Sales & Marketing

Three business secrets The Grateful Dead taught a successful CEO

7 min read

08 September 2016

Many businesses and management teams struggle to define brand purpose and attract top talent. But what if the answers you’re looking for could be found by listening to an iconic US rock-band from the 60s?

They’re called the Grateful Dead. And they helped one entrepreneur earn millions, scale his business to growth and become a highly successful CEO.

I recently spoke to the man himself, HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan, about the power of purpose and culture in business. To date, HubSpot has raised over $100m in venture capital and has more than 12,000 customers worldwide.

The company, which celebrated its tenth birthday just a few months ago, has carved out a reputation for being industry leaders in culture and brand vision.

Many of the culture principles that Halligan has established at HubSpot stem from his love of one of the most iconic US rock bands of all time, so let’s explore three lessons that The Grateful Dead can teach you about business, brand purpose and talent attraction.

(1) Develop a brand purpose and stick to it!

Get this: nearly 80 per cent of consumers are more likely to purchase from a company that can quantifiably show how it makes a difference in people’s lives. That’s 80 per cent!

The Grateful Dead pioneered a novel business approach in their own right, generating income via live concerts rather than album sales. This idea required ingenuity across the board, so the band increased direct ticket sales and allowed the audience to record live performances. A unique brand purpose was born that focused first and foremost on the experience of the audience.

This lesson rings true for the business world as well. Developing a strong, consistent brand purpose will help you identify how to improve your customers’ lives.

Halligan’s massive success with HubSpot is a testament to this. HubSpot proudly declares, “We dare to be different.” Their core values include ideas of transparency, shared knowledge, and working for the customers’ success and happiness.

Take a leaf out of The Grateful Dead’s book and create your own unique culture. When you do, remember the one thing that really matters: that your product or service improves your customers’ lives.

Continue on the next page for the other two secrets revealed by the 60s band.

(2) Partner up with businesses that share your values

Establishing relationships with brand promotion partners can help streamline and amplify your own unique brand message. The Grateful Dead executed this strategy to perfection.

First, the band went against the grain in their approach to merchandising. Rather than restrict branded products to their official store, The Grateful Dead established relationships with vendors that toured the country with them.

These entrepreneurial souls would set up pop-up stalls in the parking lots of venues. This allowed vendors to gain from the band’s growing success, and gave The Grateful Dead an opportunity to profit from ‘unofficial’ merchandise.

Halligan took this strategy and integrated it into the core of HubSpot’s unique customer offering. HubSpot’s “partner programme” helps agencies “market, sell and deliver the remarkable results your clients expect.”

Brand promotion partners can help streamline and amplify your brand message. When looking at potential partners for your business, it’s important to remember that today’s customers are savvier than ever before.

If you’re partnering with a company just to secure a windfall of cash, customers will see straight through this. Don’t come across as “cosmetic”. Remain true to your brand values and the right partnerships will take you far.

Read more from Bryan Adams:

(3) Draw in the best talent by promoting your brand message

A simple decision made by The Grateful Dead back in the late 1960s reveals an important lesson about using brand identity to boost your talent attraction process.

As the band was growing in popularity and success, they hired Scott Brown – a die-hard fan-turned-manager who understood, lived and breathed their brand identity. Brown quickly took charge of The Grateful Dead community, developing stronger links of communication with audiences.

The Grateful Dead became one of the first bands to introduce a nationwide mailing list that shared insider knowledge within a circle of fans. Brown personified the band’s brand values and played an integral role in ensuring authenticity of the brand message.

When it comes to talent attraction in the business world, the same principles apply. Heads of talent and senior HR directors have a responsibility to commit to hiring based on brand principle.

Be honest and open about your job roles, your company’s mission and outline a clear path to progression. This allows potential recruits to get a feel for the flavour of your company, and will organically attract talent to your brand.

Interactive content on careers websites – “day in the life” videos, Q&A sessions and interviews with staff – is the perfect way to champion your brand purpose.

Today’s hires will be tomorrow’s leaders, so unless you’re properly educating candidates on why your company exists, you’re putting the future at risk.

Bryan Adams is CEO and founder at Ph.Creative

Candidates have quickly become more demanding, making the recruitment process harder for bosses – here’s what they hate about your current procedure, which will help you give a great first impression.