Provocative title? Well, not nearly as provocative as the incredible story behind it. This is the tale of how one of the world’s most famous (and infamous) rockers and his manager’s incredible, bold marketing stunt inspired the creation of the Digitalmicdrop.com marketing blog. True story.
Let’s take it from the top…
Alice Cooper, the iconic shock rocker, had very early on in his career made a name for himself as a badass provocateur in the United States with his outrageous rock shows and stage antics that included beheadings among other things.
Alice was over the top controversial and back then, controversy sold tickets. The parents hated him and the teens loved him. Alice and his manager, Shep Gordon, had realized early on that the more controversial stunts he pulled, the more free press they would get (read: free marketing for a poor rocker) – and the more the parents hated him, the more the teens loved him. This exposure, in turn, helped create the myth surrounding Alice Cooper’s persona.
”How do I get people in England to know who Alice Cooper is?”
In the early days of his career, Alice and Shep went through a round of lawsuits with record labels and were strapped for cash. They needed to make some money fast, so they set their aim for London and booked Wembley arena, believing that they would have the same pull with the UK fans as they did in the US. Well, they didn’t. At first.
“It was a 10,000 seat venue. We had only sold 50 tickets. So I thought, how do I get people in England to know who Alice Cooper is?” – Shep Gordon in Supermensch
In a recent documentary, ‘Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon’, produced by Mike Myers, Shep himself talks about how they had only sold 50 tickets to their Wembley arena show. Wembley was a 10,000 seat venue and needed to do something drastic. So they got busy.
The plan: Be provocative, get free marketing through the press, sell tickets
Shep, Alice and the record label whipped out their recipe for ticket sales in the US: Get free press, get the parents to hate him so the kids will love him and presto! Ticket sales! So what did they do? With basically no money in their pockets, their only option was to get free press in the London newspapers.
A truck, a photo of a man with a snake and Piccadilly Circus
In true Alice-fashion they came up with a wild plan that would be sure to make them front page news in the UK morning papers. Alice had at one point been photographed naked with a boa constrictor covering his privates, so the plan was to take that photo, super expose it on a billboard, mount it on a truck and have it break down during rush hour in Piccadilly Circus, one of London’s main arteries. Effectively, they would put the London rush hour traffic to a complete halt.
Ahead of time, they had also notified the British press that something was about to go down to ensure that the press would get good pictures of the broken down truck with the billboard, the show date and time – and a massive photo of a naked Alice and a boa constrictor.
The result of this unorthodox marketing campaign?
The plan worked – Alice made all the major newspapers and the evening news. The next day, the show at Wembley had sold out and after the show; Alice’s rock anthem ‘School’s Out’ made #1 in the charts in England and #1 around the world.
How did this madness inspire the creation of the Digitalmicdrop.com marketing blog?
The Digital Mic Drop marketing blog is all about creative, inspiring marketing and Shep Gordon is a truly inspiring human being and natural born marketer/rainmaker with a one of a kind story. He is also someone who can come up with groundbreaking, creative and disruptive marketing solutions that will turn the talent he is managing into a platinum-selling star and someone who always seem to have his eye on the prize.
When we watched Supermensch for the first time, we were floored by Shep’s story and we wondered: What other amazing out-of-the-box marketing stories are there out there? We need to know – People need to know!
We are not necessarily condoning this type of guerilla marketing, however, we are all about finding new ways of disrupting and creating buzz – and we are all about sharing it with you.
If you haven’t already watched Supermensch, do it. If you prefer to read all about it, Shep’s autobiography ‘They Call Me Supermensch: A Backstage Pass to the Amazing Worlds of Film, Food, and Rock’n’Roll’ is out now.
Shep, thank you for inspiring our marketing blog! Alice, there’s only one like you!
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Peter Helin is the co-founder of Digital Mic Drop as well as a multi-disciplinary marketer. Peter juggles most of the content that you’ll find here on Digital Mic Drop and he is also helping Digital Mic Drop’s enterprise clients to success through consultation on all things digital marketing, copywriting, content creation and SEO projects. Things like that.
If you would like to get in touch, simply shoot him an email on firstname.lastname@example.org.