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Marketing Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

Brand new harmony

By Thomas Hobbs | Journalist

March 22, 2021 | 11 min read

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The music industry is in trouble, but listeners want new tunes more than ever. Can marketers support the sector and create brand love?

Download the free guide, 'The rise of product placement and influencer marketing' created in partnership with BEN

Download the free guide, 'The rise of product placement and influencer marketing' created in partnership with BEN

The word ‘unprecedented’ has been used a lot in 2020, but the pandemic really has forced the music industry into uncharted waters. However, even with important events like festivals and live performances on hold indefinitely, the music industry is still finding innovative ways to connect with audiences.

Whether it’s US rapper Travis Scott popping up in Fortnite to perform a special interactive concert for its gamers, Dave Matthews staging live shows from his home and integrating fan choices into his setlist, or pop stars like Taylor Swift and Charli XCX releasing surprise albums under lockdown, there’s plenty of examples of artists innovating and finding unique ways to cut through.

Music to marketers’ ears

Without live events to tap into and with consumers spending more of their time inside, brands have had a lot of obstacles to face in 2020. But by aligning with pioneering musicians who have found smart ways like online gigs and Q&As to interact with their fans throughout the pandemic, brands can overcome a lot of these challenges, according to Jake Terrell, director of music and brand partnerships at BEN, an LA company using AI to help brands organically tap into the music industry.

“Yes, coronavirus has changed things, but the demand for music experiences is still huge and if a brand sincerely aligns with an artist through technology, sponsoring online shows from artist’s homes, or product placement in music videos, then they can truly take a campaign to the next level,” he says.

Terrell points out that emerging and existing social platforms have continued to get better at facilitating live digital performances with fan interaction, with paid, premium livestream concerts becoming more widely accepted and attended. By extension, this presents a big opportunity for brands. However, Terrell warns: “You have to be sincere or otherwise the audience sees through it straight away as an awkward money grab that is inauthentic. Performing live on Instagram is a very personal thing for an artist to do so any brand sponsoring an opportunity like this needs to make sure it is the right fit. It has to be natural.”

According to BEN research, 83% of music video viewers are able to recall brands featured within them. Subsequently, 46% go on to consider buying a product from the brand as a result of music integration, while 42% actually go on to make a purchase. “There are studies that show that using pop music increases audience attention, emotion and memory by 20%,” adds Terrell. “It’s so important. Our feeling is if you want to reach the heart and the soul of your consumers then you have no choice but to have a music strategy.”

Universal language

One major brand that’s pushing things forward is BMW. The car brand recently launched a 10-part podcast series called Play Next, which focuses on some of the big topics facing the music industry. According to Michelle Roberts, marketing director for the premium car brand’s UK operation, the music industry remains unique in its appeal to brands.

“Music is a universal language and connects people from around the globe, creating lifelong memories. These attributes mirror our BMW core value: which is joy. But I also think when a brand steps into cultural areas - be it sport, music or film – there must be clear alignment and a real reason to be involved.” Roberts says coronavirus has made people consume entertainment more “avidly”, particularly music videos and social media posts from artists, which has in turn given brands “an excellent opportunity to facilitate and augment these experiences.”

This is something BEN’s Terrell very much agrees with. He says the current online environment is ripe for innovative brand collaborations. His team recently brought together Wahl Clippers and alternative rockers Lovelytheband for their single Buzzcut; the video showed one of the bandmates shaving the head of their co-star with Wahl’s hair clippers. BEN amplified the moment with activations on Instagram that garnered over 500k impressions.

Billboard/Nielsen’s latest coronavirus-era report found that consumers want to see brands support artists and virtual performances during this time — 66% said they’d view a brand more favorably if they found ways to support artists; 61% would if the brand offered free virtual concerts through brand sponsorships or integrations in the show; and 59% if they sponsored virtual concerts.

“With the right artist and creative, there’s almost nothing that can’t be authentically integrated. In addition to the kinds of placements you might expect – such as snacks, spirits and vehicles – we’ve done it for hair clippers, cereal and interior paint. There’s so much content available that we can find authentic alignments for just about any kind of brand,” he explains.

