The Rolling Stones and 60 Years of Customer Satisfaction

60 Years of Rock n Roll & Customer Satisfaction

Precious few organizations in any field of endeavor have succeeded like The Rolling Stones. Sometimes termed “The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band,” at least ever since The Beatles broke up in 1970, they have celebrated over 60 years of rock history.

How does a band stay on top -- or even together -- for so long? The only comparable rock act for longevity is The Beach Boys, but who were a band in name only for large chunks of the last 60 years.

The answer: By giving customers what Mick Jagger lamented not being able to get himself -- satisfaction.

In truth, the Stones are a case study in good, solid CRM best practices, and have the customer loyalty to show for it. Consider their model.

  1. Maintain The Integrity Of Your Brand Identity. The Stones rank in the customer loyalty stratosphere with Levi’s, Apple, Harley-Davidson, Coca-Cola and Google because their customers have faith in their brand identity, and can buy Stones albums and tickets secure in the knowledge that they’ll get what they’re expecting.The Stones have maintained their core sound over 60 years. Not to say all the music the Stones have made sounds the same, it all has the same sound. They have excelled in maintaining their brand identity of a driving hard blues rhythm guitar-based sound coupled with Jagger’s distinctive vocals, whether they’re doing country, R&B, dance or other styles: It’s always going to sound like the Stones with little deviation.
  2. Offer Customers Consistency. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the Stones just might have been the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band in the world. Those days are long past, but Stones albums still sell millions and concerts sell out because the Stones are consummate professionals -- they simply never give their customers an unlistenable album or a truly bad concert. Some are better than others, naturally, but there’s no embarrassing dreck in the Stones catalogue, and there is no other rock act of comparable duration who can make that claim -- certainly not fellow 60-year veterans Bob Dylan and The Beach Boys, who each have cover-your-ears bad albums. A Stones record or show may be uninspired to some, but it will nonetheless be a professional, acceptable product.
  3. Correct Customer-Facing Mistakes ASAP. The one glaring Stones customer-facing mistake, Their Satanic Majesties’ Request, made in 1967 as an experiment in psychedelia, was the first Stones album to be largely rejected by their customers. The Stones listened. Their very next album, 1968’s Beggar’s Banquet, was a return to Stones roots and by far the finest one they’d made to that point. Any CRM expert would recognize it as a big apology to their customers for Satanic Majesties and a renewed effort to focus on their core competency -- blues rock.
  4. Adopt New Technology For The Right Reasons, Not “Just Because.” One of the most consistently maddening mistakes companies make is buying CRM technology or adopting what works for someone else just because it works well for someone else. This approach seldom succeeds. It doesn’t for rock bands either.
    Many rock bands will incorporate the latest musical fads into their music for no better reason than the desire to “stay current,” or cash in on a hot marketing trend. When the Stones use new instruments or recording techniques it’s in the service of giving their customers the Stones’ sound. The leftover psychedelia of using the London Bach Choir on “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” or the then-trendy sitar on “Paint It, Black” still gave customers consistent Stones experiences. They didn’t change their organizational goals or processes to accommodate new technology and practices, they used new elements to further their predetermined organizational goals to meet customer expectations.

    Incidentally, this is the mistake The Beatles made with Indian music, particularly “Within You, Without You”: It just didn’t sound like The Beatles, and George was told not to bring his sitar to work.

  5. Focus On Meeting Customer Expectations. Any band would much rather play their new music in concert instead of old hits. Some acts -- David Bowie, R.E.M. -- like to “challenge” customer expectations in concert. The Stones do not. Mick Jagger once explained that the band gets together before a tour, decides what songs a customer needs to hear to have a genuine Rolling Stones concert experience -- “Jumping Jack Flash,” “Brown Sugar,” “Start Me Up,” et al -- and plays them to meet customers’ expectations for their interaction with the brand.

And there you have it -- satisfaction.