- Paul Jankowski
Garth Brooks Shows Brands How To Connect With The Heartland Consumer
For the last 30 years, I’ve been fortunate enough to earn a living in the branding/marketing world with much of that work being in the entertainment/music space. I’ve seen a million concerts, been to every type of venue imaginable, and spent quality time with many artists. I’ll always be moved by live music; but as a side effect of decades spent working in the industry, I’ve become a bit jaded -a truth I hate to admit. But, Garth Brooks is the difference-maker.
I had an amazing experience at Garth’s show at Notre Dame Stadium this past Saturday night where he kicked off a new phase of his touring career. The history-making show, deemed "Garth: Live at Notre Dame!" is set to air Dec. 2 on CBS.
This show was different. Brooks is one of the very few artists on the planet worthy of staging the first-ever concert at the venerable venue. Given the weather circumstances, I submit that he’s the only artist that would’ve actually played the show (instead of cancelling).
With high winds threatening to topple the speakers which were anchored above the star-shaped stage, the show started about an hour late. While we were waiting for the rain/snow to clear out, I entertained myself by studying the crowd. United in anticipation of seeing the iconic artist, I learned that many of these fans consider Brooks’ music a soundtrack to their lives.
As I watched Brooks interact with the 84,000 fans, it hit me: he’s the true personification of how brands should connect with the New Heartland (home to 60% of U.S. consumers). He’s the epitome of how a brand can win massively with not only the Heartland, but the world as a whole.
Ways Brands Should Follow Garth Brooks’ Lead To Reach The Heartland:
Relatability: People feel like they can actually hang out with him. Brooks’ onstage presence doesn’t drift from his off-the-clock persona. Yea, stadium lights illuminate his superstardom, but because he speaks fans’ language, he automatically becomes more likable and relatable.Takeaway for Brands: Know your consumer well enough to speak their language.
Fallibility: He admits when he screws up, fixes it, and moves on. He exposes his own flaws. When he started a song in the wrong key, he admitted he messed up and just restarted the song to huge cheers.Takeaway for Brands: Be human-like. Admit when you mess up and move on.
Relevance: He delivers a product that is relevant to his fans’ lifestyle. His songs are about the good, the bad, and the ugly in life. With lyrics so descriptive of real-life circumstances, consumers can easily connect.Takeaway for Brands: Understand consumers’ day-to-day lifestyle and experiences.
Real Empathy: Brooks truly cares about his fans and delivering an experience that they will never forget. He commits to this goal every time he takes the stage, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. You just feel it.Takeaway for Brands: Fully commit or be exposed as a poser.
Consistent Excellence: Brooks is known for always striving to deliver the best of the best in everything he produces. From the quality of his merchandise to the depth of his songs, he brings it every time. Mediocrity is not an option.Takeaway for Brands: Details matter. Consistency in everything is key.
I don’t claim to be Garth’s buddy, but I recently had the opportunity to spend some quality time with him and his superstar (on many levels) wife, Trisha Yearwood. Although I’ve met him briefly before, this was my first chance to just shoot the bull. I’m equally blown away by that time with him as I am seeing him crush it in front of 84,000 people in his element. He is the same guy one-on-one that he is in front of his adoring fans; just a wildly creative, real and likable guy.
Don’t Know the Garth Brand? Here’s Why You Should:
The No. 1-selling solo artist in U.S. history with over 148 million album sales.
First artist in history to receive seven Diamond Awards for the seven albums certified at over 10 million album sales each.
Just won “Entertainer of the Year” at the CMA Awards for a sixth time, a first for any artist.
Received every accolade the recording industry can bestow on an artist.
Just finished the three-and-a-half-year-long, Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood.
The tour began with 11 sold out shows at the Allstate Arena in Chicago.
The tour smashed records previously held by acts such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and even Garth Brooks himself.
The tour sold over 6.3 million tickets, making it the biggest North American tour in history and the biggest American tour in the world.
Forbes said of the tour, "Garth Brooks' World Tour solidifies his status as the best arena act alive."
Garth Brooks is a great example of a brand that can claim a deep connection to the culture, values, and lifestyle of the New Heartland consumer. His communications, engagement, and media strategies alone, have proven to deliver the sales and brand equity every brand strives for.
Take a lesson from this unlikely brand to understand usable tactics that will push your team to think more creatively about how they build a connection to the biggest cultural segment in the country. Oh, and you must catch one of his shows.