Drumming Up Business

August 4, 2016

by Mark Robinson

Clients of our practices often ask us how we can convert minimally engaged audiences into fully engaged brand enthusiast.  If you are impetuous, the short answer is to use engaging content to create meaningful experiences and then allow your audience to market for you. Oh, and avoid parlor tricks to boost you audience count, those never work.

Building lasting engagement is a common problem and seems to transcend all delivery channels regardless of whether eyeballs come from an Ad Words campaign, video or through social media. The reason for this is that people don’t just want to show up, they want to have an experience. Take an 80s rock band from Dublin for a metaphor. U2 started in 1976 by inexperienced teenagers who spent four years developing the band’s product, their act. After signing with Island, they had a very successful international tour and record sales were secondary. That is until 1987, when they were able to intersect the right audience with an incredible experience when The Joshua Tree made U2 a legend.

You may know that Bono lost his voice on opening night and asked the audience to sing with him. This kind of engagement is deep, emotional and very experiential. If you were there you would remember Bono asking you in sincerity to join him in his live performance. And if you were there you would be transformed from a member of the audience into U2’s entourage. The events at Arizona State University that night and the success of U2 cannot go unnoticed. Neither can the fact that The Joshua Tree became the tour that significantly moved the needle on record sales surpassing tour performance.

I believe U2’s success was a combination of talent, tightly timed marketing and a unique experience that transformed an audience into raving fans. And, it stands as a metaphor for how we can successfully engage audiences right now.

Here are four things that you can do to ‘be a Bono’ and be ready to deliver amazing experiences to your audiences.

First, you have to realize you have ‘lost your voice.’ That is, you need to realize your own shortcomings and express them with transparency. Bono just got up on stage and said something like, “Guys, I lost my voice and can’t sing.” The crowd loved his honesty. And, it is far better for you to use your weaknesses to stack the deck in your favor than to ignore them and allow them to drain your brand’s vitality.

Second, it’s time to let the audience ‘sing with you.’ This is where Bono basically said, “Will you sing with me?” To be specific, you customers don’t need to just attend a show; they need to be part of the messaging. For your unique business situation you must find the way that your customers can engage and become part of the world class act.

Third, realize your past performances are now irrelevant. When Bono stepped on stage, he didn’t perform the way he always did. Engage your audiences in this moment of time, with what you are now. Be yourself and express your brand with sincerity.

Finally, you need a ‘tight act’ that is well rehearsed and coordinated. Practically speaking, all the transparency and sincerity in the world will be useless if you marketing act isn’t together.

We know there is no short cut to success. You need a talented team, quality content, an engaging experience coupled with great marketing to turn audiences into brand enthusiast. U2 is a metaphor of this approach. The question is, will you take this metaphor and deliver your own amazing experiences to your audience?

Photo credit: Flickr user Marc Delforge

About Carla Johnson


Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.

Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands has served as the foundation for many of her books.

In her latest project, Fast Forward Files, she contributes to a larger collection of thoughts by some of the world’s greatest minds -  Shazam co-founder Dhiraj Mukherjee, activist and entrepreneur Heather Mills and behavioral designer, technologist and mental-health champion Peter Trainor. Consistently named one of the top influencers in B2B, digital and content marketing, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking. 

Today, she travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.