What Your Brand Can Learn From Bono

August 16, 2006

I went to a leadership summit last week where Bono was interviewed. Bono talked about his past, the development of his interest in impacting world hunger and AIDS, and the necessity to leverage his celebrity for good. It was amazingly refreshing.

The Bono brand is strong.

What’s interesting about Bono is he isn’t perfect. He is, at times, quite rough around the edges. And yet, at least in this interview, he appeared extremely believable and authentic. Even humble.

What Can A Brand Learn from Bono?
Here a are couple quick observations.

In terms of leveraging his celebrity, Bono is very much focused. Even while making music, he is touching on the very things that he cares about – beyond the melodies he writes – feeding the hungry, justice, searching for a cure for AIDS – all part of his ONE campaign. He also turns down plenty of engagements that are outside of his key areas of focus.

In Good to Great, Jim Collins talks a lot about passion as a key to your hedgehog concept. Bono writes and sings what he is passionate about. Their music backs up what the efforts they support outside of the music industry. Where there is passion, expertise, and solid economic engines, success seems to follow.

BTW, Jim Collins also spoke at this conference and had a nice little revised hedgehog concept that substituted out the “profit” for something more relevant to the non-profit world. The monograph (as he calls it) is called Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great.

Be you
Bono is honest about who he is, what he is good at, and doesn’t seem to try to be anything other than that. Some of our brands could use a strong look at whether we are pretending to be things that we really shouldn’t be. The posers don’t survive in the long run. It’s ok not to be “all things to all people.”

Be good at your area of focus
When Bono became aware of the situation in Africa, he studied, learned, and was able to speak intelligently about the economics, the statistics, and what it would take to make a difference. And, when speaking to this group of 70,000 church leaders, he could show the scriptural basis behind everything he was talking about. He knew his audience well and spoke directly to areas of deep relevance.

U2 isn’t a bad band either. (That understatement is meant to make fans laugh!) In fact, their quality of music is what helped carry some potentially unpopular messages early in their career. For more on that, you should read Walk On by Steve Stockman. Get the new edition.

I’m not really trying to be too academic in my quick little off-the-cuff comparison, but understanding who you are, what you are good at, and what you are passionate about – and then focusing on those areas – can take your brand a long way.

I recommend checking out some of the free resources on Jim Collins’ Web site for more on this. His Vision Framework Core Ideology Breakout Session PDF could do a lot for your brand if you let it.

You may not be a rock star, but maybe you can rock your business with a little focus.

To borrow and twist that annoying phrase from Accenture:

Go ahead, be a Bono.



  1. I like that: the Bono brand. And you’re right, he’s completely sincere about who he is which is refreshing.

  2. They (U2) dont allow any of their music to be used in adverts….
    How is that for brand control?

  3. Well, no brand adverts other than for iPods! (which, btw, was a brilliant way to market their new album at the same time). . .

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