TSU Library Art Gallery
Presents Art by Jonathan Kupersmith
“Little Jimmy Dickens” — A Memorable Country Music Star That Teaches Us a Lot About “Branding”
Baltimore — I met one of my country music heroes last week at the Baltimore airport. Mr. Jimmy Dickens, “Little Jimmy Dickens” to his fans, far and wide, was on the plane with us as we flew in to Baltimore. I had the opportunity to meet him at the luggage carousel and thank him for entertaining me, and my family, for all these decades.
First, let me dispel the myth that all stars are arrogant and distant. Mr. Dickens was almost shy and retiring and yet when I told him I had been listening to him since I was a child in the 1950s, when I sat on my grandfather’s knee, his face lit up and he said, “Well, you sure did grow up to be a long tall drink of water didn’t you?”
He seemed pleased that I would take time to tell him how much I enjoyed his music for the past 56-years of my life and I felt honored to be speaking to a legend in the country music industry. He even invited me, and my wife, to his concert in Hanover, Penn. Yet, alas, I could not attend due to other business commitments.
However, I mused over a learning I had from that meeting.
“Little Jimmy Dickens” is a talented musician, and seemingly a really nice man, and he is a “brand” just as was Grandpa Jones, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Minnie Pearl, String Bean, and the numerous other Grand Ole Opry stars that were of the 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s era.
They created and consistently presented to the public and their fans a persona that created an image in our minds and an expectation of the delivery of services — in this case country music that no one else could possible provide.
They understood that to be successful they had to create a “memorable” experience for their fans (customers) and they never failed to do so.
Think of any of these “folks,” that is if you are old enough, and you are thinking of a “brand” created and sold to us as consumers and lovers of country music.
The creation of a country music star was the early and perhaps less sophisticated version of what we would call today “branding.”
Branding is creating an image and being consistent in the delivery of that image and the memorable service attached to it, a “service” that no one else could possibly replicate and deliver.
I like to think of branding as the building of a tradition. You always know what to expect when it comes to using a certain brand. If you were a Roy Acuff fan, and I mention his name, you can readily hear that longbow string of his fiddle as he readies himself to play his trademark song — The Orange Blossom Special.
With Johnny Cash, the halls of the Opry are still haunted with his memorable welcome delivered in his melodious bass voice, “Hello, I’m Johnny Cash.”
Grandpa Jones will be forever associated with his banjo; Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs are equally associated with dueling banjos and, who can forget the bluegrass traditions of Bill Monroe and his mandolin.
And with Little Jimmy Dickens, when he comes on stage with a beaming smile, a hat twice his size and tunes his guitar to get ready for a pickin’, grinnin’ and the singin’ of a set of classic country favorites you know you are in for a great tradition.
“And howdeeee,” as Minnie Pearl would say, that is what branding is all about – creating, a memorable image and delivering services that always gave the customer more than they ever expected.
Thank you Mr. Dickens you made my day at the Baltimore Airport and yes, if your manager sends us some tickets we will be seeing you one day soon at the Grand Ole Opry.