The Multi-Dimensional Maynard James Keenan

Maynard James Keenan (platinum-selling record artist, winemaker, self-proclaimed multi-tasker) is talented, creative, obscure, intentional, multi-layered, misunderstood, passionate, persistent, hard-working, and forward-thinking. When taken together, these traits create a recipe of complexity that ultimately equates to an ingenious big-picture marketing strategy that businesspeople anywhere can learn from and emulate.

Internationally known as the front man for the bands Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, Keenan’s passions have guided him toward a variety of musical endeavors that have resulted in a number of Grammy awards, chart-topping albums across multiple countries, and a dedicated, cult-like following of fans.  At the same time however, he’s managed to open and operate a winery in Northern Arizona while keeping a relatively low profile, even creating a documentary about the process, and completing a wine tour in Whole Foods stores across the U.S. How has he managed to bridge these two very different personas into a single, unified brand, and what steps has he taken to facilitate such large scale success?

Here are 13 insights into Keenan’s success as it relates to building a holistic “whole-picture” approach to marketing:

  1. Craft a quality product or service – First and foremost, whether it be a CD, live performance, or a bottle of wine—ensure your product is top-notch and worthy of marketing in the first place. A quality product or service is the absolute baseline for crafting a spectacular marketing strategy.
  2. Work hard and get involved in the process – For many business leaders, the farther removed they are from the front lines, the less likely they are to have a grasp on the direction their company is heading. (Companies like Southwest Airlines understand this by periodically rotating top management into customer-facing positions.) In terms of Keenan, whether it be producing music or making wine he has always been intimately involved in the process. Click here for a 1997 video of Keenan discussing the unfolding of Tool’s musical and creative process.
  3. Be authentic – Keep a focus on yourself or your product, do not get caught up in the tangled web of what other people want for you or what other people think is best for you. Commit to  a habit of introspection and connection with your core values and mission. Keenan does this regularly by attempting to avoid the spotlight as much as possible so other people can focus on using his music as a “tool” and so that he can focus on developing additional material without getting caught up in the hype of it all.
  4. Follow your passion and foster creativity – In this video from Fox 11 News in Phoenix, Keenan discusses his passion for winemaking. He fosters creativity regularly as evidenced by the variety of creative music projects he is involved in at any given time. He also talks to Wine Spectator in a 2011 interview about his passion for wine here.
  5. Formulate key partnerships – Whether it be generating coverage in local publications as in this recent Arizona Highways article, embarking on a promotional wine tour promoted through Whole Foods, or partnering with key sponsors on international touring performances, sometimes your message is only as strong as the partnerships you create.
  6. Grow relationships through creating memorable experiences – Tool is known for putting on  other-worldly and mind-bending live performances. Puscifer is more of musical theater experience merging technology, quirky characters, and comedy. Caduceous Cellars offers a tasting room for enjoyment of wines. You get the picture.
  7. Facilitate brand champions – In no other video is the importance of a brand champion illustrated than in this teaser video for the “Blood Into Wine” documentary. From fans covered in Tool tattoos, to fans that find artistic inspiration through Keenan (and even name their children after him!), there’s nothing quite like a brand champion when it comes to someone else handling the marketing for you. More than ever, the core drivers of brand loyalty today are emotional rather than rational.
  8. Cross promote – Keenan promotes all personal dimensions of his brand through his personal Twitter account, as well as through the various Twitter accounts that are connected to him. Content on his different web sites cross promotes content from his other web sites, for example Tool’s web site might share a new music video created by another one of his music projects, etc. The same goes for Facebook pages. Furthermore, all his brands are managed by Speakeasy PR out of Los Angeles for consistency and quality marketing.
  9. Leverage past successes – The past successes of Tool have inevitably created a built-in fan base for other musical projects, as well as created a captive market audience for potential wine buyers. By cultivating and integrating other aspects of your previously gathered successes, you can leverage those wins as a basis for future pursuits.
  10. Maintain an element of mystique – Above all, Maynard has always guarded his privacy and there is limited information available about him online. Known for hiding in the shadows during his Tool performances, or giving in to very few interviews during the course of his career, he has somehow managed to obtain massive stardom while at the same time balancing the projection that he is mysterious and guarded. Click here for a video driving home the point Tool does not give interviews away easily.
  11. Understand the international business landscape – Through Keenan’s multiple stints touring around the globe he has gleaned a solid understanding of international markets as they relate to his business decisions. He has had the opportunity to experience global markets firsthand through touring, and understands what steps need to be taken to take advantage of emerging and evolving markets.
  12. Adapt – In multiple interviews Keenan has mentioned that his body cannot keep up with the demands of touring for too much longer; as a result he’s spun his passion for winemaking into a separate endeavor that he can grow and support in much the same way he has done with his music. Regardless, as the whole business model of creating and distributing music is shifting – for all musicians it will be necessary to adapt.
  13. Think ahead – According to this article in Arizona Highways Magazine, Keenan already has future projects in the works such as an organic cafe and a co-op for young wine makers. Among other business ventures, he is a partner in the Los Angeles restaurant Cobras & Matadors, and owns a produce market and an organic market in Cornville, Arizona, the latter featuring a tasting room for his wines as well as a food court.

