My lady and I just saw one of our favorite bands, The Avett Brothers. This band is really special for a lot of reasons. Their unique punk rock + bluegrass roots. Their deep sense of brotherhood. They stay true to themselves and also live in our home state of NC.  The music is cross-generational. The Avett Nation fans are like one big, music-loving family. At concerts, these fans trade and even give away (you read that right) their homemade Avett branded swag – patches, decals, key chains, guitar picks and more.

photo courtesy of Avett fanatic, Ryan Boyles

This band writes music that often hits you right in the soul. Like the time I was away with the family, at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado, and I found out my dad died. The Avetts happened to play “No Hard Feelings” as their encore. In that moment, I ran from my seats near the stage to the highest point in that beautiful amphitheater to listen to the lyrics. I think maybe I did that to be spiritually closer to my dad or nature or just to be alone to take it all in. As they sang, 

“When my body won’t hold me anymore
And it finally lets me free
Will I be ready?
When my feet won’t walk another mile
And my lips give their last kiss goodbye
Will my hands be steady when I lay down my fears, my hopes, and my doubts?
The rings on my fingers, and the keys to my house
With no hard feelings…”

I just let the tears flow. Now, whenever I listen to that song, I think of my dad and it’s a good thing. 

The best bands move you with both their music and lyrics. I keep telling my 17-year-old daughter who loves music as much as I do (if not more), that the beats are what get your body moving and deliver the goosebump-inducing energy our DNA craves. But when the band with the beats objectifies women in their lyrics, it’s time to check in with your personal values and reassess your band choices. But that’s content for a different Dad-style blog. 

The best bands don’t hide in the green room before or after the show. They remember they mostly exist for their fans – and they come out to say hello, hug, high five, take pics, autograph personal guitars that have journeyed through long lines of fans and somehow snuck into venues. Great bands respond personally on social media. They are thankful. They have a loyal fan base because they know how to build and sustain fans because they are present for them. And that can pay dividends. This is best evidenced by The Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl. 

Watch what happens when 10-year-old drummer prodigy, Nandi Bushell, challenges Dave Growl to a drum-off (and wins over his heart):
Here’s how Dave responded:
And here they are in an epic drum battle:

That’s how to respond to your fans – and rack up a lot of brand impressions to strengthen your band’s brand. It’s an indicator of humanness and likely reminds bands of their roots. You know who else does this well? You guessed it. The Avett Brothers. 

And to that point, during the Avett Brothers show at River Front Amphitheater in Wilmington, NC on 8/20/2021, I had a head-scratcher moment. I noticed Joe Kwon, the band’s brilliant cello player (who can move his cello around like bodies flying at a swing dance revival), was wearing an interesting t-shirt. The image was of a big face that I could not place. Being from the world of branded t-shirts for 30+ years, something about this shirt was intriguing. So, I took to social media, tagging Joe, asking him what the story was with his shirt selection.

His answer is a combination of fan building, storytelling, family, and “co-worker” appreciation and love. When Joe responded directly to me (and all of his fans) that the face on his shirt was his Grandpa, for me, that was cool enough. But when he said that Scott Avett, his bandmate, made tees for each band member, to depict someone who influenced or inspired them, I was knocked down smiling. What a thoughtful, original, creative, and meaningful gift. I’d wager that that gesture meant a LOT to Joe. 

In the Brand Fuel world of branded merchandise, this is what we call, “The Power of Promo.”

So, of course, all of this got my right-side thinking. Thinking about quantity at scale versus quality at scale. And choice. And personalizing a gift to an extreme. And while bands are a bit different than company brands, bands are brands too

Is there a business model in all of this? 

Maybe. Here’s the business scenario we are dreaming up:

  1. You receive a message from a company you either work for or buy from. So, you are an employee or a customer. 
  2. The message you get is personal, perhaps through a video, and it thanks you for your hard work or for your purchases.
  3. Through a portal, you are given the opportunity to upload a photo of someone who has inspired or influenced you. Or, perhaps, a favorite photo of your family or pet. 
  4. We take that photo and apply it to a product you choose – a t-shirt, bag, mug, laptop sleeve, placemat, iPhone case, etc. 
  5. We could add a small URL or company logo in the label, in a discreet area – or perhaps on the hang tag, where a story could reinforce the company’s appreciation.
  6. We produce that item and ship it direct to you with a personal note from the company. 

What do you think? 

Would you prefer to give away the same branded tote bag to everyone? (p.s. Who needs another tote bag?) Or, might this brand experience get where you want to go, which is deep appreciation and connection to an employee or customer, by giving them something branded with their image that they want. We have the platform for this already. We’d just need to develop it out and skin it for a client’s brand. I think these types of hyper-personal brand eXperiences are what people crave because they are super meaningful because they are personal. 

Give us a shout if this interests you: Something about it feels really special, in never-been-done-before form.

The Grateful Dead used to sing, “Sometimes you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” I’m so glad I was looking at Joe Kwon’s t-shirt at that moment, with curiosity. It set off a ripple effect of ideation, inspiration and perhaps even more connection. Thank you for making it all so personal, Avett Brothers. 

See you at the next show. 

Danny Rosin, Co-President and Avett Brothers fan for life