Tribes & Totems – Win the Hearts of Fans for Generations

Tribes & Totems – Win the Hearts of Fans for Generations

A lot happens over the course of 20 years.

It occurred to me, at the recent Outside Lands Music Festival, that I was seeing Metallica perform live for the 5th time in the past 20 years. The first 3 times were in the late 90’s during my college years and then again in 2004. Over a decade had past until I finally saw them again in August of 2017.

A lot has changed, yet so much has remained the same.

Twenty years ago, internet giants Google, Amazon, and eBay were just getting started. Mainstream music was consumed on CD’s, disposable cameras were considered smart, and people flocked to record stores to purchase new music. Fast forward twenty years and we can do all of that through one single mobile device. Much has changed.

Twenty years ago, tens of thousand of people flocked to Golden Gate Park for a two-day music festival called the Tibetan Freedom Concert. I was there and saw the Beastie Boys, Rage Against the Machine, Foo Fighters and Smashing Pumpkins perform live. Fast forward twenty years and tens of thousands of people still flock to Golden Gate park for music festivals. Much has remained the same.

But regardless of generation or advancements in technology, people are tribal. They identify themselves by lifestyle, totems (brands), and lyrics (cultural values). They are bonded by…

  • Experience – People want to share
  • Interests – People want to learn
  • Community- People want to be a part of something

People of all interests and tribes flock to music festivals to experience the music they love most. When those interests align, it creates a powerful community experience. The Gorillaz, Lorde, The Who, Belle & Sebastien, Alt-J, Real Estate, Vance Joy, andMetallica were among our favorite performances at this year’s festival.

Metallica headlined the main stage on day two. Frontman, James Hetfield, often interacted with the crowd between songs. He once asked two questions. “How many people are seeing Metallica for the first time?” versus “How many people have been with us for years?” The visual consensus of hands-raised seemed to be a 50/50 split although it did seem that there were more new fans. They were definitely gaining popularity among millennials and beyond.

There were two boys near the front, one with blue hair and the other with green hair, and both about 6 years old. Cameras and Hetfield focused on them as they were held up by their parents. All had big grins from cheek to cheek, which was absolutely priceless.

Clearly, Metallica was a tradition that was being past down. Hetfield commented how much Metallica loved all their fans especially the new ones, and there were tens of thousands of them at the show.

The Instagram post/image below was taken during the song, One.

Regardless of what tribe you follow or what you love about them, there is strength in numbers and loyalty is in tradition. The more people become connected to an experience(your brand), the more opportunities there are to collaborate and create success among that tribe. This is especially important for growth in small businesses.


We live in a micro economy where details matter. Fans and consumers have more choices than ever. Digital is dominating the marketplace. To stand apart, we must focus on personalizing experiences, nurture opportunities, and position our brand where fans will find value.

Here are a few take-aways from Outside Lands that will be critical to the success of your business or personal brand, especially if you’re just getting started or trying to scale up.

  1. PLAY THE LONG GAME – Know your brand, know your market. Since 1981, Metallica has successfully transcended 3 generations of fans and still going strong. They have an enormous fan club base which was clearly evident when they stuck around on stage after they finished their set. They understand what matters most to their most devoted fans and they deliver time-and-time again.
  2. INVEST IN THE CREATIVE ENVELOP TO STAND OUT – A lot of businesses will get lost in the shuffle of the marketplace because their design sucks! In the 90’s Metallica’s live show was galvanized with pyrotechnics, explosions, and strobe lights. It was riveting and memorable; they’ve always remained cutting edge. Fast forward to 2017 and they still have a lot of that. However, they have invested a great deal to transcend the old Metallica to the new as noted by the powerful laser show integration of their performance. This was a stark enhancement of Metallica that definitely appealed to the new generation of fans.
  3. RALLY YOUR TRIBE – Acknowledge and engage with your fans. Personalization is key to establish authenticity and to stay connected. Nearly 70,000 people attended Outside Lands for each day of the festival. They flocked from different states, countries and cultures. Groups walked around with totems (and flags) of caricatures like Super Mario, Hello Kitty, giant pickles, giant bananas and neon flowers, to more easily locate each other if they were to separate.

How does your business or tribe stand out in the crowd/competition?