“Things that might once have been seen as dead – like merchandise bundles or physical products – can thrive if you bring them into the right online environment with the right musician, and right now there are lots of examples of brands doing this successfully. I think it’s all about meeting the audience where they are and doing so with artists who align with your brand’s mission.”

Frito-Lay North America is at the forefront of this trend, building upon its rich history of partnership and activation in the music space across brands including Doritos, Cheetos, Smartfood and Lay’s. According to James Clarke, senior director of media, analytics and CRM: “Frito-Lay as a company is committed to delivering joyful moments for consumers not only through our products, but also through the delivery of unique brand experiences. Music has always played a central role in this strategy with a proven ability to help build emotional connection. Extending our presence through product integration into some of the biggest music videos of the year, including tracks by Lil Nas X and Lizzo among others, has helped further elevate our brands’ visibility in culture while authentically tapping into artists’ genuine love for our products.” This effort has translated into significant success for the company and its brands, attracting notice among its sizeable cult following. Doritos, for example, recently measured a 78% recall score across its integrations, with 74% of viewers reporting an increased likelihood to purchase based on exposure to the product placements.

Cover stories

Bacardi Rum also has strong links to the music industry, with its partnership with Live Nation resulting in sponsorship of various major music festivals and ties with artists such as Major Lazer and Anitta. “Since the quarantine began back in March, we’ve experienced first-hand the consumer desire for virtual music events to fill the void that came about when live events across the globe were largely put on hold or cancelled,” admits Andrew Roden, brand director for Bacardi. “People are craving connection and interaction now more than ever – and there’s an opportunity for brands to tap into the virtual space in the short-term and adapt to the new normal.”

But even though there’s plenty of evidence of brands intelligently tapping into the music industry, one of the core dilemmas around picking the right song for a campaign remains. BMW’s Roberts advises: “I think using the right track is crucial. It’s not just about finding an obvious big-name artist or current hit; it’s about finding the right music that will help move people, support the brand message and engage our audience.”

BEN’s Terrell echoes this sentiment, suggesting there are a number of ways brands can amplify their messaging through thoughtful song choices.

“Sometimes a huge hit may be exactly right, but other times an undiscovered indie track may better serve the piece and compel audiences to reach for Shazam to identify the song, which also drives deeper engagement with the brand. Another good approach is using a cover of a familiar classic which employs a tonal shift to make the consumer take notice – it’s recognizable but also fresh. Whichever approach, that music-to-message alchemy is really important.”

Live again

Looking ahead to the future, Bacardi’s Roden says we should prepare for live shows to return – but that when they do, we should expect a bigger role for digital technology than in the past. “The big question for brands will be, how do we organically put ourselves back into these live music experiences that people have been missing so much, and for music festivals, how do they creatively get the word out that they’re back?” he ponders.

Brands also need to aim for longevity, according to Roden: “It’s important to identify music partnerships that don’t just live in the moment but also have longevity. The most successful partnerships are the ones that have potential to grow, evolve and span months, if not years. These types of partnerships build equity and can be experienced over an extended period of time versus a fleeting one-off event that consumers will quickly forget. If you approach the music industry with the right mentality then the opportunities for success are plentiful.”

Terrell says: “Audiences are looking more favorably on brands who activate in the music space and empower musicians, so why wait? It isn’t a surprise to see music industry alignments serving as a cornerstone of so many marketers’ advertising strategies.”

He concludes that while the opportunity for brands to gain by supporting artists already exists, it will grow further in the future. “There are more eyes and ears on audiovisual music content than ever before,” Terrell says.

“As artists continue to innovate, people yearn for musical connection, and we use both humans and AI to connect marketers with artists who reach a common audience, the opportunities for brands to tap into the music industry is only going to get more compelling.”

The rise of product placement and influencer marketing, created in partnership with BEN, explores the latest developments and capabilities available to marketers through brand integration, with insights, tips, and case studies to inspire your next big campaign. Click here to download this critical intelligence today.

Marketing Brand Purpose Brand Strategy

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BENlabs is an entertainment AI company that integrates brands into influencer, streaming, TV, music, and film content with guaranteed ROI.

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