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8 Things I Learned About Marketing and Leadership from The Ramones

1 – BRANDING MATTERS

Leather jackets, t-shirts, jeans and converse sneakers. That’s it. That was the Ramones’ look. You could not mistake it for anything else. You could see it on the cover of their albums, in their interviews, and of course, in their live shows. The consistency of this uniform made them instantly recognizable and better yet, easily replicated by fans. You could always spot a Ramones fan a mile away.

In addition they would not let you forget who they were. If it wasn’t enough that the band was named The Ramones, the band members adopted the last name Ramone. There was no mistaking who or what they were.

Having a successful brand takes consistency, repetition and accessibility. It does not happen by accident. Take the time to think about what you are trying to do and how you are going to execute it.

2 – THE POWER OF HOOKS

Let’s begin by pointing out the brilliance of shouting ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR before 70% of their songs.  You know it’s coming, you anticipate it and when it’s delivered you know what you are in for. Key word here is memorable. Now let’s review the actual hooks:

Hey ho! Let’s go!; Gabba, gabba hey; Rock, rock, rockaway beach; Pa,pa,pa,pa,pa,pa,pa,pa, I wanna be sedated; Rock n, rock n roll radio! Let’s go!; Rock, rock, rock, rock, rock n roll high school!

A hook needs to be simple. Easy to remember. When promoted you should have it at the tip of your tongue. The Ramones were the kings of big anthem hooks that made their fans not only sing along, but create signs and merchandise all centered around a hook. When the crowds asked the Ramones for an encore guess what they yelled in unison? Hey ho! Let’s go!

As a marketer hooks can be your friend. What will your consumer remember? Will they advocate for it? Will they repeat it? Will you be able to make it bigger than it is? Bet on hooks, a good one can transcend.

3 – WORK HARD

The Ramones did not know how to play. It didn’t matter. They didn’t need to. The showed up with a goal to make music and worked harder than anyone to achieve it. In fact they had a rule that they had to come up with a new song every time they practiced. This allowed them to build an extensive array of songs to go out and play. Which they did… and were horrible. This led them to work even harder. To ensure that their live shows were the best anyone would ever see. As the worked hard they grew better and stronger. Eventually becoming one of the best live bands ever seen.

 Don’t ever be afraid to produce. Even if at first your final product is not what you want it to be. Keep at it. Continue to build your repertoire, get better. There is a reason they call it work and not happy fun time.

4 – IF YOU CAN'T FIND WHAT YOU WANT, CREATE IT

The Ramones were one of the originators of Punk Rock. The legend is that they started playing together because they did not like to listen to all the stuff that was on the radio at the time. Especially Disco. So they decided that if the music they wanted to hear was not provided to them, they would make it themselves. They picked up their guitars, removed all the fluff and created something new and to their liking. They saw a need and they filled it.

 There will be a time as a marketer that you will not be able to achieve your goals by following traditional and established methods. If what is available to you does not fit your needs, create something that does!

5 – YOU CAN BE HUMOROUS AND SERIOUS

So here are some songs by the Ramones: Beat on the Brat, Rockaway Beach, Howling at the Moon, I Want to be Sedated, I Don’t Want to Go Down to the Basement, Now I Want to Sniff some Glue, Judy is a Punk, Sheena is a Punk Rocker, Suzy is a Head Banger. You don’t have to be a genius to see that these songs are not the deepest, thought provoking songs. However, they are fun and catchy and memorable.

Here are some other songs by the Ramones and what they are about:

  • Bonzo Goes to Bitburg – A song criticizing Ronal Reagan for visiting the Bitburg cemetery in Germany where German soldiers (some of them Nazis) were buried. 
  • Planet Earth 1988 – Song depicting the dangers faced by society in 1988 including terrorism, unemployment, crime and drugs and discrimination. 
  •  Censorshit – Song criticizing Tipper Gore’s quest to add “Parents Advisory Explicit Content” to CDs.

Ok, they might have more slapstick than social commentary content, but the point is that you can express yourself however you need to. Don’t be a one trick pony. If you want to be goofy in your messaging be goofy. If you want to be political be political. The point is to challenge yourself to put out what YOU want.

6 – MAKE THE OLD NEW AGAIN

One of my favorite things about the Ramones was that they were not afraid to cover songs. They paid homage to the people they admired and listened to by covering their songs while making the songs their own. Here are some of the Ramones Covers:

  • Baby I love You – The Ronettes
  • Let’s Dance – Chris Montez
  • Do you Want to Dance – Johnny Rivers
  • Palisades Park – Chuck Barris
  • Surfin Bird – The Trashmen
  • California Sun – The Rivieras
  • Needles and Pins – Smokies

They even had an album just of covers called Acid Eaters. If you look at the songs they chose, Punk Rock would not be the first thing that comes to mind. They had the courage and ability to take something old and transform it into something new and completely different.

There is no shame in knowing that there are strategies and concepts that you did not originate. They can be a valuable answer for a solution you are looking for. What is important is to ensure that you treat it right so that you are making your mark and providing your own spin to the concept.

7 – YOU DON'T HAVE TO GET ALONG TO SUCCEED

The Ramones hated each other. HATED. I mean, they didn't see each other when they were dying. That’s how much they hated each other. However, they made it work. They spent over 20 years together making music and performing all around the world.

When Johnny Ramone was asked if he wanted Joey to come to his funeral he said no, he only wanted his friends there. When they asked him if he wanted a different singer for the Ramones he said no, Joey was their singer. There was no Ramones without Joey.

In your career you will undoubtedly be paired with people that you cannot stand.  Some you might even grow to hate. In the end what matters is what your goal is and if that person will help you achieve what you are striving for. You can produce great work if you are able to work together. You don’t need to like each other.

 8 – KEEP IT SHORT AND SIMPLE

1,2,3,4. 3 chords. 3 minute songs.

Hit them hard, make them feel something. Hit them often, make them remember you. Make them laugh. Make them think. Leave them wanting more.

Gabba gabba we accept you. You are one of us.

Andre Wyse Mello

Andre Wyse Mello is a business coach and an avid Ramones fan. He has been in leadership and marketing for over 16 years. To connect with Andre please visit wysecoaching.com.