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Strategy and Songwriting

Artistically Inspired Strategy: Becoming Yourself


Jacq Strumming Guitar

Jacqueline Drew, our CEO/Principal of Tenato, is an accomplished singer, songwriter and bandleader. This blog is based on an entertaining Keynote Presentation she delivers, through voice and song….

The word “strategy” means different things to different people. Most people would agree that it implies big picture thinking about the future, and yet, when applied to marketing, it can be quite a hard concept to get across. Because of this, companies also find it very difficult to answer the questions “Who are we?” or “Who should we become?”

As you may already know, I am a songwriter and band leader as well as being a marketing strategy consultant. And although these may seem like widely divergent skill sets, I am often struck by how similar they are. Developing a strong marketing strategy is eerily similar to creating a song. In fact, I have found that drawing a comparison to songwriting really helps explain the complex concept of strategy through something quite magical, memorable and relatable…showing that anyone can take an artist’s approach to business.


SongwritingAlmost all great songs start from a strong passion or emotion – Anger, Love, Revenge, Humiliation. These emotions are the underpinning reason to write the song in the first place – the reason the guitar gets picked up, the pent up emotion in the middle of the night that just has to be expressed –  like the searching feeling of Neil Young’s, “Heart of Gold”, unbridled rage of Alanis Morrisette’s “You Oughta Know,” the elation of James Brown’s “I Feel Good”! The passion is the reason for the song. Effectively expressing the passion is what makes people reach out and say, “Yeah man, I’ve been there…I feel you” and CONNECTS them to you as an artist, pulling them in, and making them feel understood.

How does apply to strategy? The strategy is the reason for the business to exist in the first place. The founders of that business have experienced something – a problem, a feeling that unmet in the market place. The business is the expression of their understanding of that problem — why they care about it. This is often expressed in a mission or vision that says why this affected you and how you care. If you can express it passionately enough, it will connect with your audience, and they will say that same “Yeah man, I’ve been there…I feel you.” – and they will want to be connected to you as a brand, because they feel understood! And you know what? The customers who are most likely to have “felt your pain” are almost always the best ones to choose as your target customers. (If you aren’t sure what your customers’ pain is about, this is precisely why you must begin your marketing strategy with research…and honestly, professional songwriters often do research too – to understand topics they write about with which they may not have first-hand experience!).

Remember, there is a vast difference between a mission statement that says,“We aim to be the leaders in….(blank) industry,” versus something like “Too often, consumers get frustrated by (situation)…..in fact, this happened to us… and our aim is to….(somehow change the world to stop this)” type approach. There are countless examples — seek out ones that really speak to the passion, and model yours after it.


In a great song, lyrics tell the story, weaving together a beginning, middle and end. But while the story is critical, few people remember ALL the lyrics. What is quite critical is the HOOK aspect of the lyrics. The hook is a line that gets repeated, typically in the chorus, and is the one part of the song that, if people know the song, they will sing it over and over. It also usually becomes the title of the song.


Lyrics by Jacqueline Drew - Lovestruck

Professional songwriters always listen for great hooks, in everyday conversations, in books, in movies — because it really makes the song! Examples are everywhere, but think of “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane, “You Can’t Always Get What you Want” by the Rolling Stones, or heck, why not “Like a Rolling Stone” by Bob Dylan. Without the hook (and in these examples, the hook of the lyric is also the title), and the fact it gets repeated, repeated, and repeated, what would you sing along with?

In a marketing strategy, you need a hook. You need a simple way to sum up your business in a line that is repeated over and over — your slogan. Now many slogans are fun and creative, but a great one also differentiates a company or brand from the competition. Some of these slogans would also make great song titles, “Just do it” by Nike, “The real thing.” by Coca-Cola….keep repeating your hook in your marketing strategy, and eventually the point will sink in with your customers.


Without the music, a lyric would simply be a poem. While poetry is beautiful, there are few people who can recite entire poems. However, the average person knows hundreds of songs. Why the vast difference? Because of the music — the artistic addition of music facilitates the memory of the message.

Musical Chart for Exception by Jacqueline DrewAs a business, aren’t you trying to get people to remember your message? Sure. So why not use artistic elements?

Now, you might decide to use music in the form of a jingle. But there are other artistic elements that matter, and that you can effectively use to illustrate your brand position. These include things like graphic design, colour choices and photography. Human beings react to art, and art inspires them to hold their attention. Compare a 200-page text document to something that has lovely photographs, headings, illustrations…..all of these pieces set a tone and appeal for the brand. Think of the cool, macho image of Harley Davidson versus the elegant femininity of Martha Stewart. These companies painstakingly protect the integrity of their images (and hasn’t Martha recovered well?), inspiring the loyalty of their followers who want to be associated with those kinds of images.  If you can create a brand, consistency, and imagery that uniquely fits your company and is distinct from others, this will go a long way to differentiating your brand.


A song, even with great passion, lyrics and melody, just sits in someone’s living room until you bring a team together to produce it. This means deciding what arrangement it needs (Should it have a solo break? A long introduction? A quick ending? How many times should the chorus be repeated?), what instrumentation it needs (Acoustic instruments? Thumping bass lines? A full string section? Lots of background singers?), recording parts, and mixing it all in the studio. So of course, you need to plan who is going to do what, and what team of talents need to be there to execute it for you, on a budget.

