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March 16, 2009
Integrated Marketing. For Guns and Roses, “it’s so easy.” For Ad Agencies, Not So Much.
 
In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry, a main character gets his car jacked by a young gang-banger. Without playing spoiler, let’s just say the relationship takes an unexpected turn.
 
It so happens the young gunman is also an expert at guerilla marketing. When not stealing cars, he designs and puts up posters for bands and the like, all of it illegally. I’ll come back to that…
 
But to another book: I’m halfway through the wonderfully debauch expose of Guns ‘n Roses, “Watch You Bleed” by Stephen Davis. Davis also wrote “Hammer of the Gods,” the similar and seminal biography of Led Zeppelin. Both are marvelous, if you go for that sort of thing.
 
Before G&R became famous, we learn that in order to get the word out about his band, guitarist Slash designed salacious posters about upcoming gigs and plastered them all over L.A. A skilled designer, Slash rendered the art and wrote copy: “A rock ‘n roll bash where everyone’s smashed!” Under cover of darkness he papered the hood. In the 80’s, this was how bands got themselves noticed. All the groups did it. This mostly illegal act was called “flyering.”
 
Flyering was guerilla marketing, pure and uncut. A decade later savvy ad folks coined the phrase “wild posting” for essentially the same activity. Indeed, I, myself, executed many successful campaigns for Altoids in just this fashion. Naughty boy, right?
 
What I find amusing is as drug addled as Guns ‘n Roses were (and man were they ever!), they had the concept of integrated marketing down pat. Slash not only designed the band’s iconic artwork and logo, he also knew where to advertise, targeting only hot markets, essentially where the young and shiftless liked to hang.
 
In addition, before releasing their first most famous LP on the Geffen label, “Appetite for Destruction,” the band put out a fake indie record, an EP called “Live ?!*@ Like a Suicide.” Suicide was only available in limited supply and it quickly sold out. The idea was to create a buzz for the band. The crude recording captured a raw unfiltered “concert” of the Gunners before mainstream radio could. It worked, driving existing fans wild while creating countless new ones. The record is now a highly sought after collectible.
 
A teaser campaign? Unofficial pseudo-bootleg? Sound familiar? That’s because it’s the same strategy countless brands, as well as bands, are using on You Tube. Everything about Guns early “marketing” was, when you think about it, a brilliant example of integrated marketing!
 
Axl and Slash barely functioned off stage, let alone on it. Yet, they somehow concocted a brilliant marketing strategy for their brand. And executed it flawlessly. Basically, they just got high and came up with a scheme.
 
Funny, then, how most ad agencies consider integrated marketing so sophisticated that we need armies of experts, costly gurus, as well as myriad proprietary tools just to figure it out. And even then we often fail. Welcome to the jungle, baby!

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Chairman of Euro RSCG Worldwide Chicago, Steffan Postaer is responsible for its overall creative leadership and quality of the creative product. He’s received several prestigious awards, including a Kelly Award, Best of Show, Gold and Silver awards at the One Show, the Addys and a Cannes Gold Lion. Steffan has a novel about god and advertising and posts regularly on his blog, Gods of Advertising. Follow him on Twitter.

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