‘Notes’ for Brands

The music industry has changed drastically over the last 5-10 years.  People can now listen to any piece of music with no cost or time barrier - millions of pieces of music are a few clicks from anyone.  The chance to discover new tracks on YouTube, Spofity, blogs, music websites, social networks and thousands of online radio stations means that music is becoming more ubiquitous and people are listening to more music than ever before.  Of course, brands have become part of this movement.

Brands and music have always been somewhat interlinked.  It’s common for a brand to use a popular piece of music in a TV or radio ad, or possibly feature a famous musician in an ad campaign.  However, the way people consume and explore music has changed and brands are incorporating music into their outward communications in new and exciting ways.

We’ve seen a number of brands use artists to create tracks specifically for a brand - last year Converse got together Kid Kudi, Bethany Cosentino (frontwoman of Best Coast) and Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend Guitarist) to create a free downloadable song called ‘All Summer’ from the Converse site.  We saw a similar idea in Tango’s off the wall ad ’Praiserama’ where you could download a track by Drum and Bass artist Lomax which was made specifically for the ad.  There’s also been similar approaches in Nike’s ‘Chosen’ ad (where they used artist Hanni El Khatib) and Lucozade‘s ‘Yes’ campaign (where Travis Barker and Tinie Tempah coupled up to create a track). 

This year we also saw Justice reveal the first track from their highly anticipated second album in Adidas’ ‘All In’ spot (my favourite ad of the year).  I’ve also seen tie ups with Puma and Deadmau5, Snow Patrol with Guinness, Adidas and Daft Punk, Fiat and Faithless.

In 2009 T-Mobile paired with Josh Ward to create the song ‘Come With Me’.  It’s probably the worst song in the world but the idea was clever – any T-Mobile customer could feature on the song by texting from their handsets.  The song was then released and available for download.

So what should brands consider when they want to use music as a tool in their marketing communications?  Here’s what I say:

• Brands should be working with artists that have positive associations for their target audience - This may seem like an obvious point but any music/brand tie-ups chosen must reflect the brands image and be timely.  In the fast paced and fragmented music landscape that we now live in, this is a lot more difficult than it sounds

• People’s ‘experience’ of music must not be hindered by the presence of brands – If an artist/musician is closely linked to a brand and an individual reaches an online brand destination the music must enhance their ‘online experience’ rather than be a hindrance or an annoyance.

• Brands should separate musical content from tactical execution - Rather than choosing a song that works on a particular ad, use a genre, or artist to represent the brand.  In the multichannel digital landscape that consumers now operate in, it’s important that music can be integrated into whatever place consumers may come into contact with brands (website, mobile app, mini-game, online event, social network, viral etc.).

• Create online links – In the ‘integrated’ world we live in, people should be able to flick from a brand destination to an associated music artist’s work (and vice versa) easily and quickly.  For example, many brands put the name of the track featured in ad in the description box when it’s posted on YouTube.  The links should both be from the brand to the music artist, and from the music artist to the brand.

• Choose your artist carefully – At a time when musicians are fighting for new revenue streams they can easily run the risk of being labelled a sell-outs if they tie-up with brands.  An artist being seen as a sell out will not only damage the reputation of the artist, but also the brand.