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STRATEGY TUNING

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So you bought that "Mar garita Mix" CD at Pottery Barn, hoping it will jump-start your next party. Or maybe you purchased the retailer's "Dinner at Eight" jazz collection to make your shindig a more sophisticated affair.

Whatever your intentions, you didn't buy a simple CD. Such music compilations are part of a larger branding strat egy for companies such as Pottery Barn that sell custom-produced CDs.

"[Consumers are] getting something new, they're getting something cool, and in the end, they're associating that back with the brand," said Billy Straus, president of Rock River Communications, which creates "branded life style soundtracks" for Pottery Barn and a host of other "lifestyle brands," as he calls them.

The Brattleboro, Vt., company handles all aspects of CD production, including programming, licensing, manufacturing and package design. Programming is driven by clients' demographic and marketing objectives.

Rock River's Web-based counterpart, Websound, of which Straus is also president, builds online media players for clients' Web sites.

The two companies' clients include The Gap, Restoration Hardware, Volkswagen and Time magazine.