Brands have always wanted to be associated with music and often, we have wondered why. Well, there’s the “music is cool” factor, but is it, really, anymore?.
Mega-acts, everyone has always wanted to be associated with even a sliver of the pie. But these days, brands and bands must also equal creativity and inter-activity and everything else that has not even been thought about as yet.
It’s not just slapping a logo on a poster, or bringing in acts simply ‘cos they are available. It’s a highly competitive world out there and thinking- and marketing- like this is just plain shoddy. It does no good for anyone.
When with recording companies, many of us didn’t care if it made sense or not to be associated with a sponsor. They had the marketing dollars which we didn’t have- music companies have always been broke- and so, of a brand of toothpaste or toilet roll or or cooking oil or whoever and whatever wished to sponsor an act, it was always, Yes, Please.
Did this help any “branding exercise” and create that very over-used word “awareness”? As a music company, we couldn’t have cared less. We had an artist or concert sponsored- meaning, paid for- and also managed to fob off a few CDs in the process.
In fact, when with Universal Music, we managed to sell Chivas Regal 678,000 CDs of tracks from our back-catalogue- Humble Pie, Thin Lizzy, Dusty Springfield etc- and have these become part of the brand’s then “When You Know” campaign. It was one of my “finer” moments.
The “ploy” was easy: Sell them on a series titled “When you Know Jazz”, “When You Know Rock”, “When You Know Pop” etc- and which they, in turn, flogged off to tourists at Duty Free outlets as a “package” with the sale of two or more bottles of Chivas Gold. It was a win-win deal for both parties and we made some big bucks and made our “numbers.”
Today, one brand working with music in a big way is Hennessy. Make that trying to work with music.
During the days when Chivas held a “monopoly” situation with music amongst alcohol brands, Hennessy was hardly a player. Apart from sponsoring a few “jazz” events, they were not in Chivs Regal’s league of success with their “Chivas Chillout” events and sponsoring of Cafe Del Mar CDs.
Once the bottom fell outta “Chill Out”, new marketing people came on board and had the brand sponsor everyone from Norah Jones to Black Eyed Peas. The brand’s foothold on music got buried in quicksand. Simply put, the brand didn’t know if it was Arthur or Martha. Today, they are out there wasting their money trying to associate Chivas with “chivalry”. I know, but don’t laugh.
As for Hennessy, their main platform is something they call “Hennessy Artistry” which is explained as “The global art of mixing” and seems aimed at the Club crowd.
But is it and how does it extend into the clubs? We are not sure that it does and have no idea where this “global art of mixing” really does take place and how Hennessy can be seen to be “bringing the worlds of music together”. As an onstage event?
In Asia, at least, it has not really worked and we are willing to bet that both product and project have very little “top of mind awareness” despite how it might be skewed by a research company to appease Head Office and packaged with press releases and photos of the event. Been there, done that and know how it works.
In Greater China, “Hennessy Artistry” is a tasteless musical buffet as no one seems to know what they want and which means everyone trying to second-guess the other- the client and their music marketing “experts” . But, as they have the marketing dollars, all of us who have had to deal with the ineptitude of those behind this branding exercise, we have had to rein in our thoughts as to how daft this campaign is and how those attempting to launch and run with it are tripping over themselves.
“Hennessy Artistry” apart, does it even make sense for a cognac to be associated with music- especially music aimed at a relatively young audience- late 20s to 40? When was the last time you went into a club or saw someone in a club demand to have a glass of cognac?
In a karaoke lounge and with doe-eyed hostesses pouring glasses of cognac for you so your singing becomes louder and more outta tune, maybe. But a Hennessy event and where there is a smorgasbord of acts, each of whom simply do not connect- and do not mix?
This marketing strategy for alcohol brands only works for some- mainly brands of vodkas. Chivas, for example, tried to pass itself off as a “mixer” when it will always be “Dad’s whisky.” And so it is with Hennessy: It is an old brand and cognac is an old man’s drink. Being associated with music is not going to make it any “younger” or more “hip”. It is “more Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66″ than Flo-Rida. Or Kelly Rowland. And none of them are even “cool”.
What is the brand getting out of this association with music? So it sponsors some shows. And so? And then what? Okay, it sponsors even more shows and has a bill which has an artist from Greater China, some guy from Senegal and, let’s say, Ronan Keating singing a song in Mandarin- one of their real “crowd-pleasers” and which they refer to as “blending”.
