This year, Ivor Novello award winner Ben Drew (aka Plan B) has been keeping himself rather busy collaborating with a number of brands.
Earlier this summer, the British rapper, singer/songwriter, actor and director appeared in a clever HP/Intel cinema ad using 3D sound. Recently he fronted a Bulmers No17 TV spot to promote an integrated campaign for the cider, themed around searching for ‘Experimenters’. He’s currently working behind the scenes with Lucozade for their ‘Yes List’ campaign and will shortly be headlining a special event for Jack Daniels’ birthday party celebrations.
These engaging campaigns illustrate how brands can leverage associations with entertainment properties and music artists to deliver exclusive content, promotions and experiences that connect with consumers on an emotional level.
It's also encouraging to see Plan B and his team embrace these opportunities and it illustrates what brands can bring to the table to help re-shape a valid and workable music industry business model. But all this raises some interesting questions for both brand and artist.
For brands, it's so important their entertainment associations are ownable - even if they are just intended as a tactical piece of activity that’s part of a broader campaign idea. The more exclusive and unique the association appears, the more it will stand out and achieve better engagement. As part of any partnership negotiation, brands should establish category exclusivity with the artist or entertainment property and agree a sufficient time period between one brand campaign ending and another beginning.
The more open and collaborative the relationship, the more chance brands have to make the most of the association. It will also help avoid any unwelcome surprises down the line.
For the entertainment partner, it's important to look at what they’re working on with one brand in the context of other brand associations they may have or be planning with them. Category cross over should certainly be avoided, as should similar creative executions.
Credibility is paramount, not just for the brand but the artist as well. While consumers do embrace the brand/artist relationship and are keen for brands to entertain them, they can easily become cynical if the model is over-used.
The level of brand promotion an artist or group can get away with does depend on the type of music they perform. Syco's boy band One Direction, for example, is being very much marketed as a global brand in its own right, with a detailed brand identity and marketing guidelines. Their fan base won't react aversely to multiple brand tie-ins across categories such as fashion, accessories and FMCG. For the more discerning fans of what's perceived as a less manufactured artist or group, however, exposure to too much overt brand activity can easily be regarded as just selling out, undermining artist credibility.
All this, of course, should be considered along with the core reason behind the association in the first place - the 'essence' of the brand and the creative concept should be reflected naturally in the DNA of the artist, group or entertainment property, as opposed to feeling forced or superficial.