Strike a chord

Using music to promote brands is a growing trend and CDs, DVDs and MP3 present exciting possibilities. But musical tie-ups must be credible and relevant to the target.

It took an ad campaign by Heinz to make UK audiences sit up and notice music group Ladysmith Black Mambazo. It took the Heinz logo on their CD cover for fans to buy their album, and bring this group of traditional African musicians international exposure.

But it takes more than a brand’s logo on a CD cover to marry the interests of music companies and advertisers. There are many ways to use music to communicate brands – including brand sponsored CDs, sponsored tours and endorsements.

Despite the range of possibilities, some in the industry believe marketers are not thinking creatively enough about using music in promotions. Rick Blaskey, managing director of the Music & Media Partnership, a consultancy which specialises in the commercial use of music, says: “There is a treasure trove of marketing opportunities music can offer. But brand managers and creative directors don’t know how to go about it or who to approach.”

Successful partnerships between music and marketing are supported by integrated promotional activity that strengthens the tie-up between brand and music. A brand-sponsored chart compilation CD, for example, may typically involve sleeve notes about the brand, a CD cover design that incorporates the brand, in-store point of sale material, advertising that cross-refers the band or musician and the brand, and jointly-purchased media space.

Simon Miller, head of Universal Incentive & Creative Marketing, the record company’s music promotions consultancy, says: “Brands need to develop a musical programme rather than just put music in an ad or give away a free CD. They need to show their target market they have a credible interest in music.

“It’s about building bridges into a wider marketing campaign and using music in as many imaginative ways as possible.”

It is important that the brand is in sync with its chosen music. The music genre – and the group or artist’s fanbase – helps to position the brand, so a brand and the music must share the same target markets. Blaskey says: “Music must be an extension of the brand’s activities. If the music doesn’t satisfy the client’s brief, it won’t communicate the brand.”

Music is an obvious communication device for alcohol brands, since the two so often go together. Last year, Bacardi rum broke away from its sun, sea and sand image, which worked well in the Eighties but lost its relevance by the mid-Nineties. It set up the B-Bar at summer music festivals such as Glastonbury, V99 and Reading, selling Bacardi rum and cocktails. Latino music was used to re-establish the spirit’s Cuban heritage and firmly target an 18-to 24-year-old market.

Bacardi marketing manager Marie Ridgley says: “The B-Bar was an extra piece of entertainment within the festival. We did it to engage consumers in the brand, rather than to get column inches in trade titles.

“It is difficult to measure the promotion’s impact on sales, as Bacardi is still at the start of the process of rejuvenating its image. But in qualitative interviews, a high percentage of people said the bar gave Bacardi a more contemporary feel,” she adds.

A 12-track CD recorded from the festivals, and a Barcadi La Fiesta Hit Squad sampling team then took the concept into city-centre bars and student unions.

Sponsored CDs

Brand sponsored CDs, whether they are intended as an on-pack or sales promotion or to be sold through the retail network, work well with lifestyle brands, which may already have associations with music and whose sales proposal can be matched with a particular musical style.

Nestlé Rowntree, for example, refocused Polo mints on a younger market with the release of a Cool Grooves CD in August 1998, in conjunction with record company PolyGram TV. The CD enabled Polo to hitch its brand to the cool, understated music style, and in keeping with this mood, Polo went for subtle branding on the cover, opting to use the mint’s image in place of the letter “o”.

Also targeting youth, Evian released Club Nation with Virgin Records in March 1998 to build on its already strong association with clubbers. The disk proved extremely popular: it sold over 100,000 copies, reached number three in the charts, and remained in the Top Ten for five weeks.

Not all brands base their CD promotions on a single musical style. Bass Brewers decided to emphasise the Irish appeal of Caffrey’s Irish Ale to its overseas markets with a St Patrick’s Day promotion CD with a modern Celtic theme. Music and Media Partnership marketing manager Mike Lock says: “The CD was a more up-to-date and cosmo politan take on the traditional Irish theme. The choice of music was designed to create a social atmosphere with sing-along musical elements, and featured bands as diverse as Thin Lizzy and The Corrs.”

Associating themselves with popular bands or a style of music, whether mainstream, niche or underground, gives brands a ready-made audience. But marketing using music is a two-way process that raises the profile of the band or musician and brand alike.

