By Leslie Galbreath

Last night, I attended a concert so nostalgic I could smell the fresh paint on the lockers of my high school. I was instantly transported back to a time where my biggest concerns in life were acing my AP English test, swim practice and Friday night football games.  A time when I listened to manufactured boy band music with my girlfriends in our cars because we couldn’t listen to it within earshot of any of the cool boys. A time when this music, so silly and infectious, was everywhere. A time when I’m sure the cool boys listened to it, too.

That’s right, last night was the NKOTBSB (New Kids on the Block and Back Street Boys) concert at beautiful Conseco Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

The concert was everything you would imagine. Droves of 30-something ladies wearing throwback tees, banana clips and frosted eyeshadow in honor of the good ole days. Excited, chatty girlfriends enjoying a night out on the town. Mothers sharing memories with daughters.  In fact, it seemed as though some of these ladies were truly having the musical moment of their lives. Along with these painfully predictable scenes easy to imagine, it was something you might not imagine as well. It was an absolutely brilliant exercise in branding.

Now, you’re probably thinking, “Really? You’re thinking about branding at a concert?” Yes, I’m thinking about branding at a concert. I think about it all the time, so let’s just get that out there. The point is, these guys and their handlers did something right. We all know that brands are important. We all have preferences when it comes to cars, clothing, organic food, toothpaste and wine. But with consumer goods, I’m not sure we always think about the emotional connection.

These boy bands and their managers did.  Last night, merchandise was flying off the shelves – $40 for a t-shirt, buttons, signs, stickers, cups, shot glasses (not something we likely would have seen at one of the shows in the 90s given the target audience)  – pretty much everything they could stick a logo on. And the ladies were a-buyin’.  I have no idea what possessed NKOTBSB and their handlers to send these guys back out on tour with one new song under their belts, but it’s working.

They may sing on a lower key, and their dance moves maybe aren’t quite as smooth, but their brand is going strong after 25 years, with no signs of waning. This show did not have the feeling of a ‘farewell’ tour at all. The emotional resonance seems as strong now as it was in 1990. Their target audience is brand loyal.

Truth be told, I loved it. I realize now that I was more of a New Kids fan than a Backstreet Boy fan (by the time BSB became popular I was already recommitted to Pearl Jam and the like), but I really enjoyed the whole show. And, I was surprised by how many of the words I remember.

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