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Marketing: Keeping Up with Changing Trends
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For Those Who Used to Rock – We Salute You

Legendary rock band AC/DC just released, “Black Ice” their first new album in over eight years. Black Ice was released on October 8th and rocketed to the top of the charts selling nearly 800,000 earning it the distinction of being the year’s best-selling rock debut.

Black Ice marks the band’s second stint at #1 (1981’s For Those About to Rock … We Salute You reached the peak several weeks after its initial release), and the first chart-topping debut of the band’s more than 30-year-career.

So why am I writing about AC/DC on my marketing blog?

One, I’m a head banger from back in the day and a huge AC/DC fan. Two; it’s not every day that a marketing strategy can easily be classified as both insane and brilliant, this one has me torn. I may just have to put it in the things that make you go, “hmmmm” category. The marketing strategy was to go low tech or as AC/DC’s website boldly states, “Low Definition™”

1. In the U.S. this album was sold exclusively through Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club and the band’s official Web site. You cannot find the album for sale or download at Amazon or iTunes in fact I can’t find it for download at all. You have to buy the physical CD. In today’s iPod centric culture this would seem to be a very risky marketing plan.

2. A viral video campaign was launched post album release, October 23rd to be exact. The video which can be viewed on YouTube or downloaded is done completely in Microsoft Excel and being described as, “The world’s first music video in an Excel Spreadsheet. AC/DC smashes through the corporate firewall with real rock ‘n’ roll. Watch the video playing back as ASCII art in Microsoft Excel!” – Excel? Really? Maybe I can order a cool AC/DC tape dispenser or desk caddie??

My first reaction to this marketing campaign was disbelief. AC/DC sold out! Selling exclusively in Wal-Mart!?! A video created in Excel designed to, “smash through the corporate firewall”? What’s next, a concert at Disney? Who are they trying to reach? Head bangers don’t hang out at Wal-Mart! We go to the local record store to get our…oh wait a minute…there are no more local record stores and head bangers are now in their 40’s with 2.3 kids, 9-5 jobs, safety rated vehicles and a house in the suburbs. Oh crap! We do hang out at Wal-Mart!

When you ponder the fact that AC/DC achieved critical mass in the 80’s you soon realize that the average fan has become just that, average. The days of dreaming of Tawny Kitaen writhing around on the hood of a jaguar in Whitesnake’s, “Here I go again” video are long gone. The rock anthems that played over and over in our minds, songs like Twisted Sister’s, “We’re not gonna take it” and Ozzy’s, “Crazy Train” have been replaced with the Sponge Bob Square Pants theme.

Guess what else? It turns out we use Excel too. Not only do we use it, most of us like it. Think about all the cool things we do with Excel like calculations, equations and rockin’ macros! No one rocks a spreadsheet like we do, always trying to get our forecasts, “back in black”.

AC/DC didn’t leave the current generation of rockers out either. AC/DC will be the first band to get to get its very own version of MTV’s video game phenomenon, “Rock Band,” which is due out November 2nd for the PS2, PS3, Xbox and Wii and will be sold exclusively (where else) at Wal-Mart /Sam’s Club.

It doesn’t hurt album sales (are they still called albums?) that just about anything from the 80’s is popular again, you know, “what’s old is new”. AC/DC is cool (do they still say cool?) again for a whole new generation to rock out to. Maybe buying a CD brings back fond memories for the current generation the way buying an 8-track would to mine.

Okay, so maybe AC/DC is on to something with their Wal-Mart sellin’ spread sheetin’ ways. I guess I should be happy, one of my favorite bands didn’t sell out, they sold in, sold in to my surroundings making it easier for me to find and enjoy a great band with a great brand at an everyday low, low rock ‘n’ rollback price!

The only question I have now is how AC/DC will market to me in the next chapter of my life? Maybe my pacemaker will have download capabilities and be able to beat my heart to dirty deeds done dirt cheap?

Larry Bailin, Guest Blogger
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