Entertainment is rising star of brand marketing

The major influence that music, film and TV have on consumer purchasing decisions make them an increasingly indispensable marketing tool, says Tim North

If you are the marketing director of a decent portfolio of consumer brands and you haven’t looked at the role entertainment properties can play in your marketing activities, you are about to miss the next major trend in the marketing world.

Gone are the days when rock bands would tout around for a tour sponsor or girl bands would lend their image to everything and anything, often with disastrous results (remember Piaggio and the Spice Girls). Now it’s all about strategic fit and tangible results.

Music and film have always influenced consumers’ purchasing habits. When Clark Gable appeared in the 1934 movie It Happened One Night not wearing a vest, sales of vests plummeted in the US. When Keanu Reeves wore wrap-around sunglasses in The Matrix, Ray Ban fell to its knees with joy.

These impacts on sales happened by default, but they prove the point. Associating a brand with the right entertainment property can transform its fortunes.

And it’s not about sponsoring the Rolling Stones because they happen to be the managing director’s favourite band. The real rewards come from getting together early with the movie distributor, record label or TV producer – who are now far more savvy about the way they package their properties – to plan a joint marketing campaign that benefits both parties. Product placement has existed for years, but only recently has there been an emergence of multi-million pound campaigns that use entertainment as a platform for promoting brands.

Nestlé’s current sponsorship of Pop Idol is a good example of how a brand and an entertainment product can work in harmony. The sponsorship ads are distinctive and entertaining in their own right, and are completely in keeping with the content and tone of the show while bringing a bit of showbiz sparkle to Nestlé’s portfolio of brands with the theme behind the ads being the search for a “Choc Idol”. Even smarter is Kit Kat’s domination of the ad breaks.

Procter & Gamble has been equally smart in its association with the Pixar stable of animation movies. Moulding sales promotion campaigns around the likes of Monsters Inc has brought the warmth and fun of the movie to the P&G brands, while P&G has given the movie exposure in environments where the distributor’s own activity would not have been able to reach, such as in supermarket aisles.

Finding the right entertainment partner at the right time in the planning process is key. Film distributors, record companies and TV producers plan their marketing campaigns up to a year in advance, so knowing who to speak to and when requires specialist help. This has led to the emergence of agencies that understand both the entertainment world and the world of brand marketing. It also explains why Sir Martin Sorrell has pinpointed entertainment and media as one of WPP’s key growth areas.

Tim North is planning director of Beatwax

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