5 Content Marketing Lessons from Guns N Roses


Posted: December 7, 2012 | B2B Marketing, Modern B2B Marketing

A few weeks ago I went to see Guns N Roses perform in Las Vegas. It was an amazing show and brought me back to the days when I used to celebrate this band’s entire catalog. Axl Rose has kept Guns n Roses going for more than 20 years, and they are just as popular now as they were in their heyday.

Their marketing skills both online and off, combined with their dedication to blow their fans minds and exceed expectations, leads me to think that there are lessons a good content marketer can take away.  I continually look for fun and interesting ways to share content marketing tips, I thought it would be fun to take a few lessons from one of the greatest rock n roll bands of all time, Guns N Roses.

1. Welcome to the jungle.
Guns N Roses made a name for themselves and broke through the mass of other bands on the Sunset Strip. They did so by building a reputation for amazing performances, paying attention to what the crowd reacted to, and delivering it consistently. In the current ”content eat content” marketing world, a business can take cues from such a strategy.  Just as GnR stood out from the masses, you must differentiate your content from the competition. It starts with listening to your audience, figuring out what their pain points are, and understanding the hot topics around their water coolers. You then build credibility by delivering content that takes on a fresh perspective, solves problems, and both entertains and is a bit edgy.

2. Do something unexpected.
Guns N Roses first album Appetite for Destruction is the biggest selling debut of all time. They could have easily made the same record again for their sophomore effort, but instead they did something very unexpected. They released an acoustic record which completely contradicted the hard rock sound they had become so well known for.  It was still GnR, but it was something new and unexpected. Your content marketing can benefit from the same strategy. The element of surprise is a terribly underrated technique that can make your content stand out from your competitors, while at the same time exposing it beyond your initial reach and audience.

3. Don’t do it alone.
GnR frontman Axl Rose has a rotating lineup of top notch musicians. From the early days of Slash, to the current state of stellar musicians that back him up and contribute to GnR records, he has everything covered. Similarly, your content strategy will benefit greatly from the talent that surrounds you. Outsource writers, ask experts in your industry, and find your stand-out employees to contribute to your content marketing efforts. A fine tuned band of content producers will have you singing “Sweet Child O Mine” in no time and you’ll never have to answer the question of “Where Do We Go Now.”

4. Visual rocks.
GnR’s business is rock n roll music, but what helps sell that music and spread their brand is the visual element. From T-shirts, to album covers, to band photos, these visual elements add to the overall brand. Your content can benefit from the same tactic. Slicing and dicing your content into visual elements such as infographics, Slideshare presentations, Instagrams, and video gives your audience a different way to consume your messaging.

5. Just a little patience.
Guns N Roses were playing for years on the Sunset Strip with very little success. It took persistence and a commitment to not giving up after a few miserable shows. Content marketing success doesn’t happen overnight. As a business you need to commit to be consistent with your content. Content is an ongoing medium. It’s an enduring relationship that grows.

Sometimes the best inspiration is found in the strangest places. Content marketing in a more general sense has been around long before it became a fuel source for social media channels. Taking a little inspiration from a rock n roll band’s success can lead your content marketing efforts down the road to “Paradise City”.

What do you think? Can a rock n roll band teach us a thing or two about content marketing strategy? Join the conversation in the comment section below.

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  • http://twitter.com/StrategyFW Fiona Friesen

    Appetite for Destruction was the first “tape cassette’ I ever bought heading into Grade 8, and now I still listen to it on my iPod on business flights almost 25 years later – great, continuous motivation.

  • http://twitter.com/cmkt4a ContentMarketing4All

    Nice approach!

  • Seth Millis

    I love old Skool GnR and saw them on that tour in DC as well. I appreciate your lessons illustrated here but I would be remiss if I didn’t add 1:
    Get in The Ring
    Axl spent so much time and effort producing Chinese Democracy, he diminished his value greatly. As an artist, I’m sure it’s painful to not have something be anything less than perfection, but waiting 10+ years for a mythological album isn’t the way to do it. Had Axl released smaller vignettes rather than concentrating on the opus, he would have maintained his audience, his mojo, and maybe even a few of his bandmates. In content marketing, if you aren’t relevant you’re yesterdays. Because some communication is better than a failure to communicate.

Jason Miller is Senior Manager of Content Marketing at LinkedIn. Previously, Jason was Senior Manager of Social Media at Marketo and focused on optimizing social for lead generation and driving revenue. He is a regular contributor to leading marketing blogs such as Social Media Examiner, Social Media Today, and Marketing Profs.

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5 Content Marketing Lessons from Guns N Roses

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