Why Rockstars are Rockstars

Mack Collier has a great post about rockstars and rockstar ideas. He talks about the way that we identify rockstars in social media – and suggests that we need to look not at the biggest names, largest followings or loudest voices. He recommends:

  1. Spending less time identifying the 'rockstars' and more time focusing on the great ideas
  2. Stop focusing on numbers to determine influence
  3. Listening closely to new ideas from new voices, and magnify both when you hear them

I thought this was interesting – especially in light of the U2 Webcast that occurred live the other day (and of course you can login at any time to watch the replay – excellent!). Here we have a band that have been at the cutting edge, moved into the mainstream and redefined what we call stadium rock. They have used their music to awaken and activate our social conscience through their connection with good causes such as red. And they have carefully aligned the U2 brand with consumer product innovation – firstly with the launch of the iPod and now again with YouTube.

u2webcast It made me think that the reason rockstars ARE rockstars is that they are constantly reinventing their story. They continuously test, refine and extend their creative output that works from the edge of their audience back to the centre. And they align strategically not only with emerging trends – they blend their ideas into them – adding their weight to the story in-action. (I am sure you realise I am not talking about U2 now.)

But how do they do this?

The P-L-A-Y Framework

Using the P-L-A-Y framework it is possible to see how this reinvention takes place, how it works not just for the band but also for the brand, and why consumers are attracted to it. Jye Smith has an excellent presentation on how P-L-A-Y can be applied to a Gen Y market which is well worth checking out.

When you are structuring your communications, by factoring this framework into your storytelling you can dramatically scale the engagement of your audience, and perhaps, more importantly, you can allow them to OWN that story (which is also your story) – or what I call The Auchterlonie Effect.

P — for Power

  • Demanding of attention
  • Testing limits (boundaries around behaviour, responsibility etc)
  • Controlling the controllable
  • Belonging

L — for learning and curiosity

  • Beyond the message, tapping into behaviour
  • Skills development
  • Negotiation

A — for adventure

  • Exploring an ever changing world
  • Actively making the world a better place

Y — the yelp of surprise and delight

  • Recognition and reward
  • Self expression

How U2 P-L-A-Y

P … Clearly rockstars understand our tribal desire to belong. It gives us power, strength in numbers and affiliation. By loudly playing their music, sharing it with others via Twitter, blogs or even shared iPod lists, we announce our allegiance – which also allows other “like minds” to come to us. We are moths drawn to one-another’s flames.

L …There is plenty of back story available with a rock band like U2. From their early punk days to their social conscience (Live Aid, red etc), the band has consistently moved beyond the message – influencing and leading behaviour not just amongst their fan base, but on the global, political stage.

A …Their passion for reinvention is clearly at work. They are adventurous, creative and not afraid to put their music, their image and their reputation on the line.

Y … Bono’s personal interest in sunglasses, the shift in visual style and appeal of the whole band (and as individuals) demonstrates self-expression. But no matter how they change on the surface, it is their music which sparks us to remember, to connect and to empathise. The band constantly plays with our sense of expectation – surprising and delighting us with each song, each new stunt – or even the unexpected cover version (eg Frankie Goes to Hollywood).

And, of course, it is the music that we are able to hum to ourselves, share on our iPods and perform at karaoke (oh yes, I have seen it done) that allows us to really step inside the U2 brand story. The band are larger than life. They need to be to walk on stage in front of a packed Rose Bowl. But in mastering performance of this scale, rockstars live the story and aspirations that many of us harbour deep inside us. Maybe we just need to think about our own stories – on a smaller scale. Think fishbowl rather than Rose Bowl … and maybe one day you’ll step out onto a much larger stage than you could have imagined.

It starts with the first word of your story. What’s yours, rockstar?