A guest post by Kimberly Thompson of Sonicbids.
Did you see the amount of excitement, analysis, and curiosity that the season premiere of “Mad Men” provoked among marketing professionals—and pretty much everyone else in the media business? And what really lit up the social channels was the episode’s “fictional” pitch to The Rolling Stones to sing about Heinz baked beans.
That pitch was based on reality. The Rolling Stones did sing about a product—Rice Krispies to be exact—back in the 1960s. And that’s just one example of the marriage between brands and music that started decades ago. Coca-Cola, for example, incorporated opera into its advertising as early as the 1900s. And wealthy patrons of the arts sponsored musicians for centuries before advertising was even “invented.”
So, what makes music so appealing to brands? And what does the current state of the music industry mean for companies looking to make music a part of their marketing mix today?
A Brief History of (Keeping) Time: Music and Marketing
For the better part of the 20th century, record labels emerged as the main (and some would say only) sources of discovery, production, distribution, and marketing of music. Those labels held the purse strings and wielded power over any musician looking to make it big. Sometimes, part of the record deal included product endorsements (such as jingles) that inevitably benefitted the labels first—and the musicians second (or third or fourth, etc.).
The later part of the 20th century saw the rise of massive venues and the promoters that filled those venues’ seats. Arena rock was born. Once again, labels with deep pockets could work closely with promoters to ensure big acts pulled in additional dollars through live shows and band merchandise.
As the Internet started to evolve in the late 1990s, however, and record sales began to slow with the advent of digital file sharing (both legal and otherwise), the ground shifted beneath the feet of labels. And it has never really shifted back. We’ve entered an era in which superstars are born on YouTube and independent musicians start their own labels.
Where labels have lost ground, brands have gained. Recognizing the unique, direct relationship that bands have with their fans, such brands as Red Bull and Renaissance Hotels have integrated music into their marketing strategies to connect with consumers in a welcomed way. In other words, those brands are connecting through the bands and musicians those consumers already love.
From Social Media Marketing to Social Music Marketing
Social media lets bands connect with their fans immediately and inexpensively. Rather than print a monthly fan club newsletter, for example, bands now update their fans continually via Twitter and Facebook. Bands use platforms like Sonicbids to book gigs then spread the news to their fans. Musicians keep blogs to share details about upcoming tours or dish about recording sessions.
That intimacy with fans is brand-building gold. Fans have already opted in. They’ve given permission for bands to be in touch with them; fans want that connection with them. So, it’s powerful, for example, when the lead singer of a band references a gig at a Renaissance Hotel; talks about getting their music featured in a movie, courtesy of Red Bull Soundstage; or mentions winning a Facebook voting contest with Origins to perform at a hit club in New York.
When infused with music, social media marketing becomes social music marketing. Brands are recognizing social music marketing as being enormously beneficial in capturing the attention and—more importantly—the trust of young fans.
Bands’ association with brands doesn’t need to be as overt as a product jingle. In fact, it’s better if the brands are subtle. Consumers want to choose a brand because of an authentic experience. Few experiences are more genuine and powerful than great music is.
Social Music Marketing Success
Young consumers are coveted for a reason: They often are the tastemakers for fashion, beauty, and lifestyle products. But not all brands know how to engage these consumers effectively through music.
Here are a few tips for making social music marketing work for you.
1. Understand your core marketing mission. Companies that successfully incorporate music into their marketing strategy do it because engaging with music fans is central to their product or service. Converse, for example, sells a lot of shoes to artists and musicians. So, supporting emerging musicians through free recording sessions—no strings attached—at its Rubber Tracks Studio in Brooklyn makes good strategic sense.
2. Be true to your audience. Authenticity is at the core of a fan’s relationship with a band. If you know your brand’s audience, don’t engage in social music marketing with a musician whose core values are vastly different from your brand’s. At best, you’ll confuse your audience. At worst, you’ll alienate your fans by squandering their trust.
3. Be realistic about what you can accomplish. Brands have helped to fill the role once played by record labels. That is especially true for emerging music and artists who haven’t “made it” yet. Although brands haven’t yet replaced labels entirely, brands are emerging as important distribution channels through which music is discovered. Music may be at the heart of your brand strategy, but business objectives are, too. Be sure to set metrics for success accordingly.
4. Measure differently. Social music marketing isn’t a pay-per-click kind of arrangement. Although you can measure Facebook likes and Twitter followers, you can’t easily quantify the experience a fan has when he meets his favorite singer through a Twitter chat or accesses bonus tracks through a Facebook contest. So, you need to figure out how to measure the value of fan interactions, not just the volume of the clickthroughs.
Although no magic formula for success in social music marketing exists, brands who successfully incorporate social music marketing into their broader marketing strategy follow the above rules.
(Photo courtesy of Bigstock: Rock Band)