Marketing Mix-up at the H-Bowl

beatles50The stellar promotion of “The Beatles’ 50th at the Bowl” was almost all for naught when it came to delivering on the advertising promise. The audience expected a performance to match the memories and excitement of The Beatles’ show at the Hollywood Bowl a half-century ago. That promise was not fully delivered.

Why the marketing didn’t deliver

The product (i.e., the show itself) fell far below expectations. Everything from the appearance of the performers to their sound was mostly off kilter.

Here’s what happened: The show started off well enough with famed music producer and announcer Bob Eubanks recalling the day 50 years ago that The Beatles prepared to play at the Bowl. He introduced Dave Hull, another popular DJ at that time, who shared inside stories such as how “Sargent Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” got its name. Eubanks also read a letter from Paul McCartney, which got the audience revved up. The excitement in the crowd was clearly building. Eubanks and Hull told the audience how the original show only lasted about 30 minutes.

The first product delivered at The Beatles 50th at the Bowl was a half-hour performance. Yet, it was nothing like the original one. Instead, it seemed like a vehicle for Dave Stewart to try out new, and sometimes mediocre, singers on an unsuspecting audience. Among these singers were his own children, such as Django Stewart, who had a constant tendency to sing flat. The end result was a mish-mash of amateur singers who looked and played nothing like the Fab Four Beatles who mesmerized the audience 50 years ago. We wanted to see and hear something closer to the original look and feel of The Beatles—not the Dave Stewart’s Family Band. We’re talking here about brand perception.

Country stars sing The Beatles music?

Halfway through the night, the audience had another surprise with Billy Ray Cyrus singing “It’s a Hard Day’s Night.” With his rough growl of a singing voice, he simply wasn’t right for the part. His appearance at this event almost seemed like a half-hearted attempt for Dave Stewart to legitimize his obvious nepotism… Half the singers are my kids, but look! A real-life famous person! Maybe the show organizers should have hired a casting director. The audience obviously wanted English blokes who could look the part and sing like The Beatles. If the show organizers could not find a tribute band that could sing well enough, then maybe they should have auditioned talent from performing arts schools–chock-full of students who can sing and who are raring to find a place on the big stage.

Keeping your word is key

The product you provide is essential to your success as a marketer. In this case, the after-sales service is what made the difference. For many of the audience members, they were left feeling as if they had been had. Good fulfillment of promise attracts new business and helps develop a client base that will be loyal. Many fans who had attended this event at the Bowl appeared to be alienated. To ensure that you keep customers satisfied and coming back for more… you must keep your word. The key thing is consistency in delivering what is promised–every time. No exceptions.

Get to know the real audience

The real issue was that the show planners and performers did not truly know their target audience. They needed “a little help from their friends”— Baby Boomers, teens, and other Beatles fans. If they actually wanted to connect with their audience, they should have taken a giant step back and realized that they were not there to promote the Dave Stewart family or country singers. They were there to put on a performance that truly wowed the target audience. Instead, they were wowing themselves, and delivering some mediocre singing (from the likes of Michelle Branch – who couldn’t seem to harmonize during “Eleanor Rigby” – and a few others).

We expected better. There were a few gems–such as Allen Stone, Martina McCarthy, and even Dave Stewart’s daughter Kaya. Artists such as Liv Warfield and Vanessa Amorosi had impressive and powerful voices, yet their styles simply did not fit The Beatles. A few talented singers and guitarists (including another offspring of Dave Stewart) just couldn’t save this disorganized show.

Mis-connecting with the crowd

If you want to connect with your audience, you really need to focus on understanding who they are, how they think, and what’s truly important to them. The musicians and others who created “The Beatles’ 50th at the Bowl” concert made assumptions. Yet, they didn’t appear to bother checking in with their audience first. It seems that they were blinded by what they believed would sell best for this market. They didn’t consider what the audience at the Bowl that night really wanted. Now it will be a hard day’s night to try to win back this crowd for a future show.

Here’s what we heard around the Bowl

The show creators could have spent a lot less money if they had just started out with a tribute band that looked and felt like The Beatles. (Yes, the guitar playing was excellent in the show. If needed, they could have synced the great guitar music with the veined guitar playing by a tribute band.) They needed to find better male singers, too.

