answers.

Over the course of two hours, Amy offers several possible reasons why the critically acclaimed singer spiraled out of control and died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, just three years after winning multiple Grammy Awards for her triumphant album Back to Black. Those reasons include:

  • Her parents’ separation when Winehouse was 9 years old — in particular, her father’s infidelity and leaving home. These events led to some serious daddy issues, which clouded Winehouse’s judgment in men, especially when it came to her husband Blake Fielder-Civil. The movie portrays him as a ne’er-do-well leech who dumped Winehouse but then returned when she achieved fame, enabled her drug abuse, and distracted her with his own destructive behavior.
  • Her fragile soul, unsuited for fame. Throughout her life Winehouse was treated for depression and suffered from bulimia, two widely misunderstood afflictions whose serious impacts she probably failed to comprehend fully. She was also a dependent personality, which made her vulnerable to the pressures and temptations of fame, especially drug use. Near the end of her life, she was tired of being Amy Winehouse, the star, and wanted to return to the simpler times she lived. But there was no turning back.
  • An insatiable appetite for drugs and alcohol. Like Brian Jones before her, Winehouse consumed drugs like candy, living off crack cocaine, meth, and heroin on top of alcohol binges. It was clear to everyone but her that she had no business taking drugs given her vulnerabilities. Why didn’t she stop? When she was alive, she offered no clear reason beyond her admission that life just is less fun without drugs. But the movie provides a clinical perspective: she was an addict who could not stop drinking once she started, an answer so obvious and yet too easy to overlook in a society that still largely treats alcohol as a social lubricant instead of the drug that it really is.

You’ve heard this tale before, haven’t you? Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, and Jimi Hendrix are among the gifted artists who lived their own variations of Amy with the same results. During Amy, one of the narrators is quoted as saying that Amy was living a high-pressure star life for which there was no template. I disagree. The tragedy of Amy is that by the time she came of age, the industry of celebrity had evolved to the point where any number of stars such as Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney had learned how to manage its trappings. But it doesn’t matter. The movie argues that she would never have listened to anyone’s advice. The disease of alcoholism dictated her choices. And yes, she is to blame for failing to treat her addiction properly. It’s easy to judge; but it is not so easy to watch Amy Winehouse throw her incendiary talent away as she fights and loses one struggle after another with her demons. Her loss is ours, too.

Amy reveals other sides to Amy than the train wreck. We gain an appreciation for why she was an artist. Not only was her singing style original, but she also wrote her own songs, with lyrics that conveyed vulnerability, irony, sass, and self-awareness. She took whatever life gave her and molded her experiences into music, most notably with the hit “Rehab,” which now reads like a diary of self-denial. One of my favorite moments of the movie occurs when, in a voice-over, she explains that she started writing songs because she was bored by music she heard on the radio. She shares an inspired lesson: if you don’t like the status quo, create something better.

We also come to understand her own innate grasp of her musical influences. She consciously molded the styles of the jazz greats along with the soul genre. Questlove of the Roots cites her deep knowledge of jazz. Tony Bennett raves about her ability to create a true, pure vocal style. Late in the movie, we witness a tender scene in which Bennett and Winehouse record a duet for his album Duets II. She is clearly spellbound by Bennett, whom she idolizes, and her passion for nailing the perfect vocal is evident. And yet, only a few months after the footage was shot, she would be dead.

But, ultimately, Winehouse’s death overshadows her life in Amy, not because her demise was sudden or shocking, but because she died a little every day. And we may never solve the mystery.


“Be Prepared to Never Make Money on Your Work”: A Music Industry Insider Speaks

July 8th, 2015 by ddeal


If you want to understand the future of the music industry, follow Cortney Harding. She is an expert at helping emerging artists find audiences through the intersection of music, branding, and technology — the three essential requirements for any artist to succeed in the reinvented music industry. Her resume includes being Billboard‘s music editor and working with hot music start-ups such as interactive media site ThingLink (a source of innovative digital music art) and Muzooka, a new hybrid streaming service and intermediary that helps artists, brands, and music executives find each other. (If you hear a fresh artist playing at a hotel like the W, chances are Muzooka may have had a hand working behind the scenes connecting the artist and the hotel). Harding, who writes a music column and co-hosts a podcast, recently spoke with me about the state of the industry — and it’s not always pretty for anyone who clings to pre-Napster days when record labels and albums ruled. She also has some words for artists: look for your audience in unexpected places, super serve your fans, and don’t plan on making money off your music.


