What CMOs (and all of us) Can Learn From David Lee Roth

Ever hear the phrase “The devil is in the details?” Of course you have. Do you know what it means? Well, according to thefreedictionary.com it means “plans, actions, or situations that seem sound must be carefully examined, because minor details can end up causing major, unforeseen problems.”

So, what does this all have to do with David Lee Roth? Well what if I told you it also had something to do with brown M&Ms? Not red, yellow or any other color. But specifically brown M&Ms.

Diva or Deliberate?

It’s hardly a secret that many rock stars, or any singer, entertainer, actor and on and on can be divas with outrageous demands. For example, it was rumored that Mariah Carey once required someone be on call to… dispose of her gum. That was their only job. Hey it if it paid enough, I’m in. These bizarre requests are very often included in what are called Riders, an attachment to a larger contract.

So it’s no secret that celebrities can be, well… a pain in the ass with these demands.

However, not all demands are made equal. Oh no sir, some are made quite deliberately.

The actual rider containing the M&M language via thesmokinggun.com. Note they also called another required item from the band 😊

Here’s an excerpt from shortform.com on the now famous and very true David Lee Roth and the brown M&M story:

Van Halen concerts: Many people have heard the story about rocker David Lee Roth’s insistence that Van Halen contracts with local concert promoters contain an unusual clause. It requires that a bowl of M&Ms be provided backstage, but with all of the brown candies removed or the show would be canceled. In at least one case, the band canceled a show for that reason. The contract was clear: No brown M&Ms.

Roth later explained in his memoir, Crazy from the Heat, that the “brown M&M” clause actually was a test to see whether the promoter had read the details of the contract. Reading the “fine print” was important because the contract was, in effect, a checklist of steps that needed to be taken to set up the stage safely.

If the directions weren’t followed exactly, people could be injured. Roth added the “brown M&M” clause when the group started performing in smaller regional venues where local crews might make technical errors with the set-up. It paid off because in Colorado the local promoter had failed to read weight requirements, and the equipment would have fallen through the arena floor.

Here’s Davey boy explaining in detail the origins of the brown M&M story.

Details, Details, Details

By now you should know where I am going with this and the lesson imparted by this story. Well there are actually many lessons to be learned from this but I will share one: Never assume.

Ok, perhaps that is a tad overly simplistic but think about it: As a marketer how many times do you assume something? How many times do you assume that just because something has worked in the past it will work again?

How many times do you truly pay attention to the details? You know the details that can very often get overlooked such as dates – when an email campaign is supposed to go out? Or perhaps you assume that any data privacy issues are good to go or any number of other things.

You need to look at this story from the perspective of the concert promoter for you, just like them, have the most to lose by letting even a single brown M&M into that bowl.

What other lessons can you glean from the brown M&M story?

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