A Social Lesson from “The Boss”

It happens to all brands. They hit a moment when something effects their position and they do not know how to react. Something that potentially changes who they are and they are frozen, not sure what to say or how to act. Well take a lesson from “The Boss” – Bruce Springsteen.

The future of the E Street Band was in question when band member Danny Federici passed, and more recently, the crushing blow of the passing of “The Big Man,” Clarence Clemons. After Clemons death, many questioned whether the E Street Band would remain and what the future had in store.

Springsteen’s initial comments after the passing of Clemons were that the band would go on. If there were any questions to this, they were all put to rest in the opening concert of the 2012 Wrecking Ball tour at the Apollo Theater on March 9, 2012. By the fifth song Bruce proclaimed, “We are so glad to be with you tonight …and tonight we got some old friends and we have some new friends with us. But the E Street Band’s mission remains the same. We’re here to bring the power hour after hour … And we’re here to bring a smile to you’re your face. An extra beat to your heart. And to raise your spirits high in these hard times …” There was no question to the fact. The Boss clearly stated the brand was alive and well. (Lesson 1 – reinforce the strength and value of your brand.)

But it did not stop there. The Big Man was on everyone’s mind. Would The Boss address the issue weighing on so many, or would it be swept under the seats for fear of saying the wrong thing or stirring controversy. What do you think The Boss would do? In the same fifth song (My City in Ruins), Bruce did the band introductions. The E Street Band introductions are a legendary part of a Springsteen show typically on the last song of the main set or towards the end. They always culminated with the introduction of Clarence himself. Springsteen would most often precede Clemon’s intro with phraseology like, “Master of the Universe. More powerful than a locomotive. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No. It’s the Big Man on the saxophone, Clarence Clemons.” How would he fill this void?

Springsteen is the master of creating an emotional bond. On a break of “My City in Ruins” The Boss snaps, “Roll call.” Bruce introduces the entire E Street Band on stage – each received with a rousing roar. After all are introduced Bruce softly asks, “Are we missing anybody?” The crowd responds with a light and uncomfortable cheer. Bruce asks again, “Are we missing anybody,” this time with a little more sincerity and purpose. The crowd responds a bit stronger. And then Springsteen asks one more time, with conviction. He has the crowd in his hand and says “That’s right, we’re missing a few. But the only thing I can guarantee you tonight is that if you’re here, and we’re here, they’re here.” He then chants numerous times “that if you’re here, and we’re here, they’re here” as the songs builds back in. The Boss declared the brand/band is not only alive and well but convicted to its audience as well.

Springsteen addressed the change that might have disillusioned his audience. The fact is he did it head on and early. (Lesson 2 – Address the issue and do it in a timely manner.) The end result, new times, new challenges, but reinforced value and emotional bond.

Now you might say, sure you don’t have the legendary Apollo Theater and stadiums across the world to voice your cause. I would also tell you that Bruce did not start playing stadiums. He talks about playing supermarket openings and Veteran’s Halls. He built a long term following.

And what do you have to build a following. You have social media. And if you work to build your craft (as The Boss put it in his keynote speech at SXSW this year), you will have a strong voice and audience using social media.

Social media is your stage. Use it to reinforce your brand. Use it to deliver value and entertainment to yield an emotional response from audience. A conviction from your audience. Use it to take on issues that plague the minds of your target audience. Address issues straight on and timely.

Make It Happen,
Social Steve

PS – You can listen to this entire Springsteen audio segment from The Apollo that I referred to. It was during the song My City in Ruins recorded live from the Apollo here:


Filed under brand marketing, brand reputation, brands, social media, social media marketing, Social Steve, socialmedia, SocialSteve

8 responses to “A Social Lesson from “The Boss”

  1. Alta Cloete

    Wonderful post – for me as a Springsteen fan, as well as an author who has just recently started building her brand.

  2. andy

    Tell it as it is! thanks for the advice.

  3. I also read that during the performance of “10th Avenue Freeze-out”, which mentions Clemens in the line “and the Big Man joined the band”, Springsteen stopped the band cold, and just let the line hang in the air, as the crowd went crazy in a loving, screaming tribute, and he held that silence for minute after minute (the report I read said it was five minutes of steadily building hysteria from the crowd), and then , BAM, a downbeat, and the band was off and finishing a song.

    • Mark – yes, that was a great moment. The mere fact that Bruce was daring enough to play that song and pay tribute to Clarence is courageous and inspiring. Also throw in that Clarence nephew was playing sax. Bruce continues to win me back every time I think he is finished. How many brands an do that?


  4. Doreen Robinson

    And it’s the intelligence behind the brand. from the Rolling Stone interview of Bruce he says “I have a metaphor. look, you’re in a car, your new selves can get in but your old selves can’t get out. You can bring new vision and guidance into your life,but you can’t loose or forget who you’ve been or what you’ve seen. new people can get in but nobody ever gets out: The child from 1950, he doesn’t get out.The teenager, the adolescent boy, no one can get out. they are all with you until the end of the ride,and you’re going to pass a certain amount of them on. the key is, of course who’s driving. on any given day,you’re hoping that one of your better angels is at the wheel”

    this is why I have tickets for his show tomorrow.


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