Category Archives: Marketing

How effective is music in ads?

Ever wonder why companies spend ridiculous amounts of money licensing popular songs for commercials? Brian Anthony Hernandez suggests on his Mashable article, “The Songs Behind Your Favorite Commercials,” that songs usually leave consumers with a positive impression of a brand.

Lately, commercials have featured many indie artists. Most likely, this is due to the increased popularity of the genre and the relatively cheap cost of licensing music from mostly unknown (but rising) artists.

Hernandez’s article included 15 ads with popular songs in them, including a few of my favorites: Kmart’s back to school ad with Janelle Monae’s “Tightrope” and Amazon’s Kindle ad with The New Pornographers’ “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk.”

Reading the International Kindle in the hammock - photo by Joanna PennThe Kindle ads recently switched to “Sweet Talk, Sweet Talk” from Bibio’s “Lovers’ Carvings,” a song I might always associate with delightedly reading a Kindle on a lazy summer day — not that I’ve ever even used a Kindle. But that shows that adding music to ads can really work. Every time I hear those sweet strums in the beginning of “Lovers’ Carvings,” I immediately long for a day off to read— and maybe a hammock.

It’s probably no coincidence that what might be my favorite commercial features indie music. The first time I saw the Subaru Outback “Honeymoon” commercial, I probably wasn’t even paying attention to what was on the TV. But Subaru Honeymoon commercialthen I heard M. Ward’s soft-but-rough voice and took notice. Since then, I’ve watched it countless times on TV and online. It has a cinematic quality to it, with a beautiful story line, but for me, it’s still the music that makes it all come together. Without M. Ward’s “Here Comes the Sun Again,” I might never have even noticed it.

So even though I don’t immediately feel the need to run to Target when I hear Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin in the ad, the music can create powerful associations that can turn into brand loyalty.


Die-hard fans in the digital age

The definition of a “die-hard fan” has changed. People used to spend tons of money on albums, T-shirts and concert tickets to show their devotion to their favorite band. But now, “die-hards” are blogging, re-tweeting and sharing digital links.

So how does this translate into money? Well, according to an NPR article, “The Real Value of 7 Million Facebook Fans,” blog buzz can predict album sales, but crafting a digital brand that eventually results in money can take a long time for an artist.

Other people — like booking agents — are paying attention to buzz too. By staying on top of what bands people are blogging, tweeting, re-tweeting and sharing on Facebook, this side of the industry is making money — quickly.

Booking a concert is usually a risk. Even a well known artist doesn’t always bring a guaranteed success. Social media is making it easier to find out what people are talking about, and are more likely to spend money on, instantly.

Another interesting fact from the article: giving away songs to blogs for free (blogged songs) actually makes more money for the band and label.

“We’re called Arcade Fire. Check it out on Google.”

Arcade Fire GrammysIt’s been a big year for Arcade Fire. Their latest album, The Suburbs, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Irish Album Charts and U.K. Album Charts when it came out in August. They’ve been selling out venues like Madison Square Garden all around the world. And now, they’ve won a Grammy for Album of the Year – considered by many to be the top prize at the award show.

A lot of their success can be attributed to talent, but they also employed some innovative promotion techniques. All of Arcade Fire’s albums have been released on Merge Records, a small, independent label based in Durham, N.C. Merge doesn’t have the budget to spend thousands promoting even its biggest albums.

Instead, Merge and Arcade Fire took a somewhat unexplored route to focus their campaign on new media. The label offered discounted copies of the album through Twitter’s @earlybird program, and the band partnered with American Express, Vevo and YouTube to set up a live stream of their sold out MSG show. The album sold over 156,000 copies in its first week, and 3.7 million viewers watched the web stream. Later, the band also released an innovative web video on Google Chrome for their song “We Used to Wait.”

Who Is Arcade Fire??!!?But a lot of people missed all that, and after The Suburbs won Album of the Year, they were pissed. Social media sites exploded with questions and rants from dismayed viewers. Some of the funniest and most-misinformed have been collected on a Tumblr titled “Who Is Arcade Fire??!!?

