It started on a whim—“What if we went to a bunch of different cities and recorded a song in each city?” It morphed into a one-of-a-kind cross-country road trip, smash hit album, and HBO mini-series called Sonic Highways. As Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl explains, “This isn’t just the making of our most ambitious album; this is a love letter to the history of American music.” And what a love letter it turned out to be! The resulting “musical map of America” is jam-packed with incredible interviews and vintage sound clips, as well as a rocking new Foo Fighters song that viewers see recorded in classic sound studios in each of the eight different cities. When all is said and done, Sonic Highways is absolutely compelling entertainment from one of the biggest bands in the world. Beyond the sheer entertainment value though, Sonic Highways is also a roadmap for modern content marketing.
Key Elements of Content Marketing Success
In an age of music where even the biggest bands in rock must find new ways to get their message to the masses and ultimately drive sales, content marketing becomes the platform for energizing the fanbase and reinventing the brand experience. After crisscrossing the country and getting firsthand access to some of America’s greatest and most legendary musical talents, what lessons can we learn from what I affectionately refer to as “Dave Grohl’s Bootleg Guide to Content Marketing”?
By choosing a unique studio in each city, and then digging into the musical roots of that city, the band developed a strong local connection, and an appreciation for local products, people, places, and things. This local immersion created a feeling of shared values and unity while also allowing the band to absorb the unique culture and influences of each city.
The content of Sonic Highways spans across TV, music, live online events, and local venues, providing an incredible range of related experiences, access, and participation with the content. This multidimensional approach signals a new era of media in which “the product”—as a distinct show, album, or concert—is secondary to an overall content network of shared experiences that are seamlessly woven together across platforms and shared between different audiences.
The Sonic Highways HBO show was not tightly edited to create the illusion of perfect rock star gods effortlessly writing one hit song after the other. Instead, the scenes exposed the very core of the band, who they are, how they became who they are, and what they’re all about. This authentic view helps make the videos a rare and powerful exposé of how the creative and collaborative process actually works.
In each city, Dave Grohl conducts in-depth interviews with other bands and local avant-garde pop icons. From these interviews, he then weaves together a song that highlights their idiosyncrasies and charms. For both hard-core local fans and the wider national audience, this approach delivers incredible richness as well as a deep personal connection.
The Foo of Sonic Highways and Healthcare
So, what can Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters’ inspired musical road trip suggest to us regarding new and different ways of approaching marketing in life sciences and healthcare? It turns out that the musical journey across America also sheds many valuable clues for addressing the challenges facing our healthcare system:
Festivals and Fan Clubs
One of the remarkable aspects of Sonic Highways is the way in the band is able to generate an almost instant rapport with the local studios and musical icons. At the end of the day, music is the common element that connects the band to other bands as well as their respective fans. Likewise, while healthcare practitioners and providers are linked via science, at the end of the day the focus needs to be on creating harmony between individual patients, patient communities, and HCP associations.
Dial Up the Media Mixing Board
It would have been easy for the Foo Fighters to stay within the typical “band experience” and go on an eight-city tour, trying to connect with fans in the typical large stadium venue. Instead, they moved outside their comfort zone, and redefined how and where they would practice their art by connecting with fans in their living rooms many times over the course of two months. Medical practitioners and healthcare marketers can embrace the same “outside the concert” mindset, and consider ways of reaching patients in altogether new and original ways with a meaningful cadence—whether that means online, TV, mobile, social, eBooks/ePub, physical spaces, and even live event experiences.
Find the Right Harmony
A compelling marketing message can be every bit as creative as writing a song. In both cases, success depends on gathering the right team members, generating positive working conditions, and working with passion and dedication. This level of creativity requires authenticity and engagement, so you can make that emotional connection with patients or fans as the case may be. If people are just showing up and going through the motions, then great chart-topping results will be few and far between.
Strike a Personal Chord
By diving into the details of particular musical icons in each city, the Foo Fighters are able to create a message that resonates with purpose and leverages the distinct context—personal info, geography, environment—of the people and the city where they’re playing. For healthcare providers and healthcare marketers, this level of connection and context is increasingly important as regional differences in health plans and coverage continue to shape the overall healthcare experience, as well as health outcomes.
Dave Grohl sums up the quality of human connectedness that music can bring. “The thing that will never go away is that connection you make with a band or a song where you’re moved by the fact that it’s real people making music. You make that human connection with a song like ‘Let It Be’ or ‘Long and Winding Road’ or a song like ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ or ‘Roxanne,’ any of those songs. They sound like people making music.” This same connectedness is what healthcare providers and marketers need to strive for, staying in tune with your audience and making a human connection across various channels.
At the end of the day (or tour), content marketing is more than delivering messages via multichannel. It’s about crafting an original story that audiences truly value and also reinforces brand affinity. As Dave Grohl says, “this is about the musical journey,” not about selling Foo Fighters or their latest album. Ultimately, the takeaway for healthcare marketers as they take their tour down the content highway is to make the story or message about the patient journey, turn the amps to eleven, and craft a customer experience that rocks legions of fans!