Michael Eavis – Glastonbury – How to build a brand


I was lucky enough to be invited to see Michael Eavis of Glastonbury fame speak at Confetti Industry Week yesterday. The whole week is designed to give students access to real industry people and occasional legends to put their own futures into context and get insight into the secrets of success. It’s a brilliant marriage of business and education and feels very much like the future route to success for HE and FE colleges. I have no doubt that some of the young people in that room yesterday wil be inspired to even greater success.

Michael Eavis is a quite unassuming 77 year old man, who was clearly nervous in front of a relatively small audience. I guess it’s not often that he is examined that closely in his shorts and t-shirt by 200 young people. What he did though in his interview was lay down the simple rules as to how to create a brand from scratch. What was even better is that he never mentioned or hinted that Glastonbury was a brand in any way, shape or form, he just did it, by doing the right things. Another accidental hero of branding.

So as a tiny bit of background. He started the festival in 1970 with Marc Bolan headlining and (eventually) paid him £500 for his appearance. Tickets were charged at £1 each. He lost £1,500 but as he was funding it from his family dairy farm, he could afford the losses, so he kept on reinvesting in the product itself, making it better and better each year. It wasn’t until 1982, when it finally turned a profit and was recognised as the global phenomenon we know it for today.

So this is the secret to building any brand – Which isn’t that different to what I wrote in 2009.

  • Do things right.
  • Keep doing things right.
  • Keep investing in making it better and better over and over again.
  • Don’t think ‘how cheaply can we make this’ but rather ‘how good can we make it for the money we can afford to spend’.
  • Be passionate about what you do and really care about the little details, they are the difference.
  • Act decently, treat both suppliers and your customers with respect and you will get loyalty back in return.

I don’t think I was expecting to be inspired by Michael Eavis, but I was and i’m pretty sure that an awful lot of other people were too.

Picture of Michael Eavis borrowed from MixMag, with thanks.

How to create devoted customers

A very good friend and colleague of ours (currently honeymooning in New York and still blogging) has written a brilliant little presentation that he has published on Slideshare about how to create devoted customers.

I love the logic.

Delighted just isn’t good enough, because when (or if) they come back for me, they already have high expectations and to really win them over you need to deliver even more next time, or they will just be satisfied.

It’s the challenge facing any company, any brand and in effect any employee. How do you keep raising your game, so you don’t get overtaken by the next big thing.

A really simple line of wisdom that I have quoted before from Tony parsons in his book Man and Wife, where he is speaking to his Mum to understand how his Dad and her had managed to stay married for so long, where she says “you have to keep falling in love over and over again”.

If you don’t take this seriously as a brand owner, pretty soon, your customers will fall out of love with you and the devotion will be gone.

Fine just isn’t good enough

This is not a Beef Roulade, this is an M&S beef roulades filled with spinach and Buffalo ricotta
This is not a Beef Roulade, this is an M&S beef roulades filled with spinach and Buffalo ricotta

Marks and Spencer have been fighting back over the last few years with their strong campaign that says “its not just a thingy, its an M&S thingy” and it has felt like its been working. I only say this, because a brand essence has been really embedded when you hear kids and adults alike using the expression in everyday conversation.

Now M&S have been trying to help us in these recessionary times by reducing te price of the ‘Dine IN’ menu from £15 to £10.

But I have often argued on here and in other places that it will only work if the product your are peddling is actually as good as you promise.

Father’s Day yesterday and after a nice walk, what could be nicer than popping into our local M&S for their ‘Dine in for £10 deal’? Great idea but incredibly bland (at best and horrid at worst) food and that for me, is the start of the decline for the whole of the M&S brand.

We decided to start with the Beef Roulade.

mmmm Sounds nice.

It’s not a normal Beef Roulade remember, its an M&S beef roulades filled with spinach and Buffalo ricotta, served in a sweet vine ripened tomato sauce. (random capitalisation followed exactly from the packaging).

Unfortunately it wasn’t nice. It was pretty horrible and had the texture of a rolled up beefburger with some tangy cheesy peas stuffed up the middle of it.

The pudding was fine, the wine was fine and even the new potatoes were fine. But that’s it, they were just fine.

Fine is just not good enough. Fine is failing. Fine is forgettable and fine is feeling like I won’t bother next time.

To maintain or even grow a brand you have to do brilliant stuff, over and over again.

In the paraphrased words of Tony Parsons from his book Man and Wife, you have to allow your customers to fall in love over and over again.

When you make brand promises as big as M&S have been making, you have to not only wine and dine them, you have to be the perfect date, who brings flowers to you, says nice things to the future in laws and remembers all the little brothers and sisters birthdays. You have to be perfect. Not fine. Perfect.

My dine in for £10 meal was far from perfect. The main course wasn’t even fine.

It wasn’t just a meal and it wasn’t just an M&S meal, it was an entirely forgettable M&S meal.

Discounting kills brands – you simply HAVE to add value

As long ago as 1994 when we were working for a world class Racing Drivers School at Donington Park in UK. They came to us with a problem of a winter course that was almost impossible to sell out and they wanted us to produce a flyer for them to help sell it at a discounted price of £1800 for the five day programme rather than the full price of £2500.

We talked them into an idea of offering an additional 15 hours of one on one instruction that had a perceived value of £1200 but an actual cost to the school of less than £200. Guess what? The programme became the most popular and sold out almost immediately.

We already suspected the power behind adding value but this was our first definitive proof.

Well this has now been confirmed by none other than Martin Lindstrom who is one of the most forward thinking of any current brand strategist.

His supposition is that discounting a brand will take SEVEN years to recover from as this is how long the cycle takes for it to be built back up to a brand that is valued.

If you look at the huge brands now literally dumping their products through the likes of TK Maxx in a desperate search for volume, I would have to ask whether they will even survive long enough to get to the end of that seven year cycle.

If you can buy a Calvin Klein jumper in TK Maxx for £25 in their traditional grey colour, why would you want to pay £100 and more, just to have it in a better bag – particularly when some would now be embarrassed to be seen with such a conspicuous sign of excess that a Calvin Klein bag represents.

So for us, the key for the long term success of any brand is to find ways of adding value to your brand.

Tony Parsons – who we have previously described as an unwitting brand guru in many presentations delivered over the years – writing in his book Man and Wife, was trying to establish why his parents had managed to stay married for so long. His Mum’s answer was simple

By learning to fall in love over and over again.

The same can be said for managing any great brand, because the best brands have an emotive element that people love over and above all reason.

An emotional brand gives their customers reasons to fall in love with them over and over again. They act as though they are in a real relationship with them and if they do it well and keep doing it well, they may be lucky enough stay in that relationship with them forever.

The secret seems to be to reward them, surprise them, say thank you, respect them and treat them as intelligent individuals. Just like in a conventional relationship, if you make more of an effort, you are far more likely to succeed.

So. Don’t discount. Delight instead.

This press release is online at Pressbox, which you can see by clicking here