In conclusion, it is clear that Keenan is someone who has a clear understanding of the “game” being played and a keen (pardon the pun) awareness of how to maneuver himself into a position of advantage. He has a thorough handle on what it takes to be successful in his competitive environment. Moreover, whether he realizes it or not (aside from the bonus of being incredibly talented), by being true to his tastes and his own unique self he is capitalizing on the trend of authenticity. Through leveraging his successes against his past wins and building on his strategic relationships and partnerships, he is continuing to re-invent himself and adapt in a direction that is consistent with his primary passions and goals.


  1. Do you really think it is all intentional? Or is a lot of his success just a result of his talents and qualities that he has? It could be both or maybe he hires a really good PR/ Marketing team?

  2. Good questions Allison! I suppose that is up for debate. Undoubtedly his vocal talent has been a key contributing factor underpinning his success, but I would argue that the combination of recognizing and embracing the outlined marketing tactics has not only faciliated, but superfueled his stardom.

  3. Really good blog. It’s obvious that the success of Tool has greatly helped Maynard in his business adventures, both financially and through marketing. I do know from experience, that Maynard definitely pushes his business through his music. For example, I was at a Puscifer concert a few years ago, and Maynard was promoting his wine at the show. The venue was selling his wine by the glass and the bottle at the bar. This actually turned me off, from a fans perspective, especially when he mentioned this numerous times throughout the concert. Maynard is using his success as a “Tool” for his winery.

  4. That’s interesting … I’ve never actually been to a Puscifer show. What was the venue? That is cool to hear that his wine was being cross-promoted (sold) at a show; however, I somehow can’t imagine the same thing taking place at a Tool performance. Seems like a slightly different audience.

  5. The show was at club Nokia down by Staples Center in Los Angeles. All I remember was that it was rather expensive. I’m sure he sold a bunch of wine though. You’re right: I don’t think this would fly at a Tool concert.

  6. I wonder how his new marriage and his desire to be home will affect his decision-making going forward. His wife is a key contributor to the winery and their image. It will be interesting to see how his music evolves or not in the coming months.

    • Samantha – It will be interesting to see whether or not, how and/or when his music evolves and in which direction it will go. So far we’ve seen angry, contemplative, hopeful, and most recently satirical/comedic. I can’t wait for the next album. I love his voice, and I’m betting you are a fellow fan as well! 😉

  7. I am a fan Tiffany 🙂 However I really enjoy this discussion about how MJK is target marketing for the long haul. Granted he is using every medium to link all his projects together. However except for Tool and Puscifer music, everything else he is focusing on is on a very small scale and not meant to be mass marketed. He garners mass appeal and desire through his music, which is attainable. His other products, ventures are not.

    I would wager music will no longer be his primary creative outlet. He has tens of millions of his own money invested in the winery and Puscifer products. He’s gotta make a ROI on each bottle and that takes seven years. Better get used to flying in for concerts in the desert. He ain’t leaving 🙂

    • Samantha – In my research for this blog post I found that Keenan is a client of an LA-based marketing agency ( that handles a variety of his accounts. It therefore might not be a coincidence that all of his projects are being tied together through a variety of mediums as the firm represents Caduceus Cellars, A Perfect Circle, Blood Into Wine, Tool, and Puscifer. Either way, it’s fun to see it all unfold. I just hope he keeps singing for a long time to come, his voice is so amazing!

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