Why a Music Strategy Matters to Brands

If brands and their creative agencies agree, in full or in part, about the breadth of the cultural influence and the social value of music, they need to make a long-term commitment to developing a “music strategy,” according to Steve Yanovsky, music and emerging media strategy consultant at Mindshare, a unit of GroupM, a media investment management firm. This involves product placement, tour sponsorships, licensing a song for a TV spot, product integration in a music video, artist endorsements—all the tactical components that may be used as a marketing mix for a brand. Yanovsky, who has worked on a variety of brand/music tie-ins, with the latest example being the New Moon soundtrack, chatted with Brandweek about the importance of such deals. Through music strategy, he said, brands can create “music equity,” which is “really the long-term idea in utilizing music as a framework for their marketing.” Excerpts of that conversation are below:   

Brandweek: You’ve worked with many brands over the years. What were some of your most memorable projects and why?   
Steve Yanovsky:
Two come to mind immediately, ESPN X Games and Heineken Red Star Sounds. These projects are most memorable because I helped establish music as a core component of their creative, content, programming as well as establishing as part of the marketing mix for both brands.

For Heineken, I launched the Heineken Red Star Sounds music initiative.  The idea was to use music to help create greater relevance for the brand with African Americans.  The message, ‘Music Can Make A Difference’, focused on supporting music education in Urban neighborhoods.  We set up a non-profit entity, The Heineken Foundation, as the conduit for awareness and donation. What was notable was the absence of any product messaging.  The Heineken Foundation was merely tagged at the end of each spot to demonstrate Heineken’s investment in music education.  The entire campaign was supported with TV (BET, MTV, VH1, UPN), Radio, Print (VIBE, Rolling Stone), OOH and online. According to Heineken, there was a lift in case sales in mainly Urban markets.  Heineken Red Star Sounds continues to be part of their messaging platform for their multi-cultural marketing.

BW: Most marketers turn to the big screen and TV shows for product placement.  What about music tie-ins? How valuable are they?
It’s ironic that one of the highest rated shows in the history of television is a show about music. There is no disputing the social aspect and commercial impact of blockbuster films such as New Moon or hit TV franchises such as American Idol.  As with music, they are also vastly communal and can be deeply personal.  But, they are finite platforms.  Unlike Film and TV, music is neither confined by space, time, season nor location.  It is completely portable, addressable and measurable.  And although music can be passive and active, engagement with it is mostly unrestrained, both to the conscious and the subconscious.  Lady Gaga wears several pairs of sunglasses in her new video Bad Romance, including a pair of Carrera White Champion.  Yes, a music video is screen facing and all of three minutes.  An aspiring female fashionista will watch it dozens and dozens of times.  After reading this month’s feature pictorial in Elle magazine just prior to walking into Macy’s, she hears the song.  Does it remind her of those sunglasses she wanted buy?  It is one possible scenario that moves Carrera to the top of their consideration set at the height of purchase intent.  Surely, this is the outcome Carrera hoped for in the first place. 

This reflects the importance of music in what I call the “thrivecycle”—where consumers live, thrive and buy.  If connecting on an emotional level is central to consumer engagement, then music offers a multitude of paths to accomplish this.