I’ve got through January and I feel I avoided BIG DATA as much as possible. Now that February has arrived I think I can be allowed one mention of the BIG D. I am no fan of the marketing concept that is BIG D, for me just having loads of data is fairly useless. Data is an ingredient we need to create insight, what I would like to see more of is BIG INSIGHT. So I was very interested to see that GROUP M Entertainment, Sports and Promotion employed GROUP M NEXT to provide GROUP M with some proprietary insight on how people really quite like music, GROUP M, sorry I think I’ve developed a tick.
So the insight has been delivered in the form of a report called The New Music Model for Brands: How Live Events and Digital are Changing the Sound of Things. I’ll summarise it, people like music, they listen to it loads and they like brands when they help them listen to it. OK it’s a lot deeper than than but I think it is better if you read the report itself, its good stuff. If you don’t have the time just yell out “People like music, GROUP M says so” when you are stuck for something to say in a meeting.
This one has been bubbling under for a while, since Vincent Bolloré, head of the Bolloré family, the largest Havas shareholder, became chairman of Vivendi, owners of Universal, it seemed like a logical move for both businesses. Whether this was all worked out over dinner at Chez Bolloré, Havas’ chairman happens to be Yannick Bolloré, son of Vincent, or through some in-depth analysis of the music and brand market and a realisation that it lacked a super power, I will never know but it is probably the biggest commitment to cooperation we have seen so far.
So what is it all about? On the face of it and if you read the various press releases the whole thing is about data, lots and lots of data, I’m not going to say BIG DATA (doh!) as that is so 2014. They have even managed to sneak the word data into the collaboration’s name – THE GLOBAL MUSIC DATA ALLIANCE – which I think should be shortened to GLOMUDA for no real reason. There is loads of talk about combining all the numbers that both sides gather on their audiences and using them to work out better ways of combining music and brand to everyone’s benefit. At this stage then the focus is very much on building some really enormous databases and working out some spectacularly complicated algorithms to make sense of them. This kind of analysis will help prove the case for music and brand relationships of all shapes and sizes and I guess it will not be too long before GLOMUDA (trademark pending) becomes self-aware and Ed Sheeran is being hunted down by a cyborg from the future.
For music and brand geeks the GLOMUDA is an exciting project between two real powerhouses in their industries with the very highest level of executive backing. Where I think the real potential for this relationship will be is in a year or two’s time, once they have enough data to create accurate insight into music and consumer trends. If they take this insight and use it as a starting point for some outstanding and innovative creative work then Universal and Havas could be building a market leading platform. But it is just the starting point, both sides will also need to invest heavily in creative talent as translating insight into inspiration is the true key to success.
In the past partnerships like this have not worked as one side saw it as a bit of fun while the other considered it a way to get someone else to pay the bill. This partnership, however, could change that simply because of its scale, the board level support should ensure that the Havas agencies function collectively rather than competitively when it comes to music projects while Universal has a pretty progressive view of brand relationships. Plus if all else fails Mrs Bolloré can always step in and sort things out.
So to start 2015 we have a biggie and one that we will need to observe throughout the year, if anything so we can see what impact GLOMUDA has on Music Dealers (Havas) and Globe (Universal).
Here are links to the Havas press release and coverage in AdAge:
UPDATE: Well it didn’t take long for someone to ruin my BIG DATA avoiding 2015. This article on mediajobs.com gives a more cash focused reason for why HAVAS + UNIVERSAL = DATA, DATA = CASH.
OK the headline is a little harsh but I think it is more fun than the real headline that Tesco are rumoured to be looking to sell or close down their Blinkbox service. As usual in the interests of nothing I should confess that I know a few people over at Blinkbox and I imagine they are not having much fun reading the news in The Times that the new Tesco CEO sees the business as a distraction.
Before we ignore the possible demise of another streaming platform I think it is worth looking at the whether it ever made sense for Tesco to take on little upstarts like Spotify, iTunes, Netflix, and Amazon.
Tesco certainly was and still is a pretty dominant player in music retail. In 2013 Kantar Worldpanel reported that Tesco was the UK’s second largest music retailer behind Amazon. With the demise of HMV and other high street music brands over the last decade the supermarkets have picked up huge chunks of physical music sales and done very nicely out of it. However, nobody remembers who came second and this seems to have been somewhere in the thinking behind Tesco’s foray into digital entertainment services. They started with Blinkbox then they bought We7 and to bring these all together they created the Hudl tablet in a move that replicated Amazon’s hardware and services model.
For me there are a few reasons why Tesco may have not really been the ideal creator of an entertainment brand.
1. Everyone knows Tesco as a physical retail brand. Sure they do online groceries but when people think of Tesco they will always think of massive warehouse sized supermarkets. The main competition in entertainment streaming services are all 100% online brands and therefore consumers are way more comfortable with the idea of these virtual platforms providing them with digital stuff.
2. Do consumers really want the brand that sells them toilet paper to be the one that provides the with their entertainment? Music and films may not be priced as luxury items but on an emotional level they are just that. Entertainment is about escapism and therefore having it provided by Tesco just doesn’t tick many emotional boxes.
3. Tech is a young person’s game. OK we are all now touched by technology. We all have smartphones, tablets and stuff but when it comes to the consumption of entertainment digitally this is still very much the thing of youth, by that I mean anyone younger than me. My point is that if you are a 19 year old looking for a streaming service then do you go with Tesco’s Blinkbox or do you go with Spotify. I know as time marches on more age categories will get into streaming platforms but annual accounts are not about the money you may make in 3 years.
4. Sometimes the big idea is not realistic. Blinkbox is a big idea. Take the biggest supermarket brand in the UK and alongside its march into online retail add a nice service that provides fun stuff and not cabbage. This will of course make the brand feel more digital. Cabbage and U2 mix that well.
I admire Tesco’s attempt to expand its footprint in our lives by offering us nice, shiny, fun things but when the competition is already popular, cool and built in digital from the ground up you have to question the business plan. Of course Blinkbox was in theory a stand alone brand but I’m not sure it ever freed itself of its Tesco parents. Most people saw the brand when they were in a Tesco store, where they could not click a button and combine bananas with Gaga.
I’ll be sad if Blinkbox disappears as I think they have some really great people there who have taken on a mammoth task. Tesco is a brand that now needs to shout function rather than fun if it is to hold onto it No. 1 status. There is a reason Tesco do not sponsor One Direction tours or hold music festivals in Hyde Park, this really is a case where music and brand just doesn’t fit.
It is officially Autumn and what better way to fill the long evenings than with Billboard’s 2014 Music and Brand Roundtable. This year we have some serious people from the various corners of music and brand, and Lars Ulrich. Its not exactly chock full of drama or laughs, at times its feels like a negotiation, but as a resource on music and brand its worth your time.
I’m not sure choosing one of the biggest music stars in the world provides much insight. Mr Ulrich points out that brands come to him so his view of the music and brand relationship is fairly traditional. I think it would have been more interesting had they got a new artist with more of a need for brand relationships as they look to build