Two tribes live together in perfect harmony

Marketing Week’s roundtable in association with Sony Music asks if brands are making the most of their music marketing partnerships. By Morag Cuddeford-Jones


MW: How important is the role of music in supporting your brand?

RW: We had a brand that was third to market so we needed to find a positioning that set it aside from the major players in the sector. Music is a great vehicle because of its ability to engage directly with the consumer. We build everything based on our music positioning at festivals and
live music venues.

We measure its success on trial, engagement and conversion to purchase. As an alcohol brand, we’re in an easier position to measure that than others because you get a direct impact in terms of sales at events. It’s seen our brand double in size over the last year.

MW: How much consideration goes into choosing the right music in terms of segmenting and targeting your audience?

DM: A huge amount of work was put into finding the right track to support our Barclaycard waterslide and rollercoaster campaigns. We worked with agencies and the brand team to get an extension to the coverage of our ads online. This can be driven by the supporting music and the interest that comes through YouTube, for example. Conversations online centre around “what is that track, how do I find it?” The impact has been incredible, particularly on the waterslide ad. In the digital age, music extends an ad to a wider market.

For the follow-up to that advert, music became a very important element. It wasn’t just about matching or bettering the ad, it was also the track
that went with it. It had to compete.

FB: The challenge for music is moving beyond syncing some audio with images. We have access to creativity and it’s about applying some of that to telling stories. Music is a great way to tell a story. Consumers are much more format agnostic these days, so it’s no longer just about
what works on TV or the radio. Audiences are everywhere. We know that from trying to market our own acts.

SS: Creative is not just about the audio or the music. To get cut-through into different disciplines, music is a key asset. You’ve got a lot more channels you can use to communicate, where people can socialise and have a dialogue. Music is one of the key assets that allows people to have something in common to discuss.

MW: How do music sponsorships support brand activity?

SS: We have sponsored the Brit Awards for 11 years. The event is seen as a key part of music history for the UK and was selected on that basis. It is a key driver of our brand awareness.

DM: We began the sponsorship of the Mercury Prize in the second quarter of last year. For us, it was very important to have credibility if we
were going to move into the music space. For a financial brand to start telling people what they should be listening to would be a huge mistake.
For us, it was about getting the right partnerships in place to build credibility. We felt the Mercury Prize gave us that and it opened up a lot of very interesting retail opportunities. That links back to our overall brand strategy of owning the world of simple payments.

MC: Our context is different. We’re supporting government departments across a diverse range of campaigns with the aim of achieving some
kind of behaviour change. Our goal is to use communications to drive behaviour change and we are using a multitude of channels. The place for music is not that explicit other than to have a default presence in every media. In the future, it will be about using content and context together across all the opportunities available to us. For certain audiences, the draw of music means we can build a relationship with them on their terms. It is probably something we have under-used. There is a lot more opportunity there but it has to fit into driving effective behaviour change for certain audiences.

MW: Have you made music a conscious part of your communications plan from the start or is it considered near the end of the creative process?

DB: We’re looking to move away from sponsorshiptype arrangements and into more partnerships with music properties. Music is a great way of creating a connection with consumers. The brand landscape is quite cluttered, so how do you stamp your own point of view on music? We need to have campaigns that are built around music rather than having campaigns where the music is just tacked onto advertising.

GS: I sit between a record label and a brand. There can often be quite a big disparity between what a record label is looking for out of any partnership and what the brand is looking for. Does the alignment of an artist to a brand deliver something directly back to that artist through the association? At the end of the day, we can all pontificate but the audience just wants to be entertained.

MW: So you need to think about music early on?

FS: We certainly tried to do that with the BT family campaign. We’re always trying to balance the product message to the story because weknow that it’s the story that gets people interested and talking online or in real life. It is the pub chat.

Our most successful campaigns are when we can move the story forwards and put out a relevant product message that differentiates us from the competition. Music is just another consumer touchpoint that can be used to inspire a lot of emotion. The launch of BT Infinity marked our first big move into music for a brand campaign. When we looked at our online conversations, we discovered that they generally produced half positive, half negative reactions. When we put the music track on the ads, the number of comments went through the roof and there were 20 positive comments for each negative reaction. That showed us the power of music spreading out from a TV campaign.

MW: What is the process behind finding the right music?

FS: We trusted our ad’s director because he had a track record of choosing great music that people like. We didn’t have a specific framework to find out what was a great track. For me, music is something that is very difficult to judge in that respect. How do you know what’s going to be a hit or not? We were lucky. We think ours is an innovative product, so we went for a new act. That was the only link.

