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Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Equity: Borrow it or Lend it? How do brands choose appropriate campaign music?

When considering music for campaigns, brands often face a dilemma about the deployment of musical resources. At a basic level, the choice is : Larger & Powerful vs. Smaller & Tactical
Let’s explore this with a physical analogy: When an army General is faced with a security challenge, a decision needs to be made on the deployment of military resources. Available options might be:
The Battalion: Large, cohesive, higher cost and effective through sheer fire power, vs.
The SAS : Small, fragmented, lower cost and effective through micro-targeting

For brands, this translates to:
(i) invest heavily in one superstar artist or track in one activation vs.
(ii) spreading the risk with several lower profile artists across multiple activities.

Let’s dig a little deeper …

Superstar Artist or Track

So, what do you get? A proven chunk of equity, albeit someone else’s. There’s safety in backing a very well-known property (artist, track or both) and it’s easier to justify how this investment will engage consumers more effectively. However, there’s the “all eggs in one basket” element to consider, and it can be an expensive mistake if the campaign doesn’t deliver against defined KPIs for brand awareness, campaign recall, market share and sales. The high price tag associated with proven equity will also come with restrictive usage rights.

As a recent example, here’s a US spot for the VW Passat. The borrowed equity is the all-powerful Star Wars franchise whose properties includes both the Darth Vader character and John Williams’ instantly recognisable film score. 32 million views certainly demonstrates strong consumer engagement – perhaps driven by the dual use of equity i.e. the music is directly linked to the featured character in the spot.

Lesser-known Artist or Track

This is a lower risk option that allows brands to build their own equity over time during a longer, multi-part campaign. A lower profile artist or track has less of their own equity at the outset, and clearly more to gain through an association with a brand. The balance of power sits differently as the brand builds a platform to which it invites various artists. The brand lends its equity to those artists who benefit from increased exposure - though no individual artist is the “main event”. On commercial terms, the cost of each artist deal will be lower than for superstar artists or tracks. Brands will also have greater leverage to secure broader usage rights.

As an example from last year, Stella Artois engaged with artists to appear in their 60s themed “Stella Presents” campaign. As with VW, we have dual use of equity – both music and related characters appear in the films. However, the artists are visitors to the brand’s world, so they borrow Stella Artois’ equity rather than the other way round.

Stella Presents -  Mystery Jets

Stella Presents - Marina and the Diamonds

So what are the take-outs for brands. Consider the following questions:

1. Using our military analogy, decide if you want success through “shock & awe” or stealth tactics.

2. Clearly define the time-line objectives. Do you want to get in quick, seize the ground, then get out? Or do you want to be in the space for the long term?

3. What are your cost objectives? Can you commit all your budget now? Or release it slowly over time?

4. Do you want to bask in the glow of instantly recognisable superstar talent or be gain kudos for supporting newer artists?

By answering these questions, you’ll be closer to a decision on the right type of music for your campaign.

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