What Cardiovascular Marketers Can Learn From the Grateful Dead

So, it turns out that the Grateful Dead were social media pioneers.

According to a new book, we can learn some valuable lessons from strategies the Grateful Dead employed to become one of the most successful bands of all time.

Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead, a new book from Deadheads and marketing strategists, David Meerman Scott and Brian Halligan talks about how the band broke popular rules of the time in order to stand out.

“The Grateful Dead can be considered one giant case study in doing marketing right,” says Halligan, HubSpot CEO and co-author of Inbound Marketing. “Not only did they pioneer the freemium business model by allowing concert attendees to tape the show, but also encouraged their fans to build a community, and kept them informed via their newsletters.”

Some examples the book outlines:

  • Rethink traditional industry assumptions – Rather than focus on record albums as a primary revenue source (with touring to support album sales), the Dead created a business model focused on touring. The Grateful Dead teaches us that business model innovation is frequently more important than product innovation.  With all the digital technology available today, there have to be new ways to conduct business in our industry, yet few health care organizations are really doing anything new.
  • Turn your customers into evangelists – Unlike nearly every other band, the Grateful Dead not only encouraged concertgoers to record their live shows, they actually established “taper sections” where fans’ equipment could be set up for the best sound quality. When nearly every other band said “no” the Grateful Dead created a huge network of people who traded tapes in pre-Internet days. The broad exposure led to millions of new fans and sold tickets to the live shows.Often as cardiovascular marketers, we feel bound by privacy concerns and other protocol issues.  What could we say “yes” to, though, that would truly make things different or better for patients?
  • Bypass accepted channels and go direct – The Grateful Dead created a mailing list in the early 1970s where they announced tours to fans first. Later, they established their own ticketing office, providing the most loyal fans with the best seats in the house. The Grateful Dead teaches us that building a community and treating customers (read patients) with care and respect drives passionate loyalty.
  • Build a huge, loyal following – The Grateful Dead let their audience define the Grateful Dead experience. Concerts were a happening, a destination where all 20,000 or more audience members were actually part of the experience. Making fans an equal partner in a mutual journey, the Grateful Dead teaches us that our community defines who we are.

I would argue that few diagnoses touch people and their families as broadly as those in the cardiovascular realm.  I’ve also seen “cult-like loyalty,” much like that of Deadheads, from grateful patients and family members.  Taking a cue from the Grateful Dead seems to make sense.  Involving patients and families in the experience and building in processes that truly make them feel they are valued members of our community could really pay off.


2 Responses to What Cardiovascular Marketers Can Learn From the Grateful Dead

  1. I love this post! Thanks so much for writing it.

    When Brian and I were writing the book, we imagined that the Dead’s marketing could be applied to any industry. Thank you for showing us that it applies in yours.

    Rock on!


    • Thanks for the comment, David. And thanks for sharing valuable insight for all of us. Glad you liked the post. Keep in touch. I’d love to hear more from you guys.

      Take care,

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