When Jann Wenner founded Rolling Stone magazine in 1967 he knew that rock and roll was more than just music.
It influenced social attitudes, fashion, politics and even language. Rock and roll was the sound of the counterculture movement in America.
And Wenner smelled a business opportunity. That's why Rolling Stone wasn't just a magazine. The real product created by Wenner was attention.
The attention of white, middle-class college students who obviously loved rock and roll. But who also shouted "Make love, not war" and were against the Vietnam War, hated Richard Nixon, smoked Mary Jane, supported racial & economic justice, environmentalism and other left-wing policies.
Rolling Stone's audience - and their loyalty - was the real product. And Wenner's goal was to sell it to advertisers.
But once the magazine became a mainstream hit, it changed. Including the culture it helped create.
Then the 70s came, and rock and roll faded. And the magazine that once launched rock bands was now inviting actors and comedians to appear on the cover.
Then the 80s came. And in 1985, Rolling Stone started having a hard time. Because advertising revenues were ridiculously low.
That was when advertising agency Fallon McElligott came to the rescue.
Fallon McElligott realized that advertisers and media buyers still saw Rolling Stone as a magazine that was read by poor and middle-class hippies.
But reality told a different story.
So they launch an ad campaign titled Perception / Reality. The goal was to show that Rolling Stone readers were well-paid yuppies, not hippies.
One year later, Rolling Stone’s ad sales were up by about 50 percent.
This is something I tell my clients often: Most business problems are perception problems. And we humans perceive the World based on what our brains expect to see, not on objective reality.