My friend and local filmmaker Allen Clements and his company Postage have completed a documentary about the Chameleon Club, a local rock club, which will have its local premiere this Friday night. As I was thinking about the film I came up with this idea for a blog post, so I asked Allen if he would provide with me a copy of the DVD, which he did, for free. But other than that, the post was my idea and there was no other commitment or agreement. Also, when I finished watching the film, I noticed that Allen thanked me in the credits, though I really had nothing to do with the project other than perhaps a few conversations as well as talking it up and just generally being supportive. Thanks, Allen!
For more than 25 years, the world-famous Chameleon Club has been at the heart of the Lancaster music scene, providing both a venue for some of the top acts in the business, as well as acting as an incubator for quite a few great local bands.
In watching the documentary and talking to Allen about the process, I discovered a few key lessons for businesses, particularly in relation to how they market themselves and use Social Media:
1. The importance of stories – I can’t say it enough: at the heart of any brand’s presence online are stories. If the goal is to humanize your brand or business, then stories are key. Your stories, the stories of your products, the stories of your customers. All are important. For many, the Chameleon Club is just a club: a place where you go to see the latest shows. But, like everything else, the Chameleon has a rich and storied past, and it’s a story that needs to be told. Allen and his crew are telling that story and it’s fascinating, to hear it. And while we’re hearing and seeing the story of the Chameleon, we’re also hearing the stories of the bands, as well as the fans who have attended shows.
2. Stories are best told by the participants – Stories are best told from a variety of perspectives. Rather than Allen just telling the story in his own way, he allows the participants and eyewitnesses to speak from their own perspective. This makes the stories more personal and meaningful. If you have great customer stories, let them tell their own stories. We hear from the club owners, employees, the bands, fans, and even the Mayor of Lancaster. At the end of the film we even hear from one fan who talks about how he has made friends simply by attending shows at the club. For him, the club is a part of his story.
3. The importance of outsiders – Allen doesn’t work for the Chameleon. He wasn’t hired by the Chameleon. This was his own idea. Not only that, Allen isn’t even from the area. He moved to Lancaster from Lafayette, Louisiana a number of years ago solely for the purpose of joining a local band. And one of his first shows was at the Chameleon. That’s the seed from which this documentary sprung. For locals, and even those of us who have lived here awhile, we have enjoyed the Chameleon, but perhaps we take it for granted because it is here. It took an outsider to appreciate how special this little club really is. And remember, not all of the great ideas will come from inside your organization. Often the folks inside of your organization have a skewed perspective and are too close to your brand to remain objective.
At the beginning of the documentary, Allen voices his initial thoughts as someone new to the area, taking the stage for the first time:
I could look into the eyes of these fans and see that they wanted to be there. Not to be seen, not to say that they were there, but they wanted to be part of something that they knew was special, but maybe didn’t know why it was special.
4. The importance of crowdsourcing and word of mouth – When Allen set out to make this film, he was starting from scratch. He knew that along the way he would need the help of others, and through word of mouth was able to accumulate great stories, archival video footage, and archival photos. People talked to people, and while Social Media wasn’t a large part of that equation for Allen, the concept of word of mouth worked well. We can all learn from this: there is nothing wrong with relying on others to help you out. Your customers and fans might actually be willing to help you succeed. What a concept! Allen reached out to a few people, and they reached out to others, and in some cases told him, “Hey, you need to talk to so and so…”. This documentary was put together by Allen, but he never could have done it himself. Just look at the credits at the end.
5. Local isn’t necessarily just local anymore – With the Internet, local can be global, while global can be local. This documentary about a small but legendary club in Lancaster, PA has a wider audience. Not only is the documentarian from out of the area, but the appeal goes beyond the region. Fans of music and clubs all over will appreciate this film. And as a club, not only has the Chameleon hosted great national and international acts, but it has been an incubator and launching pad for local acts that have moved beyond the area, such as Suddenly Tammy, Innocence Mission, Live, Movies With Heroes, August Burns Red, and more.
The moment you put your local business online, you’re no longer local. People around the world can find your website and social properties, and while they might not be in your target audience, they can interact with you. And no matter how big you are, you still need to think local. You may have customers around the world, but treat them as if you’re the corner market, not a big box.
6. Love what you do – Allen didn’t create this film in order to make money. Certainly he wouldn’t mind if he did, but for the most part, it was a labor of love. And anytime you love your work, and pour your heart into it, the end product is of a high quality. He’s been working on this one-hour documentary for quite a few years, and his love for the subject matter shows in the final product.
One final observation that Allen made as we discussed the film: Rock ‘n’ roll, and specifically clubs like the Chameleon are actually precursors to the online social networks of today. When a punk band played the Chameleon, it’s where the punk crowd would gather, not just to be entertained, but to meet others who shared their interests and values. The same happens during a hardcore show, or a reggae show. Regardless of the genre, the Chameleon is a place to meet for any variety of communities, and that’s in evidence in the documentary.
Is your business a social hub? Perhaps not every business can or should be. But any time people gather around your brand as a community, that’s a win.
- Customizing Your Business: With or Without Nuts (joeystrawn.com)
- Three reasons social media marketing favors small businesses (businessesgrow.com)
- WTF? Friday: Why Fake it When You Can Have the Real Thing? (marijeanjaggers.com)