What does Hennesy get out of this? Some “PR”? “PR” in this viral-driven, internet-driven world? How many people have even heard of “Hennessy Artistry,” let alone know what the hell it’s meant to be?
Do the trade people care? We have been to a few Hennessy Artistry events in Taiwan and China and it is a bit depressing to see ladies in their forties and fifties clasping their hands over their ears to drown out the music, others looking at their watches, some leaving before the first act has finished or else looking up at what is going on stage with a look that says, “Mummy, who is the scary black man?”
The only time they wake up is when the local headline act comes on stage. So much for “the global art of mixing”.
Do any of the artists who have flown half-way around the world to appear on any of these shows become “brand ambassadors” for the product and spread the word? Of course not. They take the money and run and talk about what a hassle the whole thing was- but how the money was good .
Do consumers care? Will they start drinking Hennessy VSOP instead of wine and champagne or a vodka and Red Bull because of the artists Hennessy is associated with? What do you think?
Right now, many of us are waiting for music to make its huge comeback as a revenue-generating art and business. The mantra of “bands and brands” has been bandied about and chanted like some hosanna from the highest, but the wrong brand behind the “right band”- or act- can create more confusion- for both parties- and actually turn off music fans.
Hype can be spotted a mile off as can someone and something trying terribly hard to be terribly hip. There’s a very thin line between cool and uncool and consumers- and music fans- can see this.
I always look at the sponsors for an event and often think, Huh? Why? It either a “barter deal” or they chipped in with some cookies so they can have their logo on a poster. Who cares and who will even notice?
Over the years, so many brands have dabbled with music- Heineken, Levi’s, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Motorola, Nokia etc.
Apart from Coca-Cola and its tie-in with the “Idol” franchise, and even before this, its association with music, one cannot really remember another brand that has truly succeeded by going through with this marriage.
Wait: There is Burberry and what they are doing today through their Burberry Acoustic progamme to promote young British talent is brilliant. And very strategic. The alliance is not an unholy one and it does not stick out like dogs balls.
Meanwhile, Pepsi-Cola in China, or Asia, are starting another “Battle Of The Bands”. Why? Wasn’t the last one which imploded in the face of former Pepsi marketing guru in China- Harry Hui- enough of a disaster? Must the brand be masochists and return for more?
How many brands sponsor some form and variation of this theme of “Battle Of The Bands”? What do they get out of these? What is their ROI- Return On Investment? Please don’t say, “awareness” or, as they call it in this region, “noise” as one will then want to know how long this “noise” lasts.
What bothers me about the “bands and brands” mantra is the hypocrisy involved and about, on the one hand, “doing it for the music, dude” and “we aren’t gonna sell out, man”- and then doing a u-turn and going to any sponsor with money.
If people were straight and said, “Mate, we just cannot find any sponsors except for this real estate company made up of starf***ers and who have squillions to spend”, fine- I guess. We all need to make a living.
But when bands, especially, with no track record, start whinging how a Samsung or an HP or an Intel should get behind them and then settle for something like Brands Essence Of Chicken ‘cos they can stump up some cash, well, this just turns me off about brand and band.
But look at what Samsung and OK! GO! have done and it all works in natural harmony. Everyone wins- including the music fan and who becomes part of the process.
Meanwhile, when one knows the amount of time, energy and money that goes into a Hennessy Artistry event, especially in Greater China, and the return on investment- invariably only “awareness”- and then the lack of any follow-up whatsoever with the acts featured- you start to wonder if anyone involved in this “branding exercise” knows what the hell they are doing- and for what purpose.
Right now, a brand like Hennessy is throwing good money after bad. It is not winning over consumers or music fans and it is pretty much a laughing stock- in Greater China- with promoters. Some call them The Keystone Cops and why not? They run around like headless chickens.
They and their music marketing partners know nothing about music and appearing on their shows does nothing for the careers of artists.
And when this is the only reason why young musicians “picked” by Hennessy’s music marketing company readily jump through hoops and produce some of the daft musical ideas put forward by brand managers who wouldn’t know a minor chord from a mynah bird, it all gets very silly and further devalues music.
A brand like Hennessy should face the music, realize that its “Artistry” platform is not working in its current incarnation and either take it somewhere else, or really work to make it work.
Right now, it is lazy, sloppy marketing and with the brand throwing good money at “music”, but music and artists not benefiting from it from any long-term point of view. It’s not even fast-food marketing. It’s just one big waste of money.