Stuart Dredge from Music Ally is reporting live from the Images & Brands summit at MIDEM…
The final panel session at this morning’s Images & Brands Summit featured Frank Cooper III from Pepsi (centre left), Cheryl Calegari from Converse (centre right), and Rob Stone from US publisher Cornerstone – moderated by Stone’s colleague Jon Cohen (left).
Cooper kicked off, talking about the Pepsi Refresh campaign, which starred Will.I.Am remixing Bob Dylan. He said the principles behind it were about making a “fundamental shift” to brands engaging consumers in meaningful experiences, rather than just being
effectively an image.
“Can you move from being a sponsor to being a creator or a curator?” he said, stressing that Pepsi has had a strong association with music for a long time, working with the likes of
Michael Jackson at his zenith in the 1980s.
But now it’s turned creator, with something called Green Label Sound – a singles-only label based around its Mountain Dew drink. “We went out and found emerging artists with Cornerstone that matched its values very well,” he said. “The sole role of the brand was to create this platform [for those artists].
Cornerstone co-CEO Rob Stone chimed in at this point, saying that when Green Label Sound was set up, many artists were mistrustful – thinking they’d have to record jingles and so on if they got involved with a brand. But he says Cornerstone worked hard to dispel those expectations, explaining that it really was just a platform for them to use.
The company has also been working with Converse on its Converse Connectivity campaign in 2008, to celebrate 100 years of the business. It was a print campaign running in 80 countries, focusing on dead icons – Sid Vicious, James Dean and so on.
Once it was done, Cornerstone hooked Converse up with some (definitely non-dead) artists, including Pharrell Williams, Santogold and Strokes singer Julian Casablancas. The idea was to create an original piece of music by putting these three artists together.
“We were picked up by radio and all the blogs – virally it just picked up,” she said, pointing to chart success, millions of YouTube views and even a four-star Rolling Stone review “before any media was actually bought”.
Cohen suggested that these kinds of campaigns have an “endless life” too – “those YouTube views, the exposure, the fact that that song is on people’s iPods… every mention organically ties this campaign back to the brand.”
Cooper gave a zinger of a quote: “redefining the win” – how brands are changing the way they measure success of these kinds of campaigns. “It’s more about relationships and less about impressions… That’s where the money is, if you understand how to create that dialogue.”
He also talked about the “false dichotomy” between artist brands and, well, brand brands. They’re both brands, with the same basic goals. He suggested that artists seeing brands as ‘the other side’ is an antiquated point of view nowadays.
“We have infrastructure and assets that artists can tap into, and it’s only limited by the imagination. Once you start thinking about it in that way, instead of it being about a cheque, the potential is limitless,” he said.
At what point isn’t music sacred any more though, asked Cohen. Should there be more of a filter, or doesn’t it matter? Calegari said these things can be overused, which may impact music fans – wondering if hearing Led Zeppelin in a Cadillac commercial might “desensitise people to the band’s music”. And worse, if they’re blogging and tweeting, they may even be saying negative things about these deals.
Cooper warned that if brands start applying a formula to these kinds of deals, there may also be a risk of oversaturation.
Calegari said Converse is also working with music in China, putting on a tour during the last Olympic Games – but outside Beijing. “We found our voice and space within China, which was extraordinary,” she said. Now Converse is running a user-generated lyrics campaign with one artist there, getting fans to submit lyrics for one of their songs. Another example of the kind of campaign that’s possible.
“There’s never been a better time for brands and the music industry to work together,” she continued.
The panel were asked about the new generation of ad-supported download services, like FreeAllMusic and Guvera, where brands are being invited in to sponsor channels or downloads. “There has to be a stronger call to action than just a banner,” said Cohen, and Cooper backed him up.
“The idea of renting space where we don’t add value to the experience? That’s prohibitive: that we would never do,” said Cooper. But he stressed that this doesn’t mean Pepsi would rule out working with third-party platforms, if it’s able to get more deeply involved and interact with the music fans, rather than just slap an ad on top of the experience.