Producing a Song in Studio

Similar to pulling together your marketing strategy? You bet. Your salespeople (and often your President and Top Executives) are like your vocalists — they have to look good, have stage presence, and come across like they MEAN what they say, i.e. be authentic. I remember that when first started singing, I tried to make my voice sound exactly like the original singer….which was certainly with mixed success….over time I put my own stamp on it, and actually had people tell me the song was sometimes better/more authentic than the original…because it had MY personal take on it. That’s the same with an authentic sales message – if the salesperson/vocalist has FELT that pain, they are so much better at conveying it!

Your customer support team/internal is like the rest of the band — all following the same message, backing up the sales people and ensuring the execution fits the message. For example, who wants a a big huge production, background singers, full brass section – on a song about loneliness? Likewise, why would you have a glamourous, highly-produced, slick campaign if you’re trying to tell the world you are price conscious? If you’ve got an internal marketing team, they are like the sound — they should be making sure your salespeople have all they need — no one’s going to hear the message if there are no microphones, after all! And if there is no stage lighting – no one will even see the band.

Get the whole “band” of your marketing team working together and understanding their roles, and you’ll have a shot at grabbing your audience, for sure!


A great song goes nowhere if it never leaves your living room. Getting it out there to be heard, and repeating that message, is what can turn it into a hit song.

Live stage performanceFor a song, this will mean channels like radio distribution, the web – which is often Youtube, and of course, lots of live performances. Songs for young people will go on young rock stations, and get performed in those kinds of clubs, and related websites. Song for older crowds will often get onto country or adult-contemporary stations, or go through the folk circuit in folk clubs or festivals.

For your marketing strategy, you have to choose your best channels. You need to get your messaging out there, and get it noticed. In your marketing strategy, you must go to where your target markets are likely to be listening. You must reach, and you must repeat. That is, reach and frequency. There are numerous ways to do this. Putting information on a website is good – but only reaches the people who already know you. To reach beyond that – you’ll need advertising, social media, media relations, direct selling, participating in industry events, online marketing, and you’ll need to orchestrate all the pieces to work together effectively.

When I started out as a performer, I was more comfortable backing up other singers, and hadn’t found my own voice. As time went on, I felt that I too had something to say. When I went out on my own, I was pretty scared, but I played small stages at lunch time, did lots of small events for family and friends – just to find my voice. Over time, I gradually built up a band, started recording my songs, and seeking bigger stages. Today I play about 100 shows a year, and am absolutely comfortable playing all my own songs, with my own band, for hundreds, and occasionally thousands of people….the more I do it, the more I feel like I am “becoming myself.” Enjoying every minute of it, letting my personality loose — for better of for worse!


As you move toward developing your own strategy or brand, think about your favourite song, whatever it may be, and try to emulate that level of passion, storytelling, artistry, and coordinates team production — and then get it out there to the ears who need to hear it!   Think of your business as your legacy – your expression of your passion in the world — and you, too will find that in time, you too can uniquely and authentically become…yourself.

We would love to assist you in orchestrating your marketing strategy.   Please feel welcome to comment on this article, or CONTACT US TODAY!

ENDNOTE: Here are a couple more interesting articles relating music and marketing….

As some of you may know, the name “Tenato” comes from musical roots.  

Jacqueline’s theory on The “Creative” Marketing Personality.

Visit Jacqueline’s band’s website HERE. (Yes, she would love you to come and say hello at any of her upcoming live shows.)

A song Jacqueline wrote which illustrates Tenato’s mission, called Exception to the Rule: 


music and lyrics Jacqueline Drew (c) 2012

They say that you don’t fit the classic picture of success

‘Cause everybody knows that nice guys always finish last

And voices cry inside your head and scream to you at night,

“Don’t you know the world’s unfair? Quit without a fight!”


Give up now, or don’t

You will fail, or you won’t

There’s no point, or there is

If you don’t try, they always win

Mess up now, or not

It’s full of holes, so take your shot

Show the world around you you’re no fool

Be the exception to the rule

Critics think they’re being wise when they tell you to get real

But they don’t know how much you’ll give, and how it makes you feel

So I’m here now to tell you their spiteful words are wrong

Because they cower down in fear, but you can stand up strong…



And in those times of weakness

When your confidence is blown

Remember that I’m here for you

No, you are not alone…



Give up now, or don’t

You will fail, or you won’t

There’s no point, or there is

If you don’t try, they always win

Mess up now, or not

It’s full of holes, so take your shot

Show the world around you you’re no fool

Show the world around you you’re no fool

Show the world around you you’re no fool

Be the exception to the rule

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Jacqueline Drew
About the Author - Jacqueline Drew
Jacqueline M. Drew, BComm MBA is CEO of Tenato Strategy Inc., a Calgary-based marketing research and strategy firm. She loves to use her superpowers "to help the good guys win" and is also an energetic supermom, bandleader and songwriter.

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