Rebranding to Make and Kill Sales

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In the course of stumbling through the internet I happened upon this gem from The Guardian:

In a nutshell, in 1979 someone got the ‘brilliant’ (note the sarcasm) idea of blowing up disco records between baseball games in Chicago.

It seems the people who made and sold rock and roll records weren’t happy about the competition they were facing from the disco artists.

And for that matter, straight white people weren’t happy that non-white people and gay people were making and selling music, either.

But that’s not why I mention this.

If you read the article, you’ll notice there were two competitors in the marketplace: Rock and Disco.

Rock had been around for a while and Disco was the market disrupter. The rock industry and rock disc jockeys were mad and wondered, ‘How do we kill off the competition?’

Simple: Make it ‘un-cool’ to like, buy or be affiliated with Disco.

They did this in part by staging the gimmicky event of literally blowing up disco records. DJ’s told people to attend the game and bring a disco record from home. Many, many people brought non-disco records made by black artists, too.

The entire premise of the event was to demonstrate that disco sucks, and it was effective. They even created a riot to bring home that message. Yes, a riot after the explosion to show just how supposedly mad people were that disco even existed.

And it worked, too, because by 1980 there were no longer any disco records being made.

Or were there?

As the article points out, Madonna and Michael Jackson were indeed disco. They simply did not call it disco.

In fact, many recording artists from the 1980’s and right through to today use a disco beat.

And therein lies the rub.

If your competitor has a product you want to wipe out, you might stage a symbolic event to ‘kill’ it. Lay the groundwork via social media and if you get the groundswell of support, go ahead and hold the event online, in person or better still, both.

And if your competitor succeeds in trashing your product or product category, then you simply need to rename it and keep going.

Think of two identical books with two very different titles. One title sells a hundred copies. The other title sells ten million copies. The only difference? The title.

What power does a name have? Everything. Madonna and Michael Jackson were two of the biggest recording artists of all time. But if you had tried to sell their music under the label of “disco”, then odds were almost no one would have bought it.

Disco never died. It just got rebranded.

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this post as PDF to read at your leisure


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