We appreciate the artistry that went into the stage design and the glorious backdrops with illustrations of The Beatles. The effort to put on a show of this magnitude is admirable—as well as the attempt to bring in some powerful performers. These efforts were over-the-top in some instances – albeit misguided – due to lack of adequate research about the target market.

The show organizers and creators will need to do a lot of repair work to regain the trust of this target audience. Otherwise, they may not be getting much or anything back in the future from this disillusioned crowd.

What went wrong with “the 5 Ps”?

Let’s run through the classic marketing basics—the 5 Ps:

Promotion – This drew a sold-out crowd. Check.

Price – The price was right. Check.

Place – The Bowl is convenient and centrally located. Check.

Profit. Yes. Check. Dave Stewart, friends and others likely made a pretty profit on this.

And finally – Presentation. No. Overall, this show did not appear to win the admiration of most audience members. The audience has lost a certain degree of trust and most importantly, loyalty to a future H-Bowl show of this ilk.

Remember, though, that the long-range picture and important piece of the marketing pie is…

Product (and perception of it). Namely, the show itself should meet the need of the customer. It must have the right features:

• Easy-to-use. Sadly, the result was generally not so easy on the ears—-lots of flat singing.

• Of visual interest. Yes, but not the right visuals. (The Beatles themselves–in film clips, in person, or as a cover Band–were noticeably missing!)

• Packaged well. No.

• Served properly. No.

Marketing really encompasses the whole package. If the product fails, then you’re selling an empty promise. This highly anticipated event was marketed as a celebration of The Beatles 50th performance at the Bowl. Essentially, what was delivered was the Dave Stewart family band—along with a patchwork of some known and other not-so-famous artists. It left many people feeling as if they had been hoodwinked. The Beatles song, “Don’t Let Me Down” probably should be have been a rousing chorus sung by this audience.

The Right Destination


I recently saw a surprising gem of a movie called Lunchbox. It was a sweet love story that included scenes of simple, hand-written notes passed through a lunchbox that was erroneously delivered to the wrong recipient. One of the characters in the movie asked why someone would write a hand-written note in this day and age when we have social media such as email. Well, some things are better handled in the old-fashioned way. But that doesn’t mean that social media like Facebook and Instagram do not have their place. Of course they do! But there’s a time when it seems that too many messages posted online might be overkill. Do you feel like your head is spinning sometimes? Maybe you don’t even have time to live the real version–before emblazoning it in some social media form?

Please take the time to smell the roses before you write about them. And be sure to soak in their aroma and enjoy the moment. Before you know it, you’ll be posting it on social media… just like I am doing right now. But I made sure I took the time to enjoy the rose–that it was named the Sunset Celebration™ Rose. This appealing, hybrid tea rose actually was named in recognition of the 100th anniversary of Sunset Magazine. It actually garnered nine international awards that include the Golden Rose of the Hague award.

Now let’s return to the love story from the movie mentioned earlier… those scenes of a paper passed between would-be lovers. Without giving away the story or the ending, it’s a good idea to pick and choose how you will communicate with your intended audience. Yes, some messages can get missed or mixed up. Some means of conveying them from one place to another may have glitches. But one thing for sure, the essence of how social media and other forms of communication might work in mysterious ways is captured in this key line from Lunchbox: “Sometimes even the wrong train can take you to the right destination.” Just be sure you’re on the train at all…

Seeds of social media wisdom

So you’re exploring the marketing landscape… but, where do you begin?

Consider this: Social media – it’s the top marketing strategy. Over 93% of marketers use it to promote their businesses, according to Fast Company. So now that you know that “social media” grows well, then it’s time to…

Compare planting “social media seeds” to the way you would prepare a garden. You’d start by understanding the types of plants that grow well in your area. In other words…

–       Do your research. Discover the needs of your potential customers, and which social media platforms they are using. Know your competition, vendors, and industry. 

After thinking through your options, you’ll be ready to choose your seeds and prepare the soil. 

–       Consider your social media choices. The top five social media platforms include: Facebook. LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and YouTube. Start with three of these, choosing the platforms that best suit your target audience and your products/services.

Figure out how you want your garden to look and what you expect to produce from it.

–       Develop a simple action plan.  Begin by choosing your keywords (i.e. what words or phrases potential customers might put into a search engine to lead them to you). Then set up the platforms that are right for your business.

Now, start digging…



Fast Company: