AC/DC Without Brian Johnson Or Angus Young?

I was in the middle of writing a 2nd edition of«The AC/DC Strategy» (in German «Das AC/DC Prinzip» when the news about singer Brian Johnson having to stop hit. The major change to the 1st edition was to include the following thoughts, which arose already when rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young was replaced by his nephew Stevie Young. No true fan of AC/DC would have thought AC/DC could continue without Malcolm Young. But then they did and even released a new album, the first one without Malcolm. In my opinion «Rock Or Bust» is even one of their best albums ever. Can the members of AC/DC be replaced without damage to their brand?

The current discussion and wild rumors about AC/DC hiring a new singer made me wait with the 2nd edition and reconsider these thoughts and the discussion I had with the new (and former) rhythm guitarist Stevie Young in June 2015. I will not comment on any of the rumors but the question whether Brian Johnson can be replaced without AC/DC becoming their own tribute band is keeping the fan community busy and concerned.

If the band continues their current tour without Brian Johnson many of their most loyal fans – most of them since three decades – will either sell their tickets or go and watch the new band only as a reminder of «the real AC/DC» they once celebrated. Is there a way to replace Brian Johnson without such a «damage»?

As I have shown in my book «The AC/DC Strategy» AC/DC has a strong, simple and very clear concept of who they are, what music they play, how they interact with their audience and who their audience is. In general my analysis has shown that they follow the 14 Strategic Campaigning Guidelines, as far as one can tell from the outside.

But is AC/DC a concept band that has the power to replace Brian Johnson without damage to their brand and fan community? – I don’t think so, unless they change a few things, especially their current communication.

In my understanding a concept band would be a band following a clear concept of who they are, which music they play and how they interact with their fans, with members that can be replaced without damage to the brand. In a concept band individuals do not count; only the roles they play. These roles must be clearly defined.

In this understanding AC/DC as we know them cannot be a concept band. First of all, as Stevie Young expressed it when we talked: Angus Young cannot be replaced. If he stops, AC/DC stops.

Second there is the fact that AC/DC had more or less – with short interruptions – the same members for more than three decades now. And when in 2014 two members had to be replaced, the band came back with the same musicians who replaced them earlier temporarily.

Loyalty is a core value of the AC/DC brand. This does not mean that it is also a value of the band. A brand is more what an audience perceives about a company, organization or product, not what it truly is. However, if a brand value is not reflected by visible corporate behavior, the brand will be damaged.

As a consequence of loyalty being a brand value, it has become one of the core values of the AC/DC fan community. If being an AC/DC fan makes a person more loyal or if AC/DC simply attracts loyal people does not matter in this context. But true AC/DC fans are loyal as much to their friends as they are to the band’s individual members. We know who these members are and if there is another guy on stage this will not go unnoticed. Should Brian Johnson be replaced without transparent and understandable explanation, many fans will turn away from the band. This has been expressed in endless E-Mails and online discussions.

Can AC/DC continue to provide the world with AC/DC-style hard Rock’n’Roll music, even if the remaining members one day have to be replaced, can AC/DC turn into a concept band without damage to the brand and the fan community?

In order for this transformation to succeed, the following conditions must be met:

  1. AC/DC must publicly respect the value of loyalty: Ideally Brian Johnson should be the one to announce his successor. At least he must publicly express his support. This is the only way to assure acceptance by the most loyal part of the fan community and give the new singer the authority to step into Brian’s and Bon’s footsteps. It would also demonstrate respect to the value of loyalty and respect to Brian Johnson whose contribution to the band as their singer for 36 years cannot be denied.
  2. Should option 1 be impossible, due to heavy disagreements within the band, then the band must at least provide the fan community with transparent and understandable information – again as a sign of respect to the value of loyalty.
  3. The band should officially announce a new era of AC/DC as a concept band in which individual musicians can be replaced. There is enough understandable reason for this: even Angus has to stop one day and if the world wants to get more AC/DC music it is time to think about a future for the band without its founding members, of which only one is left anyway.

Of course, there will be more things to consider, like legal issues etc. but as far as the brand is concerned and the loyalty of the band’s fan community these few recommendations would serve to make the transformation possible. As a result AC/DC would stand for an idea, for a concept of Rock’n’Roll music that can be further developed and continue to provide the world with the music and emotions that AC/DC stands for.

Should AC/DC replace Brian Johnson without respect to loyalty there is a huge risk of the band becoming a shadow of themselves and touring smaller venues, perceived as their own tribute band – like so many bands did before and are still doing.

It’s a lot about respect. And writing about this: I do respect a lot what Angus, Brian, Bon, Chris, Cliff, Malcolm, Mark (Evans), Phil and the others have done for AC/DC, for us fans and for the heritage of Rock’n’Roll. And out of this respect the world should stop speculating about potential successors for Brian and wait for official information instead.

AC/DC without Briand Johnson and Angus Young? – Hard to imagine but not completely impossible.

Why «The protest movement is failing…»

In a recent arcticle – «The protest movement is failing: it’s fighting the same old battles with the same poor results» – in The Guardian Deborah Doane is asking the question «Does Campaigning fail?» and summarizes her hypothesis with the sentence «Activists’ tendency to turn every issue into a fight against government or big business won’t create long term change.»

While her analysis of the «key reasons why campaigning is failing» is very precise in terms of strategic mistakes, failures and errors, it is at the same time as wrong as one can only imagine.

„Why «The protest movement is failing…»“ weiterlesen

Why you should not believe in success factors derived from success stories

Two years ago a man in Australia found a 5 kilo gold nugget worth some 238.000 Euro. If asked how this happened he may have answered something like «first I went away from the city, then I passed by a forest after which I crossed a meadow before I got to a river». Now imagine you would try to find a huge gold nugget. Would you follow the same pattern and try to find a forest away from a city after which you can cross a meadow? Of course not!

However, when we hear success stories and believe in the success factors we are given by the storytellers, we do exactly the same. We assume that important events along their road contributed to their success and thus they must be success factors.

When we hear success stories we want to believe them because they seem to give us guidance and easy solutions.

We should rather question them critically, try to better understand what really was important and only then draw our own conclusions. But that is the harder way. «It’s a long way to the top if you wanna Rock’n’Roll»…

How it came that I talked with AC/DC about quantum mechanics

It’s no big secret that I’ve been a hard-boiled AC/DC fan for 35 years. And of course I always wanted to meet them in person, but that seemed unattainable.

Last October, the goal seemed within reach. I learned a week in advance that they would be in London to shoot the video for the new album Rock Or Bust. Many of my friends would fly there and can now be seen among the 500 fans who attended the film shoot. But I stayed with my wife, who had her birthday on the same  day and wished herself a motorcycle tour with wellness and hiking, so I surprised her with that. (However, I dreamed all night of AC/DC).

To save our marriage, I told her, she would have to make sure that during the next tour I can snap a selfie of Angus and myself. Of course I could not really expect it, but our marriage had to be rescued.

And so two friends and I took a first attempt on 21st May in Munich. We left the concert before the end and drove to the hotel where the band was supposed to stay. But other than that we got to know Paul Panzer (a famous German comedian), who also stayed there and also waited for AC/DC, nothing happened. It turned out that they were at another hotel.

Well I grabbed the ambition. I put our investigator on the issue, in which hotel they would be in Zurich. However, he was not as fast as my mate André and I together. Two days before the concert we walked around the venue and looked at the stage setup. André met a tour photographer who said AC/DC were going to be at the same hotel as during the last tour. I again knew where that was.

So the next day André drove quite early there and waited outside the hotel. In fact he saw Angus and his wife, but they were shielded. Approximately an hour later he called me again to tell me that he had just received an autograph from Angus. I cursed, because I thought that tis was it now. But André said singer Brian Johnson was still out somewhere and maybe we could meet him when he comes back.

So I rode my Harley there to see what would happen. In fact, Brian came back shortly afterwards. He was immediately surrounded by a dozen fans who wanted autographs and pictures, but then were too pushy, so he left very soon.

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We thought that tis was it now, stayed briefly, but when we were about to leave, I discovered Stevie Young, as he was smoking a few yards away from us and was talking to two people, one apparently from the crew.

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Although he kept looking over at us, he made no move to come over. I thought he might be just too shy. So I waved at him, he waved back, I waved him over, he said goodbye to the two and came to us. We chatted for an hour with him. When he learned that I am a physicist, he showed himself as a physics fan and we talked about interpretations of quantum mechanics and other physical phenomena, about the possibility that we create the world with our expectations and the mythology of the Australian aborigines.

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Of course, his role as a successor to Malcolm Young was an issue, too. He told us how Malcolm had asked him to replace him, but first he asked Angus for his approval. Sad Story …

I told him about my book, «The AC/DC Strategy». This interested him very much. I had tried at noon to deliver to the band five copies, via the hotel reception. But the staff refused to take them, on the grounds that they would admit that AC/DC stayed with them if they would accept the books. Stevie called someone from the crew and asked him to take care of this. What I found especially funny was that he did not want to give him my business card, maybe because the flash in our logo stands not only for interventions, but also for AC/DC. This pleased him particularly well.

business campaigning Profilbild

After about an hour there was a photo session and autographs. Someone asked him about a plectrum. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of them, all seemingly unused, and he distributed them. Then he got one that seemed particular, because he paused, looked at the plectrum and then at me and gave this plectrum to me with the words, «I used this to play For Those About To Rock at the last concert in Madrid. It is totally worn out».

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Then he left us. We thought for a second time, this was it, kept chatting a little further and wanted to leave, as André suddenly said, «Here comes Angus».

In fact, Angus was just very relaxed strolling from the hotel lobby, probably to smoke, saw us, came straight to me and asked, «Are you back again?». I laughed and replied that I had not been there before, but it was nice to finally meet him and shook his hand. After that we chatted for two hours about everything under the sun.

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Of course, I talked with him about my book and about physics. He wondered how I can apply physic in my current job. I replied that the logical-analytical, and creative thinking is very helpful. Others asked him several questions, including about his favorite guitar. Of this he had two, that were built in the late sixties or early seventies, both Gibson SG. He uses them almost exclusively in the studio. One,however, fell during the opening of a cabinet during a tour in Japan, the neck broke, and although it was mended, he can barely use it because it sounds different now. While an electric guitar wood body should have no effect on the sound, Angus thinks that the timber body has an impact on how you play the guitar and therefore an indirect influence on the sound.

Another issue discussed was the radio transmitter between guitar and amp, and how Malcolm in New York tested the first  one and was thrilled because it enabled them to play even louder than with a cable. The company that produced it, no longer exists today. He had 11 pieces of it, but with time, the sweat made them all broken.

Then we still came to the special sound of AC/DC which no other band can imitate properly. In my opinion next came only the band ’77 from Barcelona, in their original composition. Angus did not know them, although the band once knocked on his doorstep and gave their albums the Angus’ wife Ellen. Angus confirmed what his wife had said back then, that he wouldn’t listen to music younger than the seventies, because he does not want to be influenced by it. Then however, he got curious and I played Big Smoker Pig for him. His comment: «Very close, but they use smaller amps». It continued with stories of how they composed during the seventies in the rehearsal room until exhaustion, so long that actually permanently at least one of them was asleep. Of course, the my other three friends talked to Angus as well. He then signed autographs and we made a photo session and then he left.

IMG_0210 IMG_0216What was I particularly impressed by, was how normal this encounter was. I can now confirm what is written in my book: there is no difference between these world class Rock’n’Roll stars  and their fans, except that the band is on the stage and the fans are in front. Other bands of this caliber would not take so much time for their fans and would not be so easy going. The AC/DC strategy relies very heavily on modesty, loyalty and service mentality. Perhaps this has to do with Melbourne, the place that accelerated their career, and where the common saying of service personnel, which one hears, reads: «Wer’e here to serve you.»

After that I saw the two during their stay in Zurich only during the concerts on Friday and Sunday.

But on Monday morning at 7:11 clock in the morning (!!!) – for a rock band surely in the middle of the night – Stevie sent me an e-mail, that at the reception deck an autographed copy of my book was ready for collection. So it was. In the evening when I picked it, the hotel staff told me that the band had left in the morning. Next time I’m going to see AC/DC it will be in a different light. But above all, my marriage is saved 🙂

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business campaigning Switzerland is now business campaigning

business campaigning ProfilbildThe reason
During the last 14 months my company business campaigning Switzerland GmbH has grown from a team of 2 employees in Switzerland to a team of 7 in Switzerland and 3 in Germany (Saarland, to be precise). With the new team and international direction, and also because our company, skills and offerings have developed, the company’s design, which goes back to the year 2007 or 2008, and our claim «Campaigning like Rock’n’Roll» did not make sense any more.
We needed something new and today we are happy to present what our Brand Identity & Strategic Design team created. It is more than a new logo and a new claim. There is a whole concept behind it, the development of which started in 2012. Creating a great design requires a lot of time.
The words
Our new claim «Strategic Support» expresses the fact that we are strong in strategic consulting as we are when it comes to putting a strategy into action. As our main differentiator is the ability to accomplish seemingly impossible missions we are ready to provide our clients with whatever they need to be successful. Whatever it takes.
Achieving a «mission impossible» for our clients is very often more like «with our clients» and it requires another working relationship than a traditional client-service-provider relationship. This is why we call our clients «partners». And because you should keep things as simple as possible when you try to accomplish an impossible mission we decided to shorten the name. Our company is now simply called «business campaigning GmbH». The new name is simply an expression of Strategic Campaigning Guideline No. 11 (simplicity & simplicity).
The symbols
Campaigning is the product of interventions and communications. It is not either or, it is both. Sometimes it is possible to make people change their thinking, their acting and their attitudes through communications. Sometimes you need more. This is where interventions can become important. An intervention is anything that changes a situation immediately, in its most radical form even without being communicated. It can be a labour union’s strike, a direct Greenpeace action, a change of processes in a company, the incorporation of a new company, a change management process  or a massive price reduction of a product. Interventions are traditionally the domain of management. The campaigning formula that Campaigning is the product of interventions and communications brings management and communications together.
The lightning stands for interventions (and of course also for AC/DC’s singer Bon Scott)
The feather stand for communications.
The cross that they form stands for the mathematical sign for multiplication: interventions x communications.
We are very proud of our new design. It expresses our brand identity in multiple ways and fits perfectly to our strategy. So much that we decided to offer this as a new service.Lorena and Michel form now our team for Brand Identity & Corporate Design. Wait for more.
And now it’s time to go out and visit all the pre-summit Campaigning Summit Switzerland Workshops.

«The place to be for strategic thinkers»

Giovanna de Marco has written an excellent article on the Campaigning Summit Switzerland for the UN Special Magazine on Multilaterism. I got the article today and would like to share it.

Do it with love, no matter what. That is the belief that anything we do must have our brain’s mark and also our love’s imprint. This is also the leading idea of the “Campaigning Summit Switzerland”, taking place in Zurich on 13 March.

Campaigning Summit Switzerland is a great opportunity to gather experts and lovers of communication, public relations, social media, change management and personal development. At this event, new trends and innovations in the field of advertisement campaigning and the art of storytelling as an extraordinary tool to engage people are displayed. We met Peter Metzinger, founder of business campaigning. He and a team of passionate campaigning aficionados created a platform where the not-for-profit, political and corporate sectors, can learn from each other through stories and examples; where they can learn to think “outside the box” and consequently embrace change.

What is business campaigning?

Business campaigning is a management model to achieve change by engaging people. It is also a way of thinking, a philosophy that originated in the strategies of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like Greenpeace, which are accustomed to “impossible missions” with extremely challenging goals, big opponents and tight budgets, too tight for what they deem necessary to succeed.

Business campaigning is the framework for a coordinated series of strategically planned activities or operations to change the behavior and thinking of specific groups of people. It is more than communication.

Question: Campaigning Summit is an event involving different sectors, where multilateralism is the keyword. Can you tell us more about it?

Answer: We have representatives coming from many fields such as public relations, advertising, NGOs, political campaigning, social media, change management. A mixed crowd with one common denominator: achieving change by turning target groups from opponents to supporters of a goal. It is a true hub to connect professionals from the non-profit and business sectors.

Q: You have been creating campaigns since 1982. How does your background as physicist help or influence your approach?

A: My two first campaigns were against a paint sludge landfill outside our village and against written tests during my physics studies at the University of Heidelberg. As a physicist you learn to analyze very critically any assumption and to be extremely precise in how you define things. This way of thinking helps me a lot when it comes to deeply understanding the initial situation and to defining the goals of a campaign. Too many campaigns are based on an insufficient situation analysis or goals that have not been clearly defined. These campaigns are doomed to fail in general. The mechanisms of campaigning, of course, I did not learn at university but trough experience “out in the field”.
Q: What is the main goal of the Campaigning Summit Conference and what can we expect from such an event?

A: 
Our mission is to bring together people who are interested in the latest state-of-the art approaches to change management and communications. Our objective is to offer a platform for inspiration, networking and learning from each other, especially from representatives of other professions who need answers to similar questions, such as: “how do I engage people to help me achieve my goals?” and “how do I make people change their behavior or their way of thinking?”.
Q: Why is it important to attend the conference?

A: For networking, inspiration and knowledge exchange between professionals. For instance, marketing specialists can learn from change management specialists, public affairs experts can learn from social media experts and the other way around. The feedback we received from the past Campaigning Summits was that there are many marketing conferences, but none of them is as inspiring and useful as the Campaigning Summit Zurich, now called Campaigning Summit Switzerland.
Q: What will make campaigns successful in the future?

A: 
Social media have brought us new dimensions that strengthen the way of campaigning. Authenticity as prerogative will become even more important, not only because of the increased transparency that comes along with social media but also as a result of issues like the National Security Agency scandal. The space for manipulation is strongly reducing.

Just as important is a new way of thinking. Not only do we need to use networks, we also need to think in networks. This thinking is called “Relational Thinking”. It is about the relation between people, organizations, different communication channels and professions. If we understand relational thinking, we are ready for the next phase of marketing, communication and corporate strategy.

You can download the article here.

«Connect to‘ vs. ‚Connect» – I couldn’t write it better. And we want more!

I love Seth Godin’s blog. He really knows how to express things in a simple way and how to give you new insights by focussing on what really counts. Yesterday I read a post titled «Connect to‘ vs. ‚Connect».

Since splitting from Campaigning Summit Vienna we have been re-thinking the whole event, working out what is different between an Austrian and a Swiss approach, what is the Campaigning Summit Switzerland’s particular identity, what makes it different from other, similar events.

One thing is the Swiss mentality of course, influenced by the Swiss campaign’s against Austrian occupation, our rejection of authorities and «titles» and our direct democracy.

The Swiss mentality matches exactly with how we planned the event already back in 2004, long before the Campaigning Summit Vienna, which reflects more the Austrian style of having a leader and a crowd of followers. That doesn’t work here, of course. Our approach is to build and maintain a community, or a «tribe», as Seth calls it.

Seth’s blog post explains precisely the direction in which we plan to go with the Campaigning Summit Switzerland. I couldn’t explain it any better.

When you connect your customers or your audience or your students, you’re the matchmaker, building horizontal relationships, person to person. This is what makes a tribe. People caring about people. Side by side, multiplying exponentially.

We, the team of business campaigning Switzerland GmbH, want to be the matchmakers. We want to bring all people together who love Campaigning as a way of thinking, planning and delivering change. We want to provide a platform for networking, inspiration and learning from each other. That’s is. Campaigning Summit Switzerland.

To learn more, please read Seth’s post:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2015/02/connect-vs-connect-to.html

Let’s discuss this at Campaigning Summit Switzerland 2015: www.CampaigningSummitSwitzerland.com – We have 140% registrations compared to last year at the same time. But we want more! Better get your ticket now.

«Washington’s New Blitzkrieg and How Integrated Campaigns Could Help Swiss Banks»

Our US-Partner Sid Balman published an article today in Switzerland’s leading blog for the banking industry: «Washington’s New Blitzkrieg and How Integrated Campaigns Could Help Swiss Banks»

The virtual artillery barrage the US Justice Department launched recently on the heart of Switzerland’s banking center – Zurich’s venerable Paradeplatz – shattered a peace agreement for which the Union Bank of Switzerland had paid dearly. (…) It has become clear that the Obama Administration is employing a campaigning approach that relies on an overall strategy – tied to short, medium and long-term goals – as well as a determination not to stop until they are successful. Swiss banks will continue to be frustrated until they arm themselves with the same types of campaigning “weapons” as the Obama Administration. (…) What is required is a toolbox containing integrated online and offline strategies tailored to grow a community of supporters that can move those who influence an issue. (…)

Read the full article here. Sid confirms what we wrote already in our Campaigning Summit Switzerland media release of 17th November:

Campaigning Summit Switzerland: Stop the Nett-Working! (English: nice, friendly, polite)
When it comes to campaigning the USA play a pioneering role — employing a holistic approach where all the stops are pulled to reach a particular goal. In Switzerland on the other hand the focus lies on Nett-Working (English: nice, friendly, polite) which quickly leads to a defensive style of communication.

I made it my mission to raise awareness for my hypothesis that there must be players in Washington D.C. with a hidden agenda who are actively campaigning against our finance industry and that the only cure can be to apply the same approach, in a pro-active way, from a position of sovereignty instead of from a defensive position as it has been so far.

That is the reason why Sid is going to give a speech during the Campaigning Summit Switzerland «Seize the conversation in Washington — Don’t build you strategy on a House of Cards.» (Program)

And why we shall also have a workshop on this topic the night before, during which he wants to learn what the practical problems are and work on solutions which will be included in his speech the next day:

«How to make your voice heard in DC – practical insights» (Link)

Admission to the workshop requires a Campaigning Summit Switzerland ticket or an official invitation by business campaigning Switzerland GmbH.

www.CampaigningSummitSwitzerland.com

Did nobody tell Philipp Maderthaner that Switzerland is not part of the European Union?

Yesterday a registered letter from the District Court of Zürich made my day. I had to laugh out loudly.

The letter informed us that Philipp Maderthaner had tried „by means of a precautionary measure“ to prohibit us the use of the term Campaigning Summit in Campaigning Summit Switzerland and even demanded to shut down our website. As justification, he claims to own a registered trademark «Campaigning Summit». However, dear Philipp, if you read this, that trademark is valid only in the European Union… And we invested thousands of hours and Swiss Francs, of our own money, in building it up here in Switzerland…

Of course the court rejected his request! Did nobody tell Philipp Maderthaner that Switzerland is not part of the European Union? (And will never be…)

„Did nobody tell Philipp Maderthaner that Switzerland is not part of the European Union?“ weiterlesen

Philipp Maderthaner And Campaigning Summit Zurich – Facts, Good To Know

I hesitated for a long while with this post. There’s always a backlash when you carry an argument into the public. People believe you or they don’t. And if they don’t, your reputation suffers. But there are two reasons that lead me to the decision to publish some facts about working with Philipp Maderthaner. First of all, I keep receiving questions about the reasons why we ended our partnership with the Campaigning Bureau Vienna. Second, those who intend to organize a Campaigning Summit in their city, can learn from our experience. 

„Philipp Maderthaner And Campaigning Summit Zurich – Facts, Good To Know“ weiterlesen