5 Things Depeche Mode Can Teach You About Effective Online Marketing

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I was walking the streets of downtown Austin between SXSW parties last month and someone asked me when I was going to do another pop-music-analogy post on Copyblogger.

“What do you want to see?” I asked.

“I bet you can’t do one using Depeche Mode songs, “ he challenged.

“I bet I can,” I countered.

“Look at that guy in a dress playing the oboe!” he replied.

Rather than share more of the superb street scenery of Austin, Texas, here’s what Depeche Mode, the most popular electronic band the world has ever known, can teach you about effective online marketing.

People are People

People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get
Along so awfully

Want to market successfully online, but don’t want to deal with all that human psychology stuff? Sorry, but that’s basically all there is to it. Understanding what makes people tick and proceeding accordingly is what works. For bonus points, study social psychology and all this social media stuff starts to make more sense, even when it doesn’t.

Never Let Me Down Again

I’m taking a ride with my best friend
I hope he never let’s me down again
He promises me I’m as safe as houses
As long as I remember who’s wearing the trousers

What can a song about drug addiction and who’s really in control of that relationship teach you about marketing? That it’s the customer who wears the pants in your business. Get cocky when things are going well and forget that, and you’re in for a nasty hangover.

Strangelove

I’m always willing to learn
When you’ve got something to teach
And I’ll make it all worthwhile
I’ll make your heart smile

It’s the most counterintuitive aspect of effective online marketing. You’ve got to stop pitching and start teaching. There’s nothing more effective than content marketing that attracts qualified prospects while building your authority. And when it comes time to sell, you’ll find most of your work is already done.

Personal Jesus

Someone to hear your prayers
Someone who cares
Someone who’s there

Depeche Mode songwriter Martin Gore wrote Personal Jesus after reading Elvis and Me by Priscilla Presley. Gore said “It’s a song about being a Jesus for somebody else, someone to give you hope and care.” In a hyper-niched, tribalized world, people are looking for leaders, not marketers. Who do you care about, and how can you help them?

Everything Counts

The grabbing hands
Grab all they can
All for themselves, after all
It’s a competitive world
Everything counts in large amounts

It’s not all sunshine and flowers. Haters will try to build a name for themselves by tearing you down. Partners and friends will let the money go to their heads. Colleagues will remix and reverse-engineer your products. Whatever, it comes with the territory.

Yes, the lyrics of Everything Counts are a bit cynical. But the live version of the song at The Rose Bowl in California is one of the most joyous demonstrations of fan interaction ever recorded.

Let’s watch the video, remember that what people really want is an authentic experience, and end on a high note. Pay particular attention starting at 4:10, and notice how Dave Gahan ignores the praise of the crowd and encourages them to be the star — now that’s effective marketing.

About the Author: Brian Clark is founder of Copyblogger and CEO of Copyblogger Media. Get more from Brian on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Amazing!! Love how you turned an awesome band like “Depeche Mode” into a learning theme!! It rocked!

  2. Hey Brian,

    I must say that it is cool how you took the song and compare it to online marketing.

    You nailed it when you said that effective marketing is not pitching but teaching. I see this mistake being done so many times over and over. If folks knew that online marketing is about sharing and building relationship. That is how you’ll be so much more effective.

    Chat with you later…
    Josh

  3. Working off what Brian said with people are people, I’d like to share my new favorite quote. It’s from Claude Hopkins.

    “The competent advertising man must understand psychology. The more he knows about it the better.”

    This guy was alive 100 years ago. Information was much harder to come by back then and Claude knew the power of psychology.

    Today, information is everywhere… and still… some people in social media ignore the importance of psychology. Funny how that works, heh.

  4. Andrew Billmann :

    Please, Brian, just jump the shark and get it over with! Please please please write a post with this title:

    What “What [insert reference here] can teach us about marketing” can teach us about marketing.

    That way, we’ll have an infinite loop that implodes upon itself, bending the space/time continuum.

  5. I always thought it was, “….why you and I should get along so awesomely.” That totally changes the meaning of the song!

  6. Wow, I never thought a band I used to listen to in high school would change my business…

    Yep, it’s all about the brain of your customer. Pitching has never worked well, even when it was invented. Pitching is just a numbers game, where if you really understand your customer and truly get inside their brain with a magnifying glass, it no longer becomes a guessing game.

    In the end, it’s your customer that will show you how to guide your business and psychologically-based marketing will be the one that gains the long term customers. You can sell anyone once, but if you want to actually build a business, Depeche Mode is going to have to join your team… figuratively of course.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire

  7. Great post! We can be so motivated by music. Positive Psychology encourages strong relationships with people. If you are truly listening to the wants and needs of the people you aim to serve and If you can express trust and compassion through your message you will win their hearts first and then the dollars.