DM: I know that there was a lot of trying out of different tracks and looking at how to link the music with the flow of the ad so it all comes together. There was an element of luck involved in trying to find that track because right at the last minute, another option was thrown up and that was the one we went with. To have Facebook groups set up talking about Barclaycard tracks on an advert is just unheard of. It’s a huge shift for us as a brand and it shows the power of the music.

DB: In 2002, we teamed up with So Solid Crew, an urban musical collective synonymous with South London. They created a piece of music
called Girls for a campaign, which worked extremely well. However, we partnered with another band in 2004, but that campaign went nowhere.

It’s a bit of a dark art. One of the learnings for us was that you can’t rely solely on the music to sell your business for you. It’s a great accompaniment, so for us as a brand, music laid over advertising is useful. And we do think how we can partner with the music industry to make more of the track.

Music is such an important part of a brand such as Axe/Lynx because we try to take ourselves out of the deodorant aisle and compare ourselves to the likes of Nike and Red Bull. But it’s never as easy as just picking a track. RC: For a luxury brand, it’s a little more difficult because we don’t do any TV advertising, so that whole channel is out for us. As we expand our presence online and spread the message, it gives us a few more opportunities to use music. It’s probably about discreet partnerships with specific artists that can raise the profile and communicate specific values that work for different luxury brands.

MW: How difficult is it to get the right artist to represent the brand?

RW: It can be tricky to get right. We don’t seek to be tastemakers. We’re looking to enhance the consumer’s experience whether it’s at a festival or a live music venue.

There’s a lot more acceptance of brand involvement in music now, more so than five years ago. But consumers are still looking for a benefit. They need to feel that you’re adding something to their event or enabling their enjoyment of a festival indirectly through your sponsorship of it. You’re putting money into a promoter who is able to get their favourite band or artist into that venue. It’s about direct engagement with the consumer and enhancing their experience, rather than trying to become a tastemaker.

MW: What processes exist to help brands align themselves in the right partnerships?

AS: We use a certain set of rules for engagement marketing. You’re trying to harness the passion that music inspires in order to get closer to the consumer. Therefore, we talk about the clarity of brand objectives. Sometimes those get lost when people start talking about music; they start to see it as a dark art and they’ll just go with what’s thrown at them, but they’ll be chasing a moment. If you keep your brand objectives in mind, they’ll always have strength throughout and that’s how you can measure your return on investment.

I’d also place a great deal of importance on a “fit”. When you start trying to force products together that don’t have a natural fit, there’s going to be an immediate disconnect. Some of the strongest work is created when an artist has been brought in early and given the opportunity to co-create. It enables budgets to go further and it’s amazing how willing artists are to get involved now.

Since the turn of the century, the barriers between artists and brands have been completely knocked down. Of course, many challenges still remain, but if you start early and everyone gets round the table to ensure that all involved wants this strategy to be mutually beneficial, then some very fine work can come out of it.

DB: Artists might be easier to work with now and more collaborative, but the challenge I face is the extremely long lead times the music industry works on. That’s very different to us and it’s actually very tricky to engage artists early enough in the process so that they can influence the output.

One of the things we would look for from a partnership with an artist wouldn’t just be their skill to make things sound good but also their ability to talk to our audience using tools such as social media. We’d look to partner with artists who don’t just have the capacity to perform but also have the skills to influence our target audience in lots of different ways.

GS: That’s equally down to picking an artist for more than one campaign. If it’s somebody you can actually grow with and they have that willingness to help, there’s nothing better than getting the artist and the brand in the same room and actually talking to each other. It demystifies this whole process.

FB: What about the consumer? “Fit” can only come through servicing consumer needs. A marketing problem is fundamentally about reaching an audience. We have that issue with acts that we’re trying to break or reintroduce. Companies have that problem with either audiences that they wish to remain loyal, or audiences they wish to bring to their brand. We’re starting to plan our campaigns now by thinking: how are we going to offset some of the costs to break this band? Or how can we take it to the widest possible audience by using a patronage model where a brand can get involved and service one of their needs? There’s a very real quid pro quo.

MW: Who is equipped to advise on the best music fit for marketers?

FS: When we started using music in our direct response television campaigns, I sat in the room with the creatives and asked them two questions: How do I decide? And what’s the framework I use to make this decision on music? One of our leading agencies simply replied: “Whichever one you think works best.” I have no criteria to judge and, as a marketer on the client side, you can feel incredibly exposed. This is something that is missing – the segmentation to give us a framework for choosing music would be very, very powerful.

