Music Downloaded - The Collaboration Guide
Brands and music artists can produce great results together. But how can the relationship best be nurtured?
[This article, written by Adam Gerard, Tiger brand champion at Asia Pacific Breweries Ltd, was first featured in Music Downloaded, published in partnership with Music Matters for last year's Advertising Forum in Singapore.]
By Adam Gerard, 18 November 2009
Over the last decade, we have seen a profusion of campaigns involving all manner of brands and artists – established, global, emerging and local. For this essay, I will take artists to mean musicians, singers, DJs and bands, without prejudice to any style of music.
While it's fair to say that some great results have been achieved, in order to explore how to best nurture this relationship between brands and artists, perhaps we should broadly define 'great results'. From a brand's point-of-view, it's clearly an increase in sales, awareness or image. Is it any different for a band? Probably not. It's also apparent that for both parties, the association of each with the other has to rub off positively.
So how can this relationship best be nurtured to produce great results? Like all good relationships, it has to be founded on honesty and consistency. There has to be mutual support and a natural fit between both parties. And it always helps to have a healthy sense of opportunism thrown in the mix. Let's explore these points one by one.
Honesty dictates that both parties go in with their eyes open, put their cards on the table and act accordingly. A brand provides scale, reach and opportunity. An artist provides an image, attitude, and a direct avenue to a specific group of people. The brand needs to be honest about their objectives and how they plan to achieve them. The artist needs to be honest and must not misrepresent himself either. If you don't drink or smoke, for example, best not to approach a cognac brand for sponsorship.
The brand must have a genuine interest in the artist they are working with and desire to see them succeed; otherwise they are not going to put in the necessary effort to ensure the partnership delivers truly great results. If you're working to bring in an artist who has never been exposed to your market before, you have to do whatever you can to make your activity a success. You're not just rolling out another 'buy one get one free' promotion.
Once you have cracked the music that's right for your brand, don't change it. Convey your message clearly and consistently. Tastes are always changing, you may protest, so how can I stay consistent? Remember that your brand is a simple, clear idea that lives in the collective mind of the public, and shouldn't change overnight.
That's not to say you can't evolve. At the turn of the millennium in Singapore, Heineken supported jazz, later moved to nu-jazz, brought in plenty of smart hip-hop acts, and today remains committed to bringing in fresh sounds within the universe of electronic music.
Mutual support is key to the relationship between brands and artists. If you're handling a brand that's involved in music, make sure you go to shows, buy albums and recommend music to friends. If you're not prepared to fork over your own hard-earned sheckles, do you really expect others to? Get real. Nurturing relationships takes time and effort. Support the artists, events and venues you like. Don't associate with those you're not keen on.
Likewise, the artist has to support the brand. I don't mean an “I'll use these headphones because I have to” type of situation, but a genuine support that goes back to point number one – honesty. For young artists who are interested in working with brands, the first thing to do is define which brands they like, trust and use. Seek out those brands and they won't have to hold their noses when asked to support them.
Though it may seem obvious, make sure there's a good natural fit. If your brand is an underdog that's built on being the smarter choice of the 'man in the know', that will dictate the kind of artist you'll want to work with. A bad fit won't work for either party and the public will walk away thinking that someone's lost the plot, so please, do your homework.
Finally, both parties need to maintain a healthy sense of opportunism in order to generate great results. There's no textbook about how brands and artists should work together - we're really working this out as we go along. If an opportunity comes along and it feels right, grab it! Ninety percent of the time we are planning, driving, researching and delivering. It's important to sit back now and then and let things happen organically. When UK artist Jon Burgerman was in Singapore a couple of years ago at the invitation of The Butter Factory, Tiger Beer had no presence in that outlet but had worked with the artist previously in Beijing. A few calls were made, a sponsorship deal was worked out, the event went well and the brand gained an important new distribution point.
Small can be beautiful. Don't be obsessed with the massive and the obvious. If you're trying too hard, people can feel it. Do what comes naturally to your brand and do it consistently (see point two). There's some sort of magic in things that are unplanned and spontaneous, and couldn't we all use a little more magic in our activities? The brand should step back sometimes and act as a facilitator, not always remain in the driver's seat.
It's a competitive space we're talking about, music tastes are highly fragmented and, let's face it, people are fickle. If you're a niche brand, this is a clear opportunity to define your brand's character, identify your ideal punter and what they're into, then go all-out to support that music. If you do it over the long term with integrity and ingenuity, you'll have a chance of succeeding. If you're a mass brand that wants to be all things to all people, recognize that and help give a broad range of people access to the music and content they want.