3.09.2009

You, Too.

I was in ninth grade when U2’s The Joshua Tree was released, and while they’d released a few albums before The Joshua Tree (and given a phenomenal performance for the Live Aid concert), this was the one that launched them into the stratosphere in the United States.

And here they are, not only still chugging along, but selling out huge arenas during every leg of their last concert tour. All over the world. I was lucky enough to see their last tour thanks to some kind friends with a corporate skybox at Phillips Arena and believe me, it was one amazing show (worth every penny I didn’t actually have to pay.) I’ll be happy to pay top-dollar for their upcoming tour to promote their new album No Line on the Horizon. Which begs the question –

How does U2 stay relevant after 30 years?

I have a couple of theories – and one of them is they use marketing to their utmost advantage. I think we could all take a page out of their book (or liner notes, so to speak):

If you’re launching a new product, be everywhere. Just last week, U2 played five nights in a row on the David Letterman Show, performed on Good Morning America, is playing a “secret” show in Boston March 11, and has been featured in countless magazines (Rolling Stone and People, to name a couple.) As of today, U2 is on track to have its seventh number one album on the Billboard 200 charts, and NLOTH debuted at number one on the London charts, where they launched a similar publicity blitz.

Be relevant – and attract new audiences. The Good Morning America appearance took place at Fordham University. I am sure a majority of the students at the concert weren’t even born when The Joshua Tree was released. U2’s live performance introduced a whole new audience (and age demographic) to their music, but they couldn’t have done that without making sure their music would connect with that age group. My guess is there’s not a kid at Fordham who hasn’t downloaded the album.

Get out of your comfort zone – U2 has been playing stadium-size concert venues for 20 years now, but even they still get a case of the nerves. Last week, Letterman had them read the Top 10 List for the evening, and a couple of the guys were visibly nervous. Interesting, isn’t it – play in front of 20,000 screaming fans? No problem. Read a list in front of a small studio audience? Not so much. They did a great job, and reinforced their reputation as genuinely nice guys.

Produce a great product, every single time – this is the key. If the band didn’t produce great music, they’d be on an episode of VH1’s One-Hit Wonders. Except for a couple of slips in the mid-to-late 90s, their albums are critic and fan favorites alike …. the music is great because U2 sets the bar high and exceeds expectations.

Ask yourself how you can borrow a few of these marketing ideas from one of the greatest bands in the world – and make your product or service stand out. You might not land on GMA or Dave, but even a small-time publicity blitz can pay big-time dividends.

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