Friday, December 28, 2007

Guitar Hero + Slash + Chrome Hearts inspire Awe & Loyalty through Authenticity

If you know me even the least bit, you know that the things that I am into on a personal level typically garner the same level of fanaticism as my work.

Anyone who has spent more than 10 minutes with me over the last 3 years surely knows at least the following 3 things about me.

1. I "enjoy" Avalon during the summer months.

2. Guns N' Roses is my undisputed favorite band of all time.

3. I was never more excited to work with any brand more than I was when I signed Chrome Hearts. (Sorry Trump. Close second.)

For those of you who do not know:

Chrome Hearts in my opinion is the epitome of a luxury lifestyle brand that is successful on their own terms. They have been around since the late 80's and for the longest time have escaped the radar of the main stream by design. The goods (Jewelry, Apparel, Furniture, Crystal) are sophisticated and as high quality as they are high priced. They are aspirational in all senses of the word and they cater to the elite crowd through their 10 stores around the world. Their creedo is "F*ck You" and that sentiment adorns everything from their product to their marketing strategy. You have to love it. I do. I can't go to New York without hitting their store on 64th St and buying something I don't need.

Some CH Rings.

I first discovered them about 4 years ago and a few years later was fortunate enough to land them as a client. I had multiple visits to their L.A. HQ and got to go behind the scenes and spend time with all of the people in the CH family who contribute to their culture and identity including their founder. I'll never forget that during the first meeting I had with them, their founder had to cut out of our 3 hour meeting early because his 2pm was Nicky Hilton who had been getting antsy waiting for us to finish. Just a really cool experience all around set right in the heart of Hollywood.

I had been a big fan before, but once I got to get my hands dirty and got to hang out with them, they had a fan for life. Its the hardest I had to ever consciously try not to "geek out" repeatedly during a client meeting.

People who identify with them can only describe the experience as something akin to the affinity they would feel for their favorite rock band. The weird part is they don't make music they make jewelry... and boxer briefs that cost $60 bucks a pair among other things. (Yes I own some :-\)

My point in all of this is really related to the authenticity issue that I typically encounter on a regular basis and it always annoys the heck out of me. My biggest pet peeve is that half-way feeling that always seem to happen when you have an interaction with a brand or product that is skewed from its normal positioning or slightly modified for a broader appeal. Think the combo KFC-Taco Bell-Pizza Hut restaurants. Separately great (for fast food), but together they equal abbreviated menus, soggy tacos and stale biscuits. Like kissing your sister.

Now let's go 180 degrees take a look at Guitar Hero. To the surprise of everyone it actually took 3 installments and a sprinkling of Slash from GNR in the game for me to dust off my PS2 and buy my first video game since college.... And to the surprise of no one, I beat the game and became completely addicted to it in a matter of hours.

Now being a die hard fan of GNR and Chrome Hearts, when I finally unlocked Slash in the game I was interested to see what level of detail the game developers maintained when porting the rock legend into a video game character. My expectations were not high, but Slash and CH are pretty tight and its no secret that Slash wears CH gear on a regular basis.
Here is where the shock comes. I am going to go on record and be the first person to point out that for once somebody got it right. Slash is absolutely wearing the classic Chrome Hearts Oval belt buckle in all platform versions of the game. Needless to say I was pretty amazed, along with probably being the only person who in America who would play a video game and check out a characters jewelry for correctness. My girlfriend just looked at me and shook her head as I reveled in my moment.

Slash in-game, with magnified belt buckle.

The real belt buckle.

I wouldn't have spent an hour to write this if Slash was wearing generic gear - I wouldn't have been shocked at all - it is just a video game. But that extra authenticity has now even further transformed me into an evangelist of Slash, CH, and now also Neversoft, who makes Guitar Hero.

Whether it is Chrome Hearts, Guitar Hero or Pizza Huts, the consistency of the brand experience and living up to consumer expectations is paramount in maintaining the a customer's loyalty and opinion of your brand. What truly sets the great brands apart is their attention to that detail. It still shocks me when the big guys screw it up both online and off.

Every day my brand and business strive to make that same impact on our customers. I know other smart marketers do the same.

I'm also kinda hoping that CH sends me a belt buckle at cost for the glowing press. I don't really feel like dropping $1500 on a belt right now. Sheesh.

Anthony Bucci

ps - I know that was a long winded way to make a simple point, but I do love reliving that CH story. Also all the images I used came from google.

1 comment:

GJ said...

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