Be Grateful – A Rant

Be Grateful – A Rant

[A blog from the vault]

Last Thursday I received some unfortunate news. I was supposed to be admitted to the hospital today so my neurosurgeon could transform me into a cyborg. Yes, sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

If you’ve read my Hardware Upgrade or Time Management Junkie posts then you’re aware of my current medical condition. It’s been a whimsical 3 months since I began treatment for a staph infection at the end of September. If I went into surgery today I would have a brand new titanium plate installed in my head to repair my cranial defect and be home to recover for the holidays. Yes! I could finally recover and get back to a normal schedule and exercise routine. Regular exercise keeps me focused and sane, and I’ve been without it for 3 months. Good thing there are plenty of books to read 🙂

Last Thursday I received a call from the doctor’s office and the prosthetic won’t be ready until this Wednesday. This was unexpected news. The operation was supposed to be today 12/19. I am now scheduled to have the operation a week from today, 12/26. Why is this frustsrating?

I went in for a CT scan at the beginning of the month when my neurosurgeon’s office overnighted the scan to my hospital and Medtronic, the company that makes prosthetics. Somewhere between the two entities the ball was dropped on a routine order that is supposed to take 1 to 2 weeks. We gave them 3 weeks and are now told the prosthetic will be at the hospital by Thursday.

I was upset and the team at my neurosurgeon’s office was upset. This is why…

  • I’m healthy enough to have the operation now. Now that we have to wait another week there is the inherent risk of catching a cold of flu. If that happens I won’t be able to have the operation until the New Year, which would delay or cancel other plans.
  • If the surgery doesn’t happen this month then I have to meet the minimum on my deductible in the new year which is a couple mortgage payments.
  • My neurosurgeon leaves for vacation on 12/27 and we’d be forced to wait at least two more weeks until his return. He is second to none.

When one person drops the ball on a project it can have a ripple effect. In business it could cost you a client or even a job. When it comes to our health someone’s mistake can cost a livelihood. Hopefully enough diligence was done in advance for either case to salvage what was once at risk.

As a 16+ year survivor of brain cancer I’ve been blessed with amazing doctors and caretakers. I’ve lived an amazing life and choose to take the high road even if I something upsets me. Fortunately, for all of us we all have the power to choose.

In this case I chose not to react and accept the circumstance outside of my control. I chose to be grateful.

I choose to make the most of the next 7 days until my operation. There is plenty of content to write, books to read, and people to be grateful for.

What are you most grateful for?

Brand Your Victories – A Portrait of Sales Success

Brand Your Victories – A Portrait of Sales Success

[A blog from the vault]

In 2007 I didn’t have a weekend off until the first weekend of November. However, it was a game-changing year, both personally and professionally.

Professionally I closed my first deal with the New York Yankees, my first 2 college football clients won bowl games, I secured the company’s highest grossing account, and spent several weeks schmoozing in Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, Louisville, and Milwaukee. It set the stage for a massively successful 2008.

During my free weekends I coached a cycling team to ride 100 miles around the Tahoe Basin, trained to compete in an Olympic triathlon, and trained for my first marathon, all while raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

Between hustling, traveling, training, and coaching there was little time for myself.  But through the organized chaos I reconnected with an old college buddy who enlightened me.

For this particular instance, he told me the story of a painting he had on a wall by Michael Godard. He said something to the tune of, “You have to celebrate your big wins. In sales, victories are short lived. Whenever I spend a lot of time and energy to land a big deal I treat myself to something that’s symbolic of the returns from my hard work”. That Godard painting was a token of his hard work from a previous business deal.

When Friday of the first week of November rolled around I left work thinking, “Wow, I actually don’t have any plans for the weekend”, which seemed somewhat foreign to me. I drove to Best Buy to pick up some music and there was an art broker in the parking lot selling giclees.

A black and white painting with rolling ocean waves and a couple seagulls, resonated with me. My cousin gave me the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull as a gift while I was being treated for brain cancer 1999, and the story has been a cornerstone to my motivation ever since. Jonathan was one of the seagulls in that painting and it became my Godard.

To this day, I can look at that painting and be proud of all I accomplished that year. More importantly it’s a constant reminder to appreciate your own work, it’s tangible, and always makes for a good story.

I’d love to hear a great sales success story from you. What have you done to commemorate your big wins? Do you have a token that tells the story of your success? Please, do tell 🙂