Sound bleak? To the contrary: as Harding sees it, artists have more ways to find audiences than they did in the so-called good old days of the 1990s, when, in actuality, only a small handful of musicians really had it good.

Read on for an insight into a wide-ranging discussion that covers everything from the future of music streaming to how artists can succeed in a fractured industry.

You have been both a music journalist and consultant, collaborating with music companies ranging from Muzooka to Soundrop. Why did you switch over from journalism to marketing and consulting?

Well, I haven’t made the switch completely — I still write a weekly music tech blog and co-host a podcast. But I saw an opportunity in the market a few years ago and was really curious about startups and wanted to see what I could learn working in that field. Journalism is a tough place to make a living and it seemed like there was more of a future in the startup space. My goal for my career is always to be learning new skills and growing. Who knows, I might stay with startups, I might find a path back to writing, or I might do something totally different next.

Music is a notoriously fractured industry. What excites you about the industry?

The fact that it has been so disrupted, and that there are so many new opportunities to experiment. I think people recognize at this point that you can’t just cling to the old ways in music, and there is a willingness to try new things. Music is also growing on a global level, and I’m excited to see where the next big markets are.

What’s on your playlist right now? Which artists excite you?

I just got Apple Music and am working my way through the Indie Hits playlists year by year. In terms of new stuff, I love the new Sleater-Kinney, the new Bjork, Speedy Ortiz, and Torres.

It’s difficult to keep up with all the streaming services in the marketplace now. There’s even a streaming service for Christian rock available. Where are streaming services headed? What do you think the landscape for streaming services will look like a few years from now?

I think niche streaming services are super interesting — I was just talking to someone about an Indian and South East Asian service that is doing well in the expat community in the U.S.A. On a bigger scale I think there will be a contraction in the market and we’ll be left with a few big players, kind of like what we have in streaming movies and TV right now. Much of the future of streaming depends on the future of connectivity and devices, and better connectivity will only be good for streaming. But formats also come and go, and I don’t think streaming is the final place we end up.

What are your feelings about artists such as the Black Keys and Taylor Swift, who have been outspoken critics of streaming services such as Spotify?

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that musicians should not get paid — because they should. Musicians should monetize their content. But there is the idea and the reality. The reality is that you have to give something up to get something in return.

Musicians like to hearken back to the pre-digital era as being the height of fairness and prosperity for musicians, but the pre-Napster era was only good for certain people. If you ran a record label in the 1990s, your life was awesome. If you were one of the few boy bands that hit it big in the 1990s, your life was awesome. But the music industry was protectionist then. It was very hard for a bands to get their music into stores. There were bands every now and then who broke through, but the acts that succeeded were a small segment of Western acts in Western countries.

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Three Lessons I Have Learned from Jim Morrison

July 3rd, 2015 by ddeal


Thirty four years ago today, I visited Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise Cemetery to honor his memory on the tenth anniversary of his death. The moment sealed my lifetime interest in the Doors and especially Jim Morrison. But aside from providing the soundtrack to my life and fascinating me with his songwriting, has Jim Morrison really had an impact on how I live and work? Yes. Here are three lessons I have learned from the lizard king, which I apply today:

1. Take Risks

Morrison famously challenged us to break on through to the other side. He constantly challenged himself, too, in his actions and words. He was not afraid to write about disturbing themes in his songs and to explore topics that can still make you feel uncomfortable, such as the Oedipal subtext in “The End” and the killer on the road in “Riders on the Storm.” As a performer, he pushed boundaries to the point of defying audience expectations of rock stars, with sometimes unfortunate results, such as his being charged for indecency in the aftermath of an infamous Miami concert in 1969.

Morrison has inspired me to take risks in all aspects of my life, whether I’m auditioning to perform in a Renaissance Faire or launching my own business. My family and I create our own personal adventures each day, pushing each other to grow and live outside our comfort zones, as we did recently when we all hiked steep, unyielding trails in the Smoky Mountains. We could have enjoyed a relaxing vacation in the comfort of our rented cabin, but instead we pushed each other to literally explore new terrain that was sometimes grueling. We took risks and flourished.

2. Words Matter Read more »

Welcome to a New Era of Convenience Shopping

June 29th, 2015 by ddeal


Buy buttons are taking convenience shopping to a whole new level. In recent weeks, Instagram and Pinterest announced new buy button features that make it easy for consumers to purchase goods and services directly from their apps. Facebook, which began testing shoppable ads in 2014, announced an expansion of its program. Google confirmed that the search giant is developing a buy button so that shoppers can make purchases directly from Google ads. Why the interest? In a word: mobile.

