Salt, Sand & Sales: Marketing Lessons from Jimmy Buffett

19 08 2010

Jimmy Buffett is not only a popular singer/songwriter (of more than 40 years); he is also an author and movie producer. But beyond that, he is a successful businessman involved in a number of enterprises, including two popular restaurant chains, the Margaritaville satellite radio station, a line of food and beverages, a hotel and – a personal favorite of mine – Land Shark Lager beer.

Adored by his parrot head fans, Buffett portrays himself as a perennial beach bum. But don’t let him fool you – he’s also a successful capitalist.  He often turns up on Forbes magazine’s list of wealthiest entertainers, but beyond his entertainment gigs, he has been involved in everything from selling footwear to designing sport fishing boats. And all the while, he seems to be having the time of his life.

Here are six marketing (and life) lessons that can be learned from Jimmy Buffett’s success:

  • Build the brand – Jimmy’s career took off after almost 10 years of making music, when his breakthrough hit, “Margaritaville” was released in 1977. The song resonated with audiences of all kinds and became the anthem for people who wanted to escape their humdrum lives for the carefree, relaxed beach bum lifestyle. The Margaritaville brand  ( has been built around and caters to this lifestyle – and now extends to everything from tequila and rum to restaurants and from a radio station to apparel … and more. The brand promise: a balmy beach breeze, a cool beverage, and a brief escape from the pressures of daily life.
  •  Build community – Reaching out to those craving the lifestyle the Margaritaville brand represents, Jimmy knows his customers – who span a broad range of ages, incomes and musical tastes – and caters to their desires. He goes out to meet and interact with them, as for almost 35 years Jimmy has crisscrossed the country to play for his fans (he is currently on his “Under the Big Top Tour”). In between these yearly tours, which he likens to the annual visit of the circus, he stays in touch with his fans through a wide range of communication vehicles and activities: including websites, emails, newsletters, radio promotions, TV specials, and of course, new albums. 
  • Never give up – Jimmy recently acknowledged that the first Margaritaville Café, started in Gulf Shores, Alabama, didn’t work out so well. But, undeterred, he started over with a café in Key West, which became the flagship of a thriving chain of popular watering holes, and the rest is history. “Quitting doesn’t enter my mind,” he once said. Another note about keeping at it: Although he started performing in his 20s in the 1960s and produced more than 30 albums (including eight gold and nine platinum albums), Jimmy didn’t have a #1 album until he was 57 years old.
  • Don’t over think – Jimmy has often said that people who think too much before they act, don’t act much. Do your homework, but be decisive. If you wait too long, the opportunity may pass you by. As his song, “Oysters and Pearls” says: “Some (people) make the world go round; others watch it turn.” Clearly, Jimmy’s success comes from action. 
  • Give back – Jimmy has been a champion for a number of charities – supporting causes that range from saving the manatees to helping hurricane victims and from helping children and the disenfranchised to trying to spark the Gulf Coast economy after the recent BP oil spill. Doing good for others is never the wrong thing to do, as it helps to build community and goodwill. 
  • Be positive – Jimmy said it takes no more time to see the good side of life than it takes to see the bad. Same goes with a business situation. He seems to have a knack for recognizing the good and connecting with winners. But when things went wrong, as they sometimes do, he approaches it positively and makes the best of them in his own inimitable style: “When life gives you limes, make margaritas!

 B2B marketers, as Jimmy would say: let’s rock this boat!


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