Despite confused tweets from stars like Rosie O’Donnell and Dog the Bounty Hunter, this isn’t really bad PR for the band. Unlike the other nominees – Lady GaGa, Eminem, Katy Perry and Lady Antebellum – Arcade Fire doesn’t depend on record sales. Even if sales plummet, they’re not in danger of getting dropped by their label. Unlike most of the others, they didn’t begin their career playing arenas. They started by playing coffee houses. Their humble beginnings are so valuable because their current success isn’t a necessity, it’s an unexpected bonus.

If for some reason, Arcade Fire’s popularity vanished, they’d still have an extremely dedicated fanbase. They might not sell out Madison Square Garden, but they’d be putting out records exactly the same way they are now. Arcade Fire are musicians, not pop stars. Winning the Grammy was huge for them and for the music world. With any luck, there will be less “stars” and more music in the future.

Converse’s strategy: a mix of tradition and innovation

Converse shoes have been associated with popular music for the past three or four decades. The company is continuing to expand on this relationship in its integrated marketing campaign.

Recently, Converse has been pairing artists to create original tracks to promote the brand. The first was “My Drive Thru” in 2008, which featured rapper Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D., producer and singer Santigold and The Strokes’ frontman Julian Casablancas (all three pictured on the right). This year brought, “All Summer,” a collaboration between Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, indie beach-pop artist Best Coast and rapper Kid Cudi. The latest of these original songs to come out, “Didn’t Know What Love Was,” features indie dance artist Hot Chip and New Order’s Bernard Sumner.

“All Summer” has over 870,000 views on YouTube, and “My Drive Thru” has over 3 million.

Now, in addition to the songs and Converse’s string of free concerts in New York this summer, the company is building its own studio, Rubber Tracks, which will offer artists the chance to record for free. Converse is taking applications for time in the Brooklyn studio on its website. The site will also feature clips and tracks from the sessions.

But Converse isn’t neglecting social media. The company’s YouTube account has been posting tons of Rubber Tracks videos. As the project progresses, it looks like social media will also be a huge part of promotion for the artists involved in the process.

Converse is already listed as one of the top 20 growing Facebook pages. This could push them to the top.

“Ain’t No Grave” for the music video

I mentioned Chris Milk’s Arcade Fire project, The Wilderness Downtown, in my last post. The director’s latest project features an even bigger artist: Johnny Cash. Milk’s new video of the late Man in Black is actually a venture into crowd sourcing.

The Johnny Cash Project is a music video for “Ain’t No Grave,” Cash’s final studio recording. The site features a drawing tool, allowing fans to add a frame to the music video. According to a YouTube video about the project, over 250,000 people have already participated.

Traditional music videos might be on the way out. Watching isn’t enough anymore. Milk’s last two projects have capitalized on personalization and participation. It won’t be long before others follow suit. There’s a reason why MTV gave up music videos – it’s a dying medium, but innovators like Milk are changing the game to keep it alive.

Musicians must be creative outside the studio

Arcade Fire are a true indie success story. Their latest album, The Suburbs, will be on quite a few critics’ top ten lists for this year. But what’s more incredible than the music is the way the band and its independent label, Merge Records, have marketed the album.

Wilderness DowntownThe band’s online video for “We Used to Wait,” directed by Chris Milk, is a completely unique experience. The project, The Wilderness Downtown, uses Google Maps and HTML5 to create an innovative, interactive video that’s personalized for each viewer. (It works best on Google Chrome, if you haven’t seen it.) Even people who have never head Arcade Fire are suddenly watching their music video.

SuburbsArcade Fire also opted to work with YouTube, Vevo and American Express tostream its sold-out Madison Square Garden show online. The stream, directed by Terry Gilliam, also had innovative features like “Choose Your Cam” – a controllable viewing experience. To coincide with the stream, Merge teamed up with Twitter’s @EarlyBird promotion, which offers special deals from advertisers. The record label offered The Suburbs for $7.99.

Arcade Fire still aren’t The Beatles, but The Suburbs debuted at no. 1 on the Billboard Top 200. Innovation and creativity can go a long way in the music industry.