Selling to me softly with song

Lyrics hold great emotional connections for music lovers. Licensing them for marketing campaigns can work wonders, says Michael Gottlieb

Michael%20GottliebSaatchi & Saatchi worldwide chief executive Kevin Roberts once said: "Lyrics give us phrases that can set our course in life, rally armies, bind lovers even closer together."

Music is the soundtrack of our lives and lyrics emotionally connect to consumers, making them the perfect vehicle for a licensing programme. The attributes of a successful licensing programme include innovation creativity and product differentiation.

It could be argued that lyrics are the ultimate lovemark capturing the essence of the three minute pop song. This new trend of lyric licensing enables music fans to wear their favourite lyric on their sleeve. Or Tshirt, or greeting card for that matter.

The iPod has revolutionised the way we listen to music (and how often) and it is this iPod generation who will lead the way in conspicuous consumption of lyrical licensed product.

The Lennon/McCartney song catalogue alone comprises: 27 number one singles, 15 number one albums and the best known songs on the planet. And now their lyrics are available for licensing for the first time.

Recently, the dispute between The Beatles and Apple Inc has been settled, which means all Beatles songs will be available to download from Apples iTunes. Early reports indicate this will yield revenue of $500m (£255m).

Retailers themselves are not immune to the allure that music has for their customers. At last year’s Retail Week conference the theme was Differentiate to Win, and many retailers both in the UK and overseas are choosing music licensing as their means of differentiation.

New Look has just picked Lily Allen from the pop charts to design a collection. Swedish retailer H&M is working with Madonna, and Kylie Minogue is also designing a swimwear collection for it. Music provides retail with many of the attributes necessary to make people buy. Tomorrow’s society, according to Sir Martin Sorrell, is looking for "more" from retail – inspiration, social engagement, "pleasure and fun".

Music, it could be argued, has been making shopping a more pleasurable (and profitable) experience for years – the hit song of Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, probably had a lot to do with the millions of raccoon hats sold in the 1950s.

Certainly, in the late 1980s the Batman merchandising phenomenon did not gather momentum until the Prince soundtrack hit the high streets ensuring maximum visibility for the Batman logo. Music was at the grassroots of what was to become a pivotal licensing campaign, yielding worldwide revenues of over $1bn (£500m) .

Marks & Spencer is probably the finest example of a retailer that has used music to its full effect. Its above-the-line advertising has revolutionised its offering so much that this author, having seen the chocolate cake ad on TV to the soundtrack of Santana’s Samba Pa Ti, was left wanting the product when he heard the track being played in the Camberley store.

An extract from Judith Bevan’s new book, The Rise and Fall of Marks & Spencer… And How It Rose Again, sums this up: "Together the models covered the market from 1960s baby-boomers to those in their late 20s. But it was Twiggy and the retro backing music – Mr Blue Sky by The Electric Light Orchestra – that really caught the attention of middle aged women throughout the country."

Just think of the increase in sales if the lyrics of these advertisements were licensed onto products in-store, reinforcing the message all round. Food for thought Steven Sharp.

From retail to the pulpit – a sermon last year began with the words: "She loves you… Now who amongst the congregation can complete the lyric?" The whole congregation responded as one: "Yeah, yeah, yeah". It is clear that lyrics are a massive communication tool – the poetry of our time and now their power can be harnessed to increase sales of product.

So while music and lyric licensing may not actually reinvent retail, it is a tool which, when used judiciously, can produce remarkable returns. To misquote Sailor’ s lyrics used recently in a memorable advertising campaign by Marks & Spencer:

"We got the lyrics you got the name
Let’s get together and do all this ove
rA glass of champagne."

Michael Gottlieb, head of licensing, Corporate Creative Licensing

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