FB: Instinct has a massive role to play in hitbased businesses and creative industries, but if it is supported by insight then the game changes. I
think it is what comes after the intuition

MW: What’s the ideal length for brands’ contracts with artists?

DB: It depends on how successful it is. We’re always trying to put together a contract that we can extend but we also negotiate this upfront.
Typically, we look at 12 months but generally that is too short.

GS: Now is the time to have a dig at the record industry. If you want to get involved with the artist’s live performances, you have to get an agent involved. You need to have discussions about who holds the rights and end up talking to a different stakeholder in the music industry every
time in terms of what you want from the brand.

AS: Brands have trouble within the sponsorship area in music due to the complexity of the rights holder issue. You need an agency to act as a buffer between the label, the artist and the management. You don’t need that with, say, sport.

MW: You’ve mentioned various rights issues – is the music industry ready to allow itself to be used as a marketing tool?

FB: The younger, savvy brands understand this perfectly well. In the Renaissance period, they had such a thing called the patronage model – a
rich squire paid an artist to paint and that wasn’t seen as a sell-out. Our research shows that this is the case today. Young bands that come through the door are savvy marketers because these people have been marketed to their whole lives. If anything, it’s the older parts of the music
industry that are stuck in the past.

“For the brands around the table, the big challenge is that, as a rule, we don’t understand the music industry”
George Smart

Look at the example of the rock band Kasabian – they love football and want to talk to a certain audience. Then you have Umbro, which is about
football and want to talk to a similar audience. The two get together and do a brand partnership. This takes them both to the World Cup. The reality is that where the audience fit is right and the brand and the band are synonymous, then you don’t have to convince anyone. On the contrary, you have to reel them back in from going nuts.

MW:What are the relative merits of choosing a broad musical theme for your brand over a single artist?

RW: It’s about reach. We need to raise sales of the Gaymers brand so we want to get as many people as possible trialling the liquid across the
festival season and year. In an ideal world, you’d have a partnership with every promoter and agent that you work with, but there are obviously budgetary constraints.

DM: The benefit of music is that it’s gender neutral and it can reach across a wide customer base, which is exactly what we were looking for. Certain artists will travel across a whole customer base, so the crucial thing is to have access to a variety of artists. We couldn’t hang our hat on a single performer. There might be certain tactical activities that we’d do focusing on a particular group where we would look at a single artist, but it is important to offer something that would benefit all of our customers.

RC: Our targeting is about being very focused and niche. So the insight to help us identify which artists would be relevant for our very specific
prospects could be interesting. The other thing that I’m struggling with is to find the right execution that would be right for the positioning of our brand, which is all about exclusivity; it’s all about access.

Some private concerts might be appropriate but in terms of sponsoring a festival, we would never do that. Perhaps that is a more appropriate scenario within popular music. Classical music is a more relevant fit for us and something all the luxury brands are active in. The fashion industry has been a lot more progressive but we are a brand that is a little more conservative. I’m trying to figure out what would be the right execution and application of any music assets to speak to our audience.

MW: Where next for music marketing?

GS: For the brands around the table, the big challenge is that, as a rule, we don’t understand the music industry. It is an incredibly complex
beast. However, it desperately needs partnerships to work. These work best when you walk in with an open mind and come face to face with a huge raft of creativity. Putting those two together can only be good for reaching an audience.

“We need campaigns that are built round music rather than having campaigns where the music is tacked onto advertising” Dan Burdett

SS: We’ve got a lot of insight into brand association and awareness. We’re now looking towards engagement: how you drill down to the relevant markets, how they’re talking about it or how they’re engaging with it. How do you leverage that asset? For me, I want to get more insight on artists or agencies from a creativity perspective that will make us different.

FS: People know the power of music already but we’re looking for a framework to get the hit more often than the miss. That stands for everything from the basics of choosing music to sync to your ad to the whole new world of future partnerships and social media. How we can build together to meet new objectives together both with brands and the music industry?

DB: When you’re investing in music, it costs money. And when you’re investing money, it’s a gamble. Obviously, you want to manage that risk
in the best way possible, so you look for independent advice. Generally, you go to the people who have the most to lose – the brand and the artist. You find that people in the middle – the agencies – find it is difficult for them to give completely objective advice. That, for me, is the biggest challenge – deciding whose advice to follow on who to devote a portion of my budget to.

AS: We have already experienced something of a boom for music marketing in 2007 and 2008; since then, there has been a slight drop.
However, this in turn has led to some very creative work coming through now with a focus on return on investment. So it all looks very positive for the future.

For greater insight and case studies of how music can be applied to marketing campaigns to improve consumer engagement, please visit the new Sony Music gateway at



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