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'Pinky Gonzales' meets the digital Age of Fanatics
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John Mark Jansen
'Pinky Gonzales'

Editor's note: In a move apparently planned well in advance of this interview, Jansen subsequently relocated to Portland, Ore. The story as it originally appeared follows.

John Mark "Pinky Gonzales" Jansen is a Nashville-based marketer, promoter, consultant, educator and human brand-in-the-making.

"Pinky" became Jansen's nickname years ago, while on the crew of a band traveling in Europe. He added "Gonzales," and the persona quickly proved popular and memorable. Later, the backstage name preserved his anonymity when he helped deal with celebrity stalkers or took action to ban misbehaving members from celebrities' fan communities, he told VNC.

Experience has taught 33-year-old Jansen there's a "dark side" to fandom that celebrities and businesses ignore at their own peril.  "Fanatics" are fans, but "in kind of an extremist way," he said. At the most benign level, they become "collectors or connoisseurs." But, he cautioned, "They can be turned-off, if you don't stay in-line with their expectations."

Some fans develop a sense of 'authority' or ownership" with regard to a performing artist's career, a product's evolution or a company's reputation, he continued. Artists achieve special standing in fans' lives, which brings both opportunities and risks, he noted. Fans can be "a virtual customer service department for you, they'll do anything they can to help out"; or, they can become harsh critics or saboteurs, if they feel somehow betrayed, he explained in tones both intense and polite.

That's why it's important to assess continually "what we can and cannot expect of fans," always working to understand consumer pyschology, customer priorities, brand perceptions and other variables, he stressed.

Current Jansen clients include auraMIST, a maker of high-tech liquid-atomizing fans and other equipment that do not leave surfaces wet, according to its website. He's also co-founder of both Carazel, a startup offering GPS-enabled location-based marketing platform; and, Cuestion Spirits Company, a new tequila importer for which he's also chief marketer. 

Jansen shares what he's learned the past 15 years as an award-winning adjunct professor of "brand development, community management and digital strategies" within Belmont University's entertainment industry studies program. He's also a mentor for the Nashville Entrepreneur Center and a co-founder of JumpStart Foundry, a microfund managed by VC Solidus Company.

He has lots of experience to draw upon: For several years until 2008, Jansen was a co-owner and director of strategic media for then-Echomusic, the provider of online artist-fan communities and e-commerce solutions, eventually sold to Ticketmaster.

From roughly 2001-2004, he was founder and president of Artist Media Group, a fan-management services company allied with Echomusic. Prior to that Jansen was on-staff with the Country Music Association, coordinating partnerships with Yahoo!, eBay and Microsoft. From that vantage, he explains on his blog, he spotted a gap-opportunity in Nashville's lack of "digital media, marketing and development services."

Jansen's earlier career in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles included work with PatronNet, a direct-to-fans media commerce site launched in about 1998 and later mothballed by performer, producer and innovator Todd Rundgren and his co-owners. PatroNet was designed to allow patrons to buy downloads of Rundgren songs-in-progress and other merchandise. Still earlier, he promoted a band called Baby Snufkin, a Latin Disco Punk group that's now disbanded.

As his "indelible" Pinky identity became linked to his professional reputation, Jansen recognized it was his "responsibility to do justice" to his chosen brand, he explained. He's opted to keep it because it's established, memorable and fun, he added.

Jansen is a California native of Lodi and was reared in Novato, in the San Francisco Bay Area, though his parents now live in the Seattle area.

He uses his actual name more often, these days. First, Belmont University identifies him as Jansen; and, he said he always explains his dual identity to his students there. His marriage three months ago to designer Laura Holder Jansen has also been a motivator, he said. Holder Jansen's design portfolio includes a number of recognizable logos, including JumpStart, Avenue Bank and, of course, Pinky Gonzales. VNC

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Tags: Artist Media Group, Auramist, Barry Diller, Belmont University, brand management, Carazel, Change|Healthcare, Christopher Parks, Cuestion Spirits, digital music, e-commerce, Echomusic, entertainment, IAC, John Mark Jansen, JumpStart Foundry, Laura Holder Jansen, Mark Montgomery, marketing, Nashville Entrepreneur Center, Neil Einstman, PatroNet, Pinky Gonzales, SaaS, social media, Solidus Co., startups, technology, Ticketmaster, Todd Rundgren

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