Marketing Lessons from Billy Gibbons

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top
Photo by Alberto Cabello from Vitoria Gasteiz (ZZ Top)
[CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
What can Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top teach you about marketing? Maybe a lot.

Pat O’Bryan recently wrote about some lessons Billy taught him during a photo session. There were several good points, and you should check out Pat’s post to read them. The one that struck a nerve with me was near the end:

He’s…created a persona. The Billy we hung out with during the photo shoot was all business. No BS at all. But, when he’s being interviewed, Billy falls into character, and that character has been consistent for over 40 years.

Billy Gibbons has created a public Billy Gibbons who is not exactly the same as the private Billy Gibbons. He has built that public persona into a brand that is instantly identifiable.

Pat says that he may fall short in this area himself, that he is “the same guy all the time, whether it’s speaking to hundreds of people at a seminar or sharing a beer with my buddies at the American Legion Hall in Terlingua.” And that has, by his own admission, probably cost him money.

There is a lot of emphasis put on being real and being yourself, and that is important. But with a caveat. Your public face needs to be a revved-up version of yourself.

I think of it this way: When I am presenting a workshop to a roomful of people, or even speaking one-on-one with a client or doing an interview, I need to be “on.” I have to be High-Energy Cathy. The information I present is what I truly believe is most valuable to my audience, whether that audience is thousands of people or just one. The opinions I express are my own. I am presenting one aspect of my real self.

You do not have to be phony to have a public persona. The difference between Cathy and High-Energy Cathy is one of style, not substance. I believe that I have an obligation to my audience to keep them interested and engaged, so I turn in to High-Energy Cathy to do so.

The point about Billy Gibbons and his persona is more than just how he acts in public vs. in private. When you think of Billy Gibbons, a fully-formed character pops into your mind. First you probably think of the look: The beard, the hat, the “sharp-dressed man.” You also think of guitars and hot rods. There is an edge, an element of danger. It is evident in the character he plays on Bones—a character clearly based on Billy Gibbons, rock star.

Billy Gibbons has created a Billy Gibbons brand. You know right away what you are getting. This persona contains elements of the real Billy, but the two are not exactly the same. You might think of Billy Gibbons, Rock Star as the larger-than-life version of Billy Gibbons. As the times have changed, elements of Billy’s brand have changed and evolved without losing the essence of Billy.

Can you do this in your business? I have been thinking about this a lot lately. My business has changed a lot over the years, and my brand has been lost in translation. My business is still successful, but nowhere near as successful as it could be with a strong brand identity.

Branding is not phony. Customers can spot a phony a mile away, right? We have all seen and recognized phony-baloney marketing that doesn’t pass the smell test. Something about it just didn’t seem right. The pieces didn’t fit together.

Customers hate dishonesty. Your brand can be genuine and honest while also being larger-than-life. Like Billy Gibbons.


  1. says

    Thanks for an interesting article that raised some good points. I’m enjoying cruising around your website and must say, you’ve really done an excellent job of putting it together. I feel like setting mine adrift, after checking yours out. I have a lot of work to do on my fledgling site and as I have no experience in this sort of thing, must excercise patience and diligence in trying to figure things out.
    Good luck in all of your endeavors.
    Richard Myers

    • Cathy Stucker says

      Thanks, Richard–I’m glad you like the site. Keep working on your site, adding content and keeping it up, and you will have a great site. This one has been a work-in-progress for more than 14 years (so far).

      Thank you for the comment!
      Cathy Stucker recently posted…A Simple SEO ChecklistMy Profile

  2. BrianT says

    In terms of a “look” for your public persona, even something as simple as a hat could do the trick. I’m sure that Matt Drudge doesn’t really wear the hat that gives him that old-timey newshound look when he’s not being the “public Drudge”.

  3. Samantha says

    This could be applied to blogging too, for example my blog took off once I abandoned my boring real life self and became more enthusiastic about everything. I wouldn’t say that was the fake me, but it certainly is a different persona from my offline self. At first it was weird, then it became interesting, to eventually that it became really fun to live a double life. My readers think that I’m a certain type of a person and I am that when I’m online, but not really offline. In the end though is all about success and adding a different persona to my blog has taken my blogging career onto a different level.

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