My first lesson from “Marketing Lessons from The Grateful Dead”: branding with philanthropy

I just finished studying the fabulous Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, by David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan (Wiley, 2010). David Meerman Scott is my favorite industry writer, and I’ve mentioned his books here before. This is the first of several blog entries I’ll do to talk about concepts in the book, in addition to picking the brains of some Deadheads to discuss it more in depth!

One marketing lesson the authors discuss is to “give back” in the same manner that the Grateful Dead played charity shows, donated money, etc. For each lesson and each chapter, the authors include a present-day example of how an organization is currently marketing like the Grateful Dead did, and the “give back” chapter cites the Ronald McDonald House Charities as their example. Specifically, the authors say that the Ronald McDonald house is “a fascinating example of Grateful Dead-style corporate giving.”

Rock on!

The Ronald McDonald House holds a special place in my heart. My sister had surgery as a teenager for scoliosis at a hospital about 120 miles from our home. We stayed at the Ronald McDonald House near the hospital, and it’s an experience I’ve never forgotten. My birthday fell during the week my sister was in the hospital, and the lovely women who worked at the Ronald McDonald House went to the trouble of buying me a cake and gathering all the other residents to sing happy birthday. I wasn’t even the patient!

How often do we dig around to discover what philanthropy our favorite organizations and brands are involved in? Better yet: should we have to dig around, or should this be something that’s built into brand promotion?

Another marketing lesson here: if you’re an organization that has branches, offices or stores spread far and wide, the individual parts are often greater than the whole. Ronald McDonald House has a presence currently in 52 countries across the globe. A few individuals in one chapter of a large organization made me a lifetime supporter and advocate.

There’s power in one: and when it comes to branding and reputation building, as marketers we can’t forget two important things: one person can make a big difference, and often times it’s the small, grassroots actions that make the biggest impact.

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7 thoughts on “My first lesson from “Marketing Lessons from The Grateful Dead”: branding with philanthropy

  1. John Henry Malik says:

    Something that has been generally overlooked is the insidious advancement of greed in the last half-century. Yes, we are a Capitalist society. Yes, greed is fundamental to Capitalism. But, heretofore, greed had been tempered by Judeo-Christian values of charity and decency. With increased affluence, we have focused on “getting mine”, to the detriment of “old-fashioned” values. As we could afford to invest in the stock market, we suddenly demanded quarterly growth and punished those who could or would not think in the short term. We take every scrap from the table, leaving not an ort to indicate our satiation.
    Corporations or individuals are, and should not be, mandated to be charitable. But when they are, they can make headlines because their charity stands out above the mundane greed we see every day.

    • abbymalikpr says:

      Hey John Henry, thanks for the response, as always! I totally agree that corporations and individuals shouldn’t be forced to be charitable.

      • John Henry Malik says:

        Hey, Abby: Just to be clear — I was not disparaging the marketing concept of eleemosynary giving. I tried to emphasize that, when done voluntarily, it has much more impact than when it is mandated by political concepts such as “Social Responsibility” as applied to corporations. Such charity must appear altruistic.

  2. Hey Abby — I love your Ronald McDonald House story. Thanks for sharing. Glad you liked our book – this one was really fun to write!

    • abbymalikpr says:

      Hi David! Thanks so much for reading and responding! I have a friend who works for a marketing firm that handles McDonalds field work, and she loved the inclusion very much.

  3. […] finishing Marketing Lessons From The Grateful Dead a month ago (and blogging about it), I read the same author’s World Wide Rave, and this morning, over coffee and CBS Sunday […]

  4. […] ideas, and this books captures them all. I blogged twice in 2010 about this great little book (lesson one and lesson two). Also, after you read it, get on iTunes and search for podcasts with Scott and […]

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