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Discover Seven Steps to Make Your Own Hit here!

Originally published
Originally published: 11/1/2015

What the Music Industry Can Teach You About Marketing


There is a formula for making a hit record. A song doesn't simply get recorded in the studio and then automatically become popular enough to be one you sing along with and remember long after it's stopped playing on the radio.

How do some songs make it, while others, despite what seems like the same amount of blood, sweat and tears, remain anonymous? The basic formula for making a song a hit is one that can be followed when creating a successful marketing campaign to your customers.

Get a Great Hook

The song's "hook" — or chorus — is what you sing over and over once the song is finished playing. As defined by Alfred Music Publishing in "Songwriting for Beginners," the hook is "a phrase or word that literally hooks, or grabs, the listener and draws them into the song."

Is your headline grabbing your customer into your offer?

To illustrate, think about what many critics believe is the greatest rock song ever written by the Rolling Stones, "Satisfaction." One merely has to say the name of the song when the hook "I can't get no … satisfaction" begins playing in your head.

For a great hook to grab the listener it has to mean something to the recipient. Understanding your customer is critical to this step of the equation. Let's assume we agree that your customer is a middle-aged woman (we'll save the argument for that point for another time).

So how is your hook grabbing that woman's attention? Think about her perspective; what does she care about? Will she worry about SEER rating or the latest model number of a whole home humidifier? Probably not. Or, more likely, will she think about how long it takes to get her home's temperature comfortable for her family?

Does she even know what a maintenance agreement is? Think about why she would want it, and less about why she should. Her world is tied up in her family's well-being and care. Consider how you can position your hook so it grabs her attention, draws her in and entices her to pick up the phone and call you.

Make your hook short and easy to remember. You have only a few seconds to grab her attention. Your hook is your headline. If your hook/headline is not right, nothing else matters. When you're singing "Satisfaction" at the top of your lungs in your car, think about how important that hook is.

Match the Message to the Audience

Programmers who play a heavy metal song on a country station won't be employed for long, because their listeners will tune out — it's not what they're interested in hearing. Will your message be heard by those who want to hear it, or will it fall on deaf ears?

Find out where your target customer consumes media — social media, email, community newspapers or magazines, home shows, local billboards and, of course, her mailbox are great places to get your message to the right customer. Don't be "that" guy — the one who delivers the heavy metal song to the soft rock audience.

If you're going to play your song on the radio, be sure you play it on one that she listens to. It doesn't have to be the No. 1 ranked station in the demo you're after, but it should be in the top three.

Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

We often think that one mailing of a postcard will get seen by the decision-maker we're targeting. But once is not enough.

Hit radio stations play their most popular songs every 45 minutes. That heavy rotation is the result of research that found today's busy consumer isn't actively listening for hours at a time. Life is distracting. So, even after playing a song 32 times per day, even heavy listeners may only hear the song 2-3 times. Once is not enough. Research says consumers must hear or see a message seven times before it sticks.

Don't assume your customer sees the message every time you send it out. What else is coming in her mailbox the day she gets your postcard? Did she receive an order from Amazon that she was excited about and caused her to forget the rest of the mail? Did she even have the radio on during the specific 30-second interval your radio ad aired? Or was she discussing the day's schedule with her teenage daughter? Did she take a different route to work today to drop off the dry cleaning and miss your digital billboard?

Send your message out multiple times; she may have missed it the first time.

Repurpose and Repeat

In 2014, Pharrell had a massive hit song with "Happy." For about three months, you heard the song on radio, as the opener to morning TV shows, as a wildly popular YouTube video and inside family-friendly movie soundtracks. This multiple tier exposure gave the song "Happy" extreme exposure, making Pharrell a very wealthy man and the song the number one selling song of the year.

Translate that multi-media exposure to your company's ad. Place it on several layers of media. Choose from layers including: print, online, social media, outdoor, direct mail, email marketing, church newsletters, local mom blogs, affinity programs and online reviews.

The more opportunities your customer has to see your message, the better. The more times you "catch" your targeted customer, the more your company and your offer sticks in her mind.

Stick With It

Radio Programmers and DJs often get tired of the "same old song" and switch to a different mix. Ever hear your favorite song and wonder why they took out all the drums or added in a saxophone? It's not very comfortable for the listener when the message changes. They may listen through to the end, but they will prefer the original song.

Stick to your message. Don't waver. Send the same message over and over during the offer period. The minute you start to think your message is getting old, your customer is actually just "getting" it.

Pick the Right Market Niche

Did you know Michael Bolton started out as a hard rock singer? Opening for Krokus and Ozzy Osbourne, he found he wasn't becoming a success. Failing to pay his bills, he restarted his career writing love ballads for other artists to perform. Finally, he started singing his own songs … and that gravelly voice and mullet haircut became an iconic musical brand of the late 80s and early 90s.

The foundation that made Bolton a success had to be changed to work for his audience. As a result of changing his foundation or genre, his personal brand had an overhaul too.

Remember Bolton's mullet? When you think of Michael Bolton, a specific sound comes to mind, because most of his songs sounded very similar. It was a formula that worked for him well; resulting in 12,500,000 album sales of his 1989 release.

Your genre may need to be tweaked to reach your ultimate goal. If you start off in commercial and find residential is your sweet spot, stick with it. Own it. Build your brand around it and be consistent.

The look, the colors and your brand's personality must be defined and repeated. Be sure every marketing piece you do replicates the brand foundations you set forth.

If Michael Bolton suddenly appeared without that mullet, he would have had to start engaging his fans all over again. Don't change your look with every piece you place in the marketplace. Help your customer remember who you are by keeping your brand imagery consistent through every communication you send.

Shake a Lot of Hands

When an artist releases a song, there is a publicity tour surrounding it. They get on a bus or a plane and hit every radio and television station that will have them. They sing their song over and over and over. They smile and act like they enjoy everyone they encounter to encourage maximum press and publicity.

Do your own publicity tour. Seek out networking groups with which to have lunch. Pass out your offer to everyone there. Be your own mouthpiece on social media. Send a press release to local television stations offering to speak about cleaner air, why filter changes are important or how UV lights can help combat germs.

Think about timely references that would help local consumers and make you the expert they trust. Smile until your face hurts. Make people want to do business with you.

So, what's your song? The greatest hook will take some time to come up with, but it will be worth it. In 1995, Mick Jagger noted that "Satisfaction" was "the song that really made The Rolling Stones, changed us from just another band into a huge, monster band. You always need one song."

Follow the steps the music industry has used and you might find yourself on the Hot 100 at the end of the year.


Robin Jones is a branding and marketing expert who excels at reaching demographics with pinpoint accuracy. With an entertainment career spanning 25 years, her experience includes National Radio Executive and Artist Management. She led the creative team for the Walt Disney Company that launched Radio Disney, essentially igniting the tween music craze that began in 2000. Jones now helps business owners define their brand and reach their audience as the vice president of marketing for Service Nation Inc. You can reach her at


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