Strategy: Authenticity

Dangers in product partnerships 

The Chill

Without providing any specifics, there has recently been a growing trend of misuse surrounding the word authenticity and its applicability to artist branding. Increasingly often, music business professionals are throwing this word around without feeling the substance of its meaning.

I’m mainly talking about people taking the concept of an artist is a business too far, pairing them up with brands as if they were no different from a car manufacturer or software developer. Art – arguably the core of our business – is exceptionally human in its nature. It’s effectiveness [and thus, it’s profitability] hinges the intangible responses of real people. There’s a remarkable intangibility present in the biz since people all have distinct emotions; music is particularly non-categorical. 

Nevertheless, the cold grip of business has seeped its way invasively into the personal space of artistic expression. Continuing, most people have the capacity to see this contaminant immediately. This is the chill. It’s easy to feel and nearly impossible to avoid unless you take a second look at how you approach artistry and branding.

Please test yourself – watch this.

This is Taylor Swift’s particularly cumbersome attempt to appear excited about her brand partnership with Diet Coke. A board room of suits spent some amount of time with a whiteboard and some coffee mixing and matching target markets and brainstorming where more logos could possibly be squeezed. Draw a few conclusions for yourself – what did this accomplish for either Coca-Cola or Swift?

Branding doesn’t need to be cold; it doesn’t need to be unnatural. In fact, the objective of a brand alliance [a cross-collateralization of constituencies, resources, etc.] is within reach without the need of a focus group or a contract. 

Not All Is Lost
Sigur Ros 

This documentary Heima [an Icelandic word meaning “Home”] chronicles the story of Sigur Ros’s return to Iceland, their home country, to perform a series of free surprise concerts. The film clearly convey’s the source of the band’s success both domestically and as an internationally renowned indie act. Internally, Sigur Ros truly is authentic in their approach to creating music. None of the four members concerns himself with fame or money, instead they collectively form a band driven by creativity and a love for music. They’ve developed a position based on their pride and connection with the culture of their country, refusing to alter their actions to appeal to target marketsIn doing so, they’ve achieved one of the greatest brand partnerships imaginable; one with the entire nation of Iceland

The main objective of a brand partnership – a symbiotic win-win – is present here, minus the chill.

The Lesson Here Being…

False authenticity  [much like that originating from the more outdated, misguided conference rooms across the music industry] creates awkwardness and chill while simply staying devoted to natural human passions creates much more desirable outcomes. An artist that ignores the temptation to treat him or herself as a business instead of, perhaps, a commercially conscientious artist will maintain a certain competitive edge in the days to come as people become more and more fed up with corporate conjecture. It’s clear to me to which artists I resonate most – with which artists I feel most connected. Conclusively, I can say that Drake doesn’t make me want to drink Sprite, and The Dropkick Murphy’s do make me miss Boston.

I suppose I can also say that Run DMC makes Adidas look pretty cool.

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