There is a huge reason why the Foo Fighters are still one of the world’s biggest bands. The loud “we’re not going away anytime soon” rock act still battles for musical and money-making supremacy among a sea of popular entertainers like Taylor Swift, One Direction and Justin Bieber.
Dave Grohl simply knows how to make a fan feel like you’re his bro.
He made the best of his recent broken leg situation, by continuing the tour with the help of a wheelchair on steroids, an amp and light-rigged power chair that served as his home base for the 2+ hour shows.
Many never thought that would be the case. Billboard broke down the numbers in the story, “Will Dave Grohl’s Injury Break the Bank for the Foo Fighters?”
But the Foo Fighters loudly proved Billboard wrong, turning Grohl’s misstep into a massive moneymaker.
It’s times like these, I’d like to pull out the old monkey wrench and take a closer look at the five ways they got something from nothing, and how their marketing team make their brand everlong.
With MTV long gone from the days of 24-hour music videos, bands are turning to other outlets for the much-needed exposure.
Some tie themselves to products and hope their small clip in television commercials will piqué the interest of the audience. The musical ear app Shazam is typically involved in this type of campaign. It’s never worked for me, but this method of marketing definitely eliminated any question of “hey, who sings the song in this commercial?”
For the Foo Fighters, they went larger than a 30-second spot on ESPN, CNN, or Spike TV. They went with an 8-episode documentary on HBO on the creative process before, during, and after they make an album. Some critics dismissed it as infomercial. And if you liken the series to U2’s freebie release on Apple’s iTunes, you’re probably missing the bigger picture.
In the series, they welcomed the audience to go with them, as they soul-searched for the best inspirations, and locations, for making incredible music. They made viewers feel like they were part of this spiritual journey.
Viewers became just as invested in this album, as the band itself. People on fan sites and message boards broke down each episode, like it was an episode of Breaking Bad or the Walking Dead.
As some artists struggle against piracy, the Foo Fighters Sonic Highways album sold 190,000 copies the first week. The album also captured the hearts of fans of vinyl, and the record hit #1 in its first week release with 12,000 copies sold.
There’s also extra profit being brought in by DVD sales of the series, a double score for the band.
Pop up Shops
In various cities to support the North American tour, the band set up pop up shops for merchandise sales. These little merch markets featured items that fans could buy leading up to the show.
This allowed the fans to wear their new shirts, hats, jackets, and other assorted gear supporting the tour, to the tour itself.
This only used to happen if you attended night one of a show, and returned for night two, wearing the clothing you had purchased less than 24 hours earlier.
This fueled a frenzy for fans in some cities. You also have to imagine that walking by a Foo Fighters store might just inspire someone to buy tickets to the upcoming concert.
Why are these shops so great? If you’re attended rock concerts you know, you typically face four long lines:
- The line to get in – security is even tougher and you practically get a prison admittance test, minus the body cavity search, when you enter a show.
- The line for beer – yes 2 per person, with ID if you look under the age of 50. No matter when you want it, there’s always a line for beer.
- The line for the bathroom – if number 2 applies to you, then you certainly experience number 3; the people who spend a while waiting to go number 1.
- The line to buy merch!
With the pop up shops conveniently in the heart of town in several major cities, concertgoers figured they could end one of the lines at the show, right?
The Foo Fighters struck gold with the help of their marketing department again. Fans who thought they were good with their one Foo Fighters shirt got a surprise with the merchandise at these shows.
The band creatively marketed to each show specifically, selling merch that matched the metro area!
If you are familiar with some of the major sports teams of Southern California, you will no doubt notice that the Foo Fighters baseball shirt, is quite similar to say a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim shirt.
NBA fans will likely see the similarities in the purple and gold shirt to the right of the Anaheim shirt.
Even the VW bus shirt, is selling California culture, and that experience you feel in Southern California.
If you think people don’t care about geographically branded merch, think again. Even Gene Simmons would be rolling over in his KISS coffin, kicking and screaming that the ultimate rock salesmen missed the boat on this opportunity.
If there’s one thing that’s in abundance at a rock show, it is alcohol. The Foo Fighters marketing team decide to go beyond the beer, and create a cocktail that would be gobbled up by fans.
Introducing the Monkey Wrench.
Of course you could pay $11 for a Maker’s Mark and club soda, or for an extra $4, an orange slice and a cherry on top, you can have a cocktail with a story to tell.
After all, it’s concert law – if it has alcohol in it, people will buy it.
That’s exactly what happened. If you didn’t have a beer in your hand, you were double-fisting these! Women all over were tapping glasses together saying “cheers,” while enjoying this well-marketed mixed drink.
I have to admit, it sure looked good.
Halfway through the concert, they ran dry.
This didn’t surprise at all, as I watched several people make their back into the drink line to buy another round.
Whether it was brand bravado or just incredible crisis communications, the Foo Fighters not only avoided a potential mess with Grohl’s leg injury, they cashed in on it.