It's hard to believe there was a time -- a long time, in fact -- when Tony Bennett was considered passé. Throughout most of the '70s and '80s he was thought of as a relic of a generation gone by, not the cultural icon who made records with Bill Evans and Count Basie. His last Top 40 hit was released in 1965, and ever since those LBJ days, the younger set stayed away from his concerts in droves -- until recently. Bennett even endured a recording drought of close to ten years because he refused to wax substandard material, and record companies weren't interested in his masterful interpretations of standards.
Enter Bennett's son and manager Danny, who implemented a long-term marketing campaign to sell his father to America's youth. Danny arranged for Dad to appear on shows like SCTV, David Letterman, The Simpsons and Howard Stern,and slotted him on tours with acts like the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The elder Bennett, an accomplished painter who signs his works with his original name, Anthony Benedetto, liked MTV's graphics and photography, so the story goes, so he told his son to get him on the network. Done. Bennett's videos debuted on the cable channel in 1994, and his Unplugged show was a hit. Danny made sure that performance was released on CD. This disc broke Bennett for the martini- swilling subset of Generation X, as others already had done for the highball- chugging Greatest Generation.
Danny Bennett's marketing techniques should be studied in business schools. It was a classic example of positioning. Danny didn't try to change the product -- there was no use, his father wouldn't compromise his artistic integrity anyway -- so instead he manipulated the minds of the prospective audience. He took a guy singing standards with a trio and convinced America's Beavis and Butt-head-watching youth that it was kewel. His orchestration of the youth market was so impressive that Advertising Age named him one of the top 100 marketers of 1994.
Seven years later his talented father is still packing concert halls with children from ages one to 92. Sometimes marketing is a good thing.
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