LIV Nightclub on a Saturday night
I’ve recently noticed that I often get two very different reactions whenever I post that I’m out late at a night club. Many people love seeing my pictures and videos of party-goers having the time of their lives. However, some folks ask me, “Why, as a 40-something, are you still in clubs?” While I do enjoy nightlife, I’m not there for the same reasons that brought me in when I was a teenager trying to blow off steam. My ideas of relaxing these days are activities like fishing, snowboarding, CrossFit, spending time with my family, etc. So that being the case, why with an incredibly busy schedule that barely allows me to sleep as is, do I make time to go to clubs?
When I advise companies, whether huge Fortune 500 brands or boutique operations, these are the types of secrets I share. A long time ago a good friend of mine, who has built many brands, named Chris Latimer, told me, “Companies start to fail when the decision makers at that company make decisions from ivory towers or 30,000 feet in the air.” He was saying that when you stop touching the people, you lose what created you. FUBU was founded on my partners and me being in the streets, and heavily involved in the music scene. We were getting true feedback directly from the consumer and bringing it back to the boardroom. All brand managers and CEOs should do this type of “field research”. Does this mean everyone should go to the club? No, this research comes in different forms. I’m in the club because that’s where my consumer is. You need to find where your “club” is. Maybe you’re a designer and your version of the club is walking the streets of Milan, Amsterdam and Harlem to see what kids are wearing or visiting the factories and seeing how clothing is being made these days. I know some CEOs who go undercover, working jobs at places like CVS, all to see consumer behavior firsthand. The show Undercover Boss documented many of these operations. If you look at my other fellow Sharks: Robert is heavily involved in car racing, that’s where the huge companies that likely need cyber-crime protection are, sponsoring cars. So that’s his club. Cuban is courtside at every Mavericks game. That keeps him around youthful players and fans that he can learn from, and find out what tech services they’re using these days. That keeps him young and informs his business decisions. Lori Greiner, you see her on QVC and they have consumer behavior down to a science. They have up-to-the-second analytics on what she says that users respond to, word for word. So she’s getting feedback from her consumers while the show is happening and can adjust on-the-fly. Barbara Corcoran, goes around the world speaking, so she interacts with people directly. Kevin O’Leary’s club is sipping wine and globetrotting because he deals with the international markets. The world is his club.
My fellow Sharks and I hanging with Jeff Beacher, owner of Beacher’s Madhouse.
I go into a lot of this in my upcoming book The Power of Broke. In it I explain that broke isn’t always about financial problems, because often it’s the people without money who are the most creative. Many business owners slip up because they’re satisfied taking the advice of someone who is really in the streets, instead of doing it themselves. This doesn’t work because they’re getting someone else’s opinion, not forming their own. The Power of Broke for these people comes when they humble themselves and get their hands dirty with their own research.
So this is why I go to the clubs.
When I was first coming up, clubs were very different. For example, these days I’ve observed that trendsetters are really into these daytime pool parties in places like Drais in Las Vegas. So these trendsetters will come out and party all day, go rest, then comeback at night. This means people are spending 12 hours in the club! Then you have places like Beacher’s Madhouse where people go to be entertained by a show like they’ve never seen before. And there are the more traditional clubs like LIV in Miami that has managed to be the hottest club in the country for a handful of years, while most clubs’ life cycles are only a few short years. When you throw in festivals, especially the big EDM properties like Ultra, Electric Zoo and Wave Front, which bring hundreds of thousands of people to an outdoor venue for a whole weekend, you really see how fascinating the culture is.
Lil Jon and I playing some pool
Of course, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Nowadays many DJs, like Lil’ Jon, Steve Aoki, DJ Irie, and DJ Danny Estrella who I’m lucky enough to call friends, are the new rock stars. EDM is the new music of the youth, like hip hop before it, and rock and roll and jazz before that. Just like during the hip hop era, brands are capitalizing on the culture. I have always considered music a major proponent of change. Look at Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine, who sold Beats to Apple for over $3 billion. They didn’t invent anything new but they capitalized off of a cultural trend and found a better way to deliver a product everyone is familiar with, headphones. It’s no wonder Apple was interested. Steve Jobs used this technique, of not inventing as much as perfecting, for decades! He perfected the mp3 player and called it the iPod.
Steve Aoki and I doing an “Aoki Jump” at my office
So in summary, I’m in the clubs because it’s the best focus group out there. People bring their A-game. I want to see where patrons are going, when they come out. How are they interacting with each other? Are they always on their phones in the club? How can we capitalize on that? Is there a new app that goes from table to table that allows you to connect with new people as soon as you get into the club? What accessories are people wearing? Are people drinking? Using or not using drugs? Also, of course, what music are they listening to? Are they laden with brand references? There are many statistics that show how brands, from Versace to Mercedes have seen immediate growth due to these placements. That being said, you may want to find out how much it costs to integrate your brand into a song that you know will appeal to and motivate your consumers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always fun to go out, have a few drinks and enjoy the visual feast of beautiful people dressed up and partying but these days I’m not dancing on top of tables. I’m usually in the DJ booth doing my homework.
If we wanted to access this kind of information about our consumers before, we would have to organize formal focus groups, or just try to follow trends, because we were stuck in the office manning the phones. Luckily, with the way technology is today, any CEO is able to take business on the road while still frequenting their version of the club (golf course, fishing boats, racetrack etc.) touching the people and observing consumers, firsthand.
Do you know what “club” you can find your consumers and when was the last time you took a firsthand visit?
Lucky me with all of the XH girls