Can your brand draw in 200,000 people without telling them what they will get?

Photo of crowd at rally taken from the airEverybody talks about brand loyalty. Does being a fan translate to being a customer? Do “likes” translate to dollars? How do you get customers? How do you keep customers?

Well, maybe it’s time businesses start taking some cues from Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.

Their Rally to Restore Sanity on October, 30, 2010, drew (by most estimates) more than 200,000 people. The funny thing is no one attending really knew what we were going to see. (Yes, I was there, so I’m saying “we.”)

We didn’t know what Stewart or Colbert was going to do. We didn’t know who was going to join them (though a few names—Sheryl Crow, The Roots—leaked out). But we went anyway.

Stewart and Colbert drew people to the rally because of their trusted brand. Fans of each show know that both men are consistent (and consistently funny) on their respective shows—The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

We trusted them to stay consistent and deliver something the crowd could support and stay interested in.

The rally’s message—to bring back sanity to sociopolitical conversation—is one that everyone could get behind. That one unifying message, and the fact that we knew Stewart and Colbert would bring us another good show, was enough for hundreds of thousands of us to travel to Washington DC.

People flew in from Montana, Wisconsin, Texas, California—even Canada! We came in buses from Oklahoma, New York, Pennsylvania and more.

What brand could get their audience to go to such lengths? And have all of those people walk away satisfied?

Stewart and Colbert were able to accomplish this because they love what they do and they love their audience. They know their job is to give to their audience.

Think about that. Think about all the companies that expect people to love them without giving anything in return. These companies expect people to spend money on their products and services without feeling special or getting much in return.

At the rally, Stewart and Colbert surprised the audience with happy treats all afternoon, including some unbelievable cameos. Ozzy Osbourne, Yusef Islam (Cat Stevens) the O’Jays, John Legend, Kid Rock, Tony Bennett and even Kareem Abdul-Jabbar popped in. We never knew what was coming next—in a good way.

This is what companies should be doing. Three simple things:

  1. Stay true to your brand so people know what to expect.
  2. Rally people around a unifying message or promise.
  3. Surprise your customers with pleasant treats as many times as you can.

And hey, if you’d like to hold a free concert for us every now and then, that would be great too.


If you weren’t at the rally, go here to catch up on videos. Check out Jon Stewart’s closing speech. Or go here to see many of the signs people made. Don’t forget to get out and vote…sanely. Vote for people, not for party.


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