Sting Teaches Us The Value Of Understanding Customer Needs

By Dr. John Tantillo, - In Marketing

Picture of Sting rehearsing for a show but he may not have had a full understanding of his customers needs

Photo Credit: Sting - Lincoln Center, Sound Check

This article first appeared in Issue 007 of Fridge Magazine.

Sting’s recent Broadway flop, “The Last Ship” which closed January 24 of this year, can teach us a thing or two about entrepreneurship, especially when it comes marketing a small business.   Even with this box office disappointment, there is no question that Sting is a brand that demands respect.  His estimated 280 million net worth along with his 25 American Music Awards, 11 Grammy’s and not to mention his 75 award nominations are achievements that one cannot deny.  It’s reassuring to know that the successful (even Sting) sometimes miss the marketing and branding boat!

You see earlier this year Sting had this project he wanted to share with his fans—his life in song.  A brilliant idea on paper! So, he went to work writing songs for this exciting venture.   What better way for this musical artist to tell his life story but through his medium— music. It was his brand.  And oh yes, he would not perform.  He did not want to distract from this personal experience.  What could go wrong?

After writing the songs for the play, surviving opening night and then getting mixed reviews a great accomplishment for a Broadway outsider to receive, audiences didn’t show.

A friend then told him the honest truth.  He said, “Sting,  no one cares about your life, they want to hear you sing.”  You see, Sting got stung by what we all often miss it’s not about you; it’s rather all about your customer!

Many of us believe that we have the answer in solving a consumer or business need.  The real issue may be, that we, like Sting, are the only ones interested in the product (or service) that we want to market and that others don’t care.    Even Michael Corleone in Godfather II understood this when he said to his “consigliere, Tom Hagen: “Try To Think the way the people around you think and on that basis anything is possible.”  Solid advice for us to remember.

After realizing his mistake, Sting tried various tactics to get audiences to serendipitously show.  He appeared from Dec 9, 2014 through Jan 10, 2015, had one-night promotional performances, did the talk show circuit, but nothing could help.  The perception that Sting wasn’t  in the show was set in stone. And nothing could more true than the advice that many psychologists espouse: “there’s only one chance to make a first impression.”

So what should have Sting done?  Simple, done research and test whether his fans and customers would be interested in seeing a play about this life. Another question would have to assess their likelihood of showing up for this event. And one last question, the most important for assessing the show’s viability.   Querying fans whether they would attend the show with and without Sting. This question would have assessed the show’s feasibility and the best way to market the show (limited, short/long term engagements) to interested attendees.

Here are five “actionable’s” that Sting and savvy marketers can do to avoid product/project failures and help in understanding customer needs:

  1. Remember it’s not about you, it’s all about your customer;
  2. Try to satisfy the needs of your customer’s, NOT YOUR NEEDS;
  3. Do some research by asking your potential customers what they think about your product, service or project;
  4. Get feedback from those trade professionals who will be honest about your ideas;
  5. Heed Michael Corleone’s advice: “Try to think the way the people around you think.”  This means thinking like your customers!

These client-centered recommendations should increase your probability for commercial success.  And of yes, it always easier when you have branding and marketing in mind!



Branding Editor

Branding and Marketing Expert, Speaker, and teacher who writes about branding

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