Diet Coke’s “Time for a break” campaign, which broke in early March, brought together Coca-Cola, Universal, Music & Media Partnership and Wiedan Kennedy. Music & Media Partnership’s Blaskey says: “Rather than just find a new jingle as a signature tune in the vein of Alley McBeal or Friends, we decided on a piece of music which had life outside the brand, but which also matched the brand image. We settled on Seventies disco hit Love to Love You Baby, (originally performed by Donna Summer and re-recorded by girl group Honeyz). We knew the Honeyz already received a significant amount of airplay – so we could take advantage of and build on that coverage.”

Blaskey points out that marketers need to be aware of what they have to offer in a musical partnership. “Record companies are out to make money. Licensing departments are set up to cash in on their stable of musicians. So for the Diet Coke campaign, we approached the company’s marketing department. We treated it not so much as a financial transaction, but an opportunity for Universal to market Honeyz.”

As more and more big brands team up with high-profile music stars, record companies are waking up to the commercial potential of brand tie-ups. Universal offers a number of link-ups between brands and the music outfits in its stable, from off-the-shelf promotions to enhanced premium CDs (which contain visual material such as music videos, ads, movie previews and Web links). Most of these music-led promotions rely heavily on new technologies, which are making music more accessible and personalised.

Miller sees technological developments such as the Internet and MP3 software opening up new distribution channels for marketers. He says: “The music industry is undergoing a revolution. Brands and their agencies need to develop a better understanding of the vast array of opportunities that new music technologies offer for music to communicate with and excite their target market.”

Custom CDs

Custom CDs allow consumers to choose their own collection of tracks, and have been used in promotions by Ericsson and Carphone Warehouse, and TopShop/Topman. The CD giveaway enabled Ericsson to emphasise the technological aspirations of its brand. Ericsson channel marketing manager Vijay Anand says: “The Carphone Warehouse promotion represents the marriage of music and technology, packaged together to deliver a valuable consumer offer. The personal choice element is also a reinforcement of Ericsson’s brand positioning – ‘Make Yourself Heard’ – which is all about empowerment of the individual.”

The Topshop/Topman promotion had the additional brief of building awareness of the retailer’s Website among 15- to 24-year-olds. Consumers had to visit the site to create and purchase a personalised CD.

Another development in music technology is broadcasting over the Internet – “webcasts” – and marketers are increasingly using this method to build customer relationships. Early this year, online music magazine nme.com hosted webcasts covering its week-long Premier Tour concerts. NME media network director Neil Robinson says: “The webcasts build on users’ relationship with the music, drawing them back to the site. The nme.com site is content-driven, so we must give away incentives which add to that.”

Many in the marketing and music sectors are, however, still uncertain how these new technologies will affect their industries. Music companies are anxious about the security of digital downloads on the Net. Universal’s Miller says: “MP3 is still a sensitive area. Record companies are not supporting it yet. We’re waiting for a format that major record companies will endorse, which will be more secure and faster.”

MP3 consequences

Others are more confident, though mindful of MP3’s current limitations. Tony Ragan, director of Razorcuts, a digital distribution company for music on and offline, says: “In six to 12 months, it will be big business. MP3 is the most requested word on Net search engines. But you can’t deliver tracks over the Web until the likes of Boyzone decide they want to go with it.

“Another problem is we don’t know how many consumers have access to the Internet. But clients are catching on quickly.”

DVD, on the other hand, has established a small but fast-growing consumer base. Unlike the newer MP3, its future is more predictable, making issues of access less of a concern to marketers. Miller is more confident in this new medium: “It is highly cost effective to add images onto disks – especially for the huge leap in quality it offers. What’s more, in the future, PCs will be sold with DVD drives rather than CD-ROM drives, and since these will be backward compatible, people will still be able to use CDs in them.”

But does this new technological push rely on an ever-dazzling series of gadgets at the expense of the brand? As marketers search for more sophisticated, hi-tech media, they may be creating a consumer base with a taste for constantly better, faster and more flashy gimmicks. Blaskey doesn’t think so. “As long as the new technologies are not different for difference’s sake, then there is no harm at all. In fact, if they help communicate the client’s brief, then we should take full advantage.”

There is a growing choice of musical vehicles for marketers to use in promotions; the challenge lies in using these to communicate the brand in a relevant way to its target market.

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