It’s easy to see why these digital brands are instituting buy buttons. In the United States, online commerce accounts for but 7 percent of all retail sales. According to Forrester Research, by 2017 the Web will generate $370 billion in U.S. sales, or 10 percent of the total. By making it easier to conduct transactions online, the likes of Google, Instagram, and Pinterest hope to stake a claim to the $3.3 trillion in sales that will occur offline.

But why are we seeing a proliferation of buy buttons now? There’s something else going on: since 2013, consumers have preferred using their mobile devices over laptops and desktops to interact with retailers online. The shift to mobile has profound implications:

  • Mobile consumers have an immediate intent to purchase: according to a recently released report by Google, I Want-to-Go Moments: From Search to Store, half of consumers who conduct a local search on their smartphones visit a store within 24 hours. Nearly half of consumers trying to decide on a restaurant do their local search within an hour of actually going.

In I-Want-to-Go Moments: From Search to Store, Google noted that the number of “near me” searches (searches conducted for goods and services nearby) conducted by consumers have grown by 34 times since 2011; and 80 percent of those searches are conducted on mobile devices.

“With a world of information at their fingertips, consumers have heightened expectations for immediacy and relevance,” wrote the report’s author, Matt Lawson. “They want what they want when they want it. They’re confident they can make well-informed choices whenever needs arise. It’s essential that brands be there in these moments that matter — when people are actively looking to learn, discover, and, or buy.”

You can sense the wheels spinning at Facebook, Google, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter, where consumers and brands share the same space: if consumers are collapsing the journey from awareness to purchase on their mobile devices, why not remove the friction of sending them offline to buy something? Why not use buy buttons seal the deal the moment when initial research and consideration occur on mobile devices?

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“Sticky Fingers”: How an Album Cover Defined the Stones

June 10th, 2015 by ddeal


Some album covers are memorable because they perfectly express an artist’s image (or brand, if you will) as well as music. Such is the case with Sticky Fingers, the 11th American studio album of the Rolling Stones. Sticky Fingers, newly re-issued to celebrate its 44th anniversary, created controversy in 1971 for its Andy Warhol designed close-up of a man’s crotch, featuring with a functional zipper that dared the listener, “Go ahead, unzip me.” More than four decades later, the cover for Sticky Fingers expresses the Stones at its best: salacious, impossible to ignore, and rough around the edges.

The album’s history and legacy are well documented. Sticky Fingers was partly recorded in the fabled Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in the United States during the band’s 1969 U.S. tour (you can catch a glimpse of the recording in Gimme Shelter, the historic movie about the tour), as well as the Stones mobile studio unit in Stargroves (where Led Zeppelin would later record Houses of the Holy).

Sticky Fingers featured familiar Stones terrain: sex (“Brown Sugar”), drugs (“Sister Morphine,” “Dead Flowers”), the blues (“I Got the Blues”), and dirty rock and roll all over. The album also displayed the improvisational talents of guitarist Mick Taylor, especially on “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking,” and some surprisingly tender, if weary moments, most notably “Moonlight Mile” and “Wild Horses.” The violence and menace of 1969’s Let It Bleed gave way to a more decadent, yet more introspective feel, resulting in an artistic breakthrough.

No other Stones album cover would express the band’s decadence so well. According to 100 Best Album Covers: The Stories Behind the Sleeves, by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell (themselves legends of album cover design), Warhol suggested the idea of using a real trouser zipper to Mick Jagger at a party in 1969. Jagger, intrigued, asked Warhol to do the design.

According to Warhol’s former manager Paul Morrissey (quoted in 100 Best Album Covers), “Andy was sensible enough to know not to be pretentious when doing album covers. This was a realistic attempt at selling sex and naughtiness. It was done simply and cheaply, without the pretensions of that seem to go with other covers.”

The stark black-and-white close-up of a man’s crotch captured the cheap, simple approach. “It was a cheap camera and cheap film,” said Morrissey. “I have no idea what brand.”

The red rubber stamp design of the album title and band’s name added to the gritty look.

Artist Craig Braun was responsible for translating Warhol’s design into a functional album cover. As told in a recent New York Times article, Mick Jagger insisted that the zipper needed to work, and it had to reveal something when you pulled it down.

“[The Rolling Stones] knew if they put jeans and a working zipper that people were going to want to see what was back there,” Braun said.

Braun obtained a photo of the Andy Warhol model in his white underwear to slip behind the zipper. (Contrary to popular belief, it’s not a close-up of Mick Jagger’s crotch you see when you pull down the zipper.)

