Chinese Democracy, the album that Axl Rose has been working on for over ten years, has almost become the stuff of legends. After so many delays, leaks and band line-up changes, it’s hard to believe that this album will ever be released.

But we can certainly learn some marketing lessons from Chinese Democracy and Guns N’ Roses: from both the mistakes they’ve made and the things they’ve done well.

This is an article I published in 2008 before Chinese Democracy came out. I think it makes points about product marketing that are still applicable today, so I’ve published it on the new

First lesson:

Building Anticipation Works

One thing that Chinese Democracy has achieved is building anticipation. Instead of waiting until the album was nearly finished to announce that it was coming soon, the band strategically made announcements when the album was in early development, when new band members were found, and made good use of live shows to preview a select few songs.

If the band waited until they were ready to release the album before making any announcements, Guns N’ Roses would never have managed to stay in the public eye despite having no releases since the early 90s (or mid-90s, if you really must count The Spaghetti Incident).

Leaking Material Helps Build Anticipation

There was probably no tool more effective at building this anticipation than the leaks that have periodically made their way onto the Internet. I am almost positive that these were strategic and authorized by Axl Rose himself, but the appeal of a leak is, in part, its rogue nature. If they were unintentional, they still did more to help the band than hurt it.

It also sets the tone for the official release of the product, where the band has a chance to blow people away by releasing something with more power and polish than the demos and unmastered tracks that got out. This is all about exceeding expectations—we’ll have to wait and see if they pull this part off, though.

Stringing Your Customers Along Betrays Trust

It is all too easy to go too far with the anticipation-building phase of your campaign. You need to know when to stop and just release the damn thing. By putting off the release so many times, the band actually lost fans, betrayed the trust of interested consumers and damaged their credibility.

Once you start alienating your fanbase, the inevitable happens…

Betraying Trust Deflates Anticipation

All the anticipation you’ve built deflates. People stop checking periodically to see if the album has made it to the store. The customer has wasted so much effort trying to stay informed on the product that they become apathetic, and it takes one hell of a campaign to fix this once the damage has been done.

You can apply these techniques and avoid these mistakes in almost any area of your business, blog, or product’s marketing. For instance, if you have an absolutely killer guide on a popular topic written for your web site, don’t whack it up on the web straight away: build some anticipation first by making mention of it in your posts and telling friends, colleagues and readers about it on your social networks.

This is marketing 101. It’s no secret, and it’s really basic stuff. But rarely is this advice taken on board or executed properly.

Just don’t make the fatal mistake. You have to release something, someday.