what brands can learn from bands

I always thought that rock videos were effectively a gesture in cross marketing.  A Run DMC audience meets Aerosmith and vice versa.  And I always wondered why brands don’t do this kind of thing. 

But today in my hotel room I saw the video that features Mary J. Blige and Bono.  I find these artists a little tedious alone.  But brought together in this video, they were both somehow refreshed. 

I think this yet another example of what is proving to be the Swiss Army knife concept: what we call the Jonathan Miller effect here at This Blog Sits At.  Each performer is effectively ever so gently cast against type and this breaks up and lets new meanings out of their well formed persona and new meanings in.  At the very least, and according to the Miller effect, each act feels not just fresher but somehow, and paradoxically, truer to itself. 

In any case, cross marketing proves to be merely one of the benefits and a distinctly inferior when compared to the revivication that takes place one two acts are brought together. 

The question then is, might this happen for brands.  Certainly something like is happening when Snop Dog features a Chrysler 300 in a video.  But in a sense this works like a celebrity endorsement.  I’m talking, I think, about moments in which Coke products appear in an ad for say FedEX. 

The idea here is NOT to find a marketing partner that has a youthful audience or a constituency that TCCC (the Coca-Cola Company) wishes to recruit.  The idea is to put Coke in the company with something with which it doesn’t quite go.  What we are looking for is something a little counter-expectational.  Not deeply strange, just a little odd, so that we are now obliged to savor the differences, look for the similarities, ask for a moment, so just who is this Bono fellow again? 

This is what I think helps break open the existing set of meanings, decide what exists there and whether and how will it plays off this unexpected partner. 

As we seek to give brands newly robust and dynamic meanings, I think we will be obliged to resort to new meaning management strategies that are not at first true to marketing orthodoxy.  Ah, but that’s one of the reasons marketing has become so newly interesting and difficult.  I think. 

(written from a Kinko’s in London because some hotels here are still trying to come to grips with this "whole internet access" thing.  Here in the great capital of capital in Europe, we are, from an internet point of view, still partying like it’s 1999.)

8 thoughts on “what brands can learn from bands

  1. Mark Gordon

    Do you seriously not know who Bono is?? He is the lead singer of an internationally recognised Irish rock band called U2, who were recently inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.

    In relation to your point of relatively of one brands association to another, this is basic advertising text book theoroy e.g. Marketing Comunnications, Belch & Belch 2004 & Kellman in 1961.

    To understand the concept, I suggest you look at how Apple used the “power” of the U2 brand in endorsing the I/POD, as the U2 brand gave the device credibility.

    Your spending too much time on plane mate & you need to come to Dublin and drink some Guinness!

  2. Peter

    Some of my former students, Grant, are making a living from the difficulty otherwise of getting wifi access in Britain — see: http://www.bozii.net.

    I would suggest signing up with them if you plan to visit often.

  3. BrandCowboy

    This strikes me as a bit like the delusional habit ad agencies have of confusing entertainment with persuasion. Novelty is a drug, and today’s culture consumers crave it. But its impact on the health of a brand – and yes, U2 is a brand – is roughly the equivalent to the impact of crack on your attention span.

  4. steve

    I’m not sure this is the right thread for this, but the WSJ had an article today about how St. John’s (the knit-suits-for-prosperous-women people) tried to reposition itself dynamically. As it turns out, it was a big mistake; the CEO responsible is gone and now they are trying to track back, “refreshing” rather than “reinventing” the brand. Since I commented to someone at the time that the repositioning struck me as a remarkably bad idea, I feel some degree of schaudenfreude.

    Part of the repositioning involved cross-branding of a sort using famous models in new ads. On the plus side for the firm, some of their execs probably got a little face time with these new, dynamic models–Giselle and Angelina Jolie. Is there a principal-agent problem there?

  5. Max Kalehoff

    Brands are not people, but the “ah-ha” moment you describe is similar to when we introduce and experience friends coming together for the first time.

    Very much like you say, put the brand…”in the company with something with which it doesn’t quite go. What we are looking for is something a little counter-expectational. Not deeply strange, just a little odd, so that we are now obliged to savor the differences, look for the similarities, ask for a moment, so just who is this…fellow again?”

    For brands, it’s a small step forward to interaction and humblness, versus contrived corporate brand masturbation, which is most often how brands singularly present themselve — in one-way, broadcast, mass-media, including the examples you provided in this post.

    Good observation — liked your post.


  6. art

    Maybe in regards to your Jonathen Miller parallel, you could try your thesis out by changing your blog into the format of a gossip aggregator with a subjective twist – the style of the more popular ones are always having a “narrator”. That is really the stage for expressing the set of conditions you describe. I mean, Paris holds up a certain camera, we read about what is in the bag of goodies that the “stars” get when they do some silly presentation job, or just attend a party, we see which car they show up in, what they wear – and then we get discussion on it because of course, these aggregators are “subjective”-based, so there is dialog on precisely whether what the star wears, does, drinks, throws up is good or not. (Capri pants apparently being the overall scourge at this moment). Finally, synergy between legacy medias and branding-formats occurs – as the more succesful blogger is invited over and onto the party-stage, to be one of the people who is an “A” guest, or at least allowed to party with them – to be seen, written on in the print media at the same parties, and so on. And … they talk about the things THEY wear, and do, and drive, the hotel they stay at… ad infinitum..

    In terms of models of efficiency and contemporaneity, Bono + Blige is akin to the outdated, say, Blockbuster-video era, and what I try to describe, only partially glibly, is akin to the bit-torrent downloading philosophy… (the same one the movie networks now adopt). Brands and branding adopt accordingly.

  7. Overworm

    Grant, I wonder if you might be looking for a happenstance that has grown in the past decade of fast food restaurants partnering with fuel stations. All along the highway (on the east coast anyway) you can see a KFC sidled up next to a Amoco, or a Wendy’s sharing a wall and parking lot with Exxon.

    I love the idea because when one is on a long road trip, one often stops for gas and food at the same time. It’s a pain to pull into one or the other, get back onto the busy service road to cross over to the other. Taking that idea a step further, some combo-outlets now add a second restaurant’s menu items to the first, which provides two restaurants, one gas station, and one convenience store all in one stop.

    The Fed-Ex Kinko’s merger was perfect. How about dog food brand sharing commercial space with a children’s clothing store? Dogs and kids seem like the perfect mix to me. Does product placement in movies fit in with your line of thinking? There are dozens of examples of that every week.

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