Realizing Warhol’s vision was a chore. The zipper damaged some of the initial pressings when the albums were stacked and shipped to record stores. The zipper literally dented the vinyl inside the sleeves pressed against it. Removing the zipper would ruin its effect. The solution was for each zipper to be manually pulled down just far enough that the tip of the zipper would no longer rub against the vinyl of any other albums in shipment. As Braun told Joe Coscarelli of The New York Times:

“I got this idea that maybe, if the glue was dry enough, we could have the little old ladies at the end of the assembly line pull the zipper down far enough so that the round part would hit the center disc label,” he said. “It worked, and it was even better to see the zipper pulled halfway down.”

As famous as the cover is, the artwork inside is also notable for the debut of the Rolling Stones’s iconic tongue logo, designed by John Pasche. The tongue logo would become as famous and recognizable as the Nike Swoosh logo, which also appeared for the first time in 1971.


If the album cover reminded us of the Stones’s dirtiness, then the rolling tongue recast the band in a new light: a rock and roll brand, and eventually a lucrative one, gaining revenue streams from touring and merchandising, and corporate deals that few, if anyone, envisioned in 1971. And that tongue retains its power. Lucky Brand recently signed a merchandising deal with the Stones in which the tongue eclipses the clothing.


The album became a Number One seller, reaching triple platinum status, and achieved several critical accolades. Rolling Stone would rank Sticky Fingers Number 64 on its list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In 2003, VH1 would rank Sticky Fingers as the greatest album cover of all time. Ultimate Classic Rock would rank Sticky Fingers as one of the most shocking covers ever, although the album really looks more raunchy than shocking.

According to rock critic Richard Harrington, “This album heralded an age of really imaginative and provocative packaging. It also introduced the greatest band logo of all time.”

Here are other albums I’ve profiled in my series on memorable album covers:

Ray Charles: Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music

Peter Gabriel: Peter Gabriel

Al Green: Greatest Hits

Led Zeppelin: Houses of the Holy

Led Zeppelin: Untitled

Willie Nelson: Red Headed Stranger

Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run


Apple and Disney Launch and Learn with Wearables

May 17th, 2015 by ddeal


Apple has some work to do with the Apple Watch. Early adopters are criticizing the new wearable for a host of problems, including limited battery life. In other words, development is progressing on schedule. Apple is breaking into a nascent market with an imperfect product just as another huge brand, Disney, did two years ago with the launch of the MagicBand wearable that manages most facets of a guest stay at Walt Disney World. Disney faced criticisms for a new device, addressed them, and is seeing strong uptake two years later. Apple will, too. The biggest challenge Apple faces is investor expectation that every new Apple product will take hold immediately like the iPhone or iPad. The Apple Watch is different: it represents an entry into an evolving market, more akin to the first Model T automobiles. (By contrast, the iPhone cracked an already established telephony industry.) As I discuss in a recently published white paper, both Apple and Disney are acting on a vision to change the way we live. Following is an excerpt discussing why I believe they will succeed.

Ease of Use

Apple and Disney designed the Apple Watch and MagicBand to look good, and they need to look good. The devices are designed to be visible extensions of you, worn prominently on your wrist instead of being tucked away in your pocket. Disney wants Disney World patrons to use their MagicBands to manage their entire stays, including checking into their lodging, buying souvenirs, reserving their ride times via the FastPass+ system, and getting their meals served — akin to using a wristband to live in a city. Apple has even grander ambitions: your Apple Watch is the key to not only buying goods and services, but also handling myriad other aspects of your life, such as managing your fitness.

Apple and Disney need you to feel comfortable about wearing your devices, and for good reason: wearables have been marred by ugly design, and who wants to wear a device that embarrasses the owner? Appearance is so crucial that Apple has departed from its usual custom of providing simple product options and instead provides 38 different Apple Watch designs, ranging in price from $349 to $17,000. Similarly, the Disney MagicBands are available in many different colors (at prices ranging from $12.99 to $29.99), and Disney makes it possible for MagicBand owners to “show off your Disney side” by customizing its look with accessories such as an R2-D2 Magic Slider.

But what makes Apple Watch and MagicBand game changers are their ease of use. Both devices eliminate an action: digging through your belongings to conduct an action. Have you ever found yourself fumbling around for your iPhone to search for a restaurant on Yelp? Dropped your Disney room key while trying to lasso your kids as you dig through your backpack? Apple and Disney just eliminated those aggravating moments and replaced them with more fluid, graceful user interfaces such as swiping, glancing, and speaking.


For the products to take hold, they need to be more than user friendly; they need to be pervasive. As Austin Carr of Fast Company notes, Disney designed the MagicBands to support your visit to a metropolis spanning 25,000 acres, comprising four theme parks, 140 attractions, 300 dining locations, Read more »

How SIM Partners and Vibes Are Changing Local Marketing

May 13th, 2015 by ddeal


Let’s pretend for a moment that you are in Manhattan on a business trip. Just before an important meeting, you spill coffee all over your shirt. You’re too far away from your hotel to grab another one. You pull out your mobile phone and Google “shirts near me.” Lo and behold, a clothing store a few blocks away not only shows up in your search results, but the store displays an offer for 10 percent off your next purchase, with the transaction made easy via your mobile wallet. Do you think you just might be tempted to accept the offer? SIM Partners (a client) and Vibes certainly believe you will. Today the two companies announced a relationship that will combine local search and mobile technology to make it possible for businesses to make offers to consumers based on their proximity to a business. I believe the SIM Partners relationship with Vibes is changing local search by closing the gap between marketing and sales.

SIM Partners provides a software automation platform that big enterprises use to make their digital marketing more effective at the local level. Vibes is a provider of mobile marketing expertise. Both companies have something in common: they want to help businesses figure out how to capitalize on the popularity of local search. According to Google, “near me” searches have increased by 34 times since 2011 and doubled since 2014. And it’s no coincidence that smart phone usage in the United States has soared. The majority of “near me” searches occur on mobile devices. Consumers are using our mobile devices to find what we want, and when we want it, at the local level. The challenge that both SIM Partners and Vibes are tackling: how to turn local searches into revenue.

SIM Partners and Vibes are addressing a compelling issue. Local searches indicate intent to purchase. According to comScore, 80 percent of local searches on mobile phones convert to purchase — a powerful piece of data that makes perfect sense when you think about it. If you Google “pizza” on your mobile phone when you are downtown Chicago, chances are that you are looking for a place to eat pizza rather than researching the history of pizza. Big companies that operate hundreds and thousands of outlets are working with local marketing experts like SIM Partners to make sure that their names appear prominently in your search results and to ensure that it’s easy for you to find and do business with them. As SIM Partners CMO Tari Haro recently noted in a blog post, such brands have an opportunity to go beyond “being found” in search results and instead entice consumers to conduct business with them. She challenges companies to own “the next moment” of search, or the action that occurs after a consumer finds your business.

SIM Partners and Vibes took a big step in making it possible for brands to own the next moment of search. As discussed in the press release, the two companies are integrating mobile wallet campaigns with the SIM Partners Velocity platform to help national brands create online and in-store offers that convert shoppers into buyers based on a customer’s search intent and proximity.

The following graphic demonstrates how the technology works from a consumer’s point of view. In the example, a consumer uses her mobile phone or Apple Watch to conduct a “shoes near me” search in New Orleans. A shoe retailer working with SIM Partners and Vibes not only show its location in the search results, but also:

  • Displays an offer (“Get instant savings on your next purchase at Shuuz New Orleans”).
  • Allows you to download a 20-percent-off offer in your mobile wallet after you tap a “save now” button on your screen.
  • Notifies you when you are within 100 meters of the store (“Welcome to Shuuz”).


Once you are in the store, the merchant may also serve up more offers to cross-sell merchandise such as shoe cream. There is a lot more detail behind the scenes than I’ll explain here, but the press release contains more.

I believe the SIM Partners/Vibes relationship is a game changer for these reasons:

  • The two companies are helping brands tap into natural human behaviors such as search, mobile phone usage, and shopping. Enterprises provide the offer when it matters most to consumers, creating a more relevant experience.
  • The relationship is forward thinking, as it relies on iBeacon technology and accommodates the Apple Watch — which plays to the strategies adopted by major brands such as Macy’s (an early adopter of iBeacons) and Target (already embracing the Apple Watch to enrich the shopping experience).
  • SIM Partners and Vibes are closing the gap between marketing and sales. We’re not talking about creating targeted ads to serve up more relevant content based on your browsing history — rather, SIM Partners and Vibes are empowering companies to create a specific offer at the right place and time to drive foot traffic into a store when your purchase intent is strong.

The announcement also promises a win/win for brands and consumers. Consumers win because they not only find what they want, but they get rewarded. (Tari Haro noted in a blog post today that mobile wallet offers have a 64-percent higher conversion rate over static mobile Web coupons and a 26-percent increase in average order value over static mobile web offers.) And brands create more foot traffic and revenue at the location level. If you are a national enterprise with hundreds or thousands of locations, you win at scale, too.