  8. I just can’t get enough of your posts, Brian!

  9. @Andrew, good idea, I’ll put it on the queue.

  10. I love finding inspiration from unexpected sources. I’m with Joshua, going back to my HS days, could add songs like “Enjoy the Silence” and “Policy of Truth” to this list, probably many more. Good lessons here: it’s about the people, the audience, the reader.

  11. Been waiting a long time for my CB music fix. Thanks Brian.

    This post reminded me of Godin’s “Third Guy” video (Everyone needs a third guy in their marketing):

  12. Love your post on 3 levels: 1) I was at SXSW 2010 and love everything that reminds me of it 2) Big Depeche Mode fan and enjoyed a walk down memory lane of their songs and 3) My agency’s blog http://blog.smallarmy.net/ is based on the concept of listening to a song and thinking about what it means for marketing/entrepreneurialism. This inspired a few ideas so you might see my next post has a Depeche Mode theme now that you got me thinking about it. Hopefully you think imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?

  13. I was a die hard Depeche fan back in the day and was at the Rose Bowl concert. Most amazing concert ever.

  14. Excellent post. Depeche Mode is one of my favorite bands ever. Let’s not forget Blashemous Rumours:

    I don’t want to start any blasphemous rumours
    But I think that God’s got a sick sense of humor
    And when I die I expect to find Him laughing

    … takeaway? The strangest, most unexpected things happen and become viral online. Just visit YouTube for the phenom du jour!

  15. AND I spelled “blasphemous” wrong. Way to go on the typos, Stace. :)

  16. You have just made all this social media stuff make sense – Depeche Mode is my all time favorite band. By tying in their lyrics to SM really clicked for me. Now off to improve my approach. Thank you!

  17. Interesting to be sure. I don’t have a clue who this band is but I’m really curious as to how anybody could think their lyrics weren’t about life lessons…and while many Life Lessons often suck, therein lies the point.
    Listening to others wants and needs is a great first step but when you feel the hit of resonsance…ah, that’s where the magic kicks in…Exhibit A…This post.
    CB continues to deliver resonance hits.

  18. Absolutely love it, but surely there’s a way to get “Enjoy the Silence” into the mix!

  19. And that’s why Brian Clark rocks. Turning a Depeche Mode track into a lesson in marketing!!

  20. This is one of those memorable posts that I know will influence me in the future. Can’t wait to look for online marketing in other musical influences. Maybe Dave Matthews has some valuable lessons for me? “life is short but sweet for certain?”

  21. Wonderful post Brian! It’s all about leading, teaching, caring and being authentic to your customers. You truly need to get the best out of you to make it to the top!

    P.S. Dunno who they are but seems like a great band!

  22. As far as attention grabbing headlines go, that one’s a winner!

    I think a lot of people forget that ultimatley people need a reason to follow someone and that reason is usually because they feel they’re getting value for their time spent reading or listening.

    I think you need a healthy respect for people in general to be successful in anything. Honey attracts more bees than vinegar, apparently.

  23. Great post! We can be so motivated by music. Positive Psychology encourages strong relationships with people. If you are truly listening to the wants and needs of the people you aim to serve and If you can express trust and compassion through your message you will win their hearts first and then the dollars.

  24. @Tyler Clark, you should write that one up as a comment. :)

  25. This is an amazing post and not just because I was actually there at that concert. It was my first “real” concert where my friends and I were allowed to go alone with NO parents. We were so stoked.

    But it is also amazing how you took the lyrics to some of the band’s greatest hits and figured out how they applied to online marketing.

    Brilliant.

  26. Your blog post was informative (as usual) but the video speaks volumes– Depeche Mode concert as killer social media application!

    Their style is so well-defined, they give their audience a great show that’s distinctly Depeche Mode– the behind the scenes footage, the guy laughing about the $$, it all fades to the back of my mind when I see them performing on stage.

    It made such an impression I watched it twice.

  27. “Want to market successfully online, but don’t want to deal with all that human psychology stuff? Sorry, but that’s basically all there is to it.”

    Love that! How true.

  28. Great job! I agree that teaching something is the best way to get clients. I am doing a little of that right now and intend to do more! Thanks!

  29. Yet another example of finding inspiration anywhere and everywhere. Sometimes we feel like we have to have ‘the perfect blog post’ before we can write anything. I’m still working on getting over that hump.

  30. So amazing, I had to share on our blog :)

  31. You really nailed it under “Everything Counts” –just had to disconnect from a hyper salespersonality type person who I have known for yrs as they put money before people & didn’t respect an agreement we had. Life is def not all hearts and flowers!

  32. There’s one key Depeche Mode song missing from this post, Brian:

    ‘It’s No Good’

    Period. Time to start over ;-)

  33. Hrm….

    Feeling inspired to change playlist from Massive Attack to Violator.

    Should make for better copy on the sales page I am writing at the moment.

  34. Brills. I love your analogies. Right on!

  35. Man, BC, those type of posts are so 2009 … and I’m so damn glad to see another one that I’m gonna do one myself this week ;-)

    Thanks for the learnin’s and the inspiration!

    Ummm….bet you can’t do one with the Pet Shop Boys ;-)

  36. I want to see what he does with Henry Rollins. :)

  37. Hey Sonia,

    Ummm, …er….I’m not sure I want to see him and Henry do anything ;-)

    Ewwww!!!!

    BTW – who’s Henry Rollins?

  38. (rolling eyes) :)

  39. Don’t get me wrong, but am I the only one who thinks these music/movies/books analogies are far fetched? I LOVE copyblogger but every time I read a post like this I get the feeling the writer tries too much and wants something desperately to fit into a container or structure to force conformity.

  40. DM is my all time favorite band. they are the only band that i will never miss a show for. love this post!

  41. I knew I liked you before, but this seals the deal. Never let me down again!

  42. Well done, Brian. You make a great point in using DP as an example for making the fans the star in marketing. But I will also say that it takes a well executed concert performance and marketing plan to get fans/customers to buy into being the star because fans don’t always think they can or should be the star. I say that because when ever I interview fans about their concert experiences, it’s always a challenge to get them feel comfortable talking about their experience. But once that connection is made and they feel safe and trust that I will let them tell their story, then the fans quickly realize how important it is for them to be the star. I wish more bands worked harder at finding ways to let fans be the star beyond just being the VIP because the benefits are such a huge payoff for everyone.

  43. Okay, where is my cassette tape?! Can you do a post like this on the Cure next…please:)

  44. That’s great, I love the awesome business practices connection to the 80′s, started me on a long musical tangent.

  45. Great analogies and a fun post! Nice to read something fresh :)

  46. Hi guys,

    Very interesting blog. I loved how you used lyrics and ended it with a video.

    Kind regards,

    Sam
    X

  47. What I get out of this is: it’s not about me. That is the key in my decision to start a website and write a blog. My primary purpose is to help other home-schoolers, period. I am hoping I can make money doing it but that is not just secondary in a “yeh, right” kind of way…it really is very, very secondary.

    This can be applied in so many situations – getting up in front of people to speak, for instance, is such a stresser for so many people. But if the speaker will realize it is not about him/her, if they will get out of the way, then they can really be effective, and go a long way towards easing the jitters (IMO).

  48. Great post, thanks. The “People are People” section is particularly interesting.

    If copywriting is essentially salesmanship in print, it is crucial that writers try their best to fully understand buying behaviour. Is it me or does this aspect often get overlooked by many web writers?

    P.S. You even inspired me to write a post called “Seven Things ABBA Can Teach You About Brilliant Copywriting”!

  49. Brian, I’m 53 years old and never heard of Depeche, but you made me a believer! The lyric parallels with the tribal marketing concept are superb.

    @DebDiBiasie–You are right on. Music is a great motivator!

  50. The golden days, when you could grow your list with several hundreds or more than a thousand new subscribers during one event, are over… unfortunately

    In current events, the number of subscribers really depends many factors: the quality of the giveaway, the number of people that promote the event, the quality and originality of your gift, your actual list size and gift ranking (determined by the number of people you refer), etc.

    Yo can see it is hard to write down a number here. Still, don’t let this stop you to give giveaways a try – every new subscriber is a potential new customer …

  51. Clever article. Who would have ever though that marketing by use of Depeche Mode lyrics would ever be go hand-in-hand.

    I’ve been a DM fan since 1990 . I finally got to see them live in Chicago last summer (2009).

    The lyrics of “Everything Counts” is obviously a record deal gone bad (for the band).

    How about the lyrics of “Get the Balance Right?”

    You think you’ve got a hold of it all
    You haven’t got a hold at all
    When you reach the top, get ready to drop
    Prepare yourself for the fall, you’re gonna fall
    It’s almost predictable

    Learn to not be “fat and happy” or “too high on your horses” … don’t drown in arrogance with your customers or employees.

  52. That definitely gives a strait forward kind of raw perspective on marketing. Thanks!

  53. Thank you for all the info and ideas. Really appreciate the helpful thoughts and tips.

  54. Sheila Germain :

    How much fun was that?!?! Good times. What a summer. And what a great job tying it into social media and online marketing. Bravo!

  55. This is an excellant post especially because this is one of my favorite bansd!

  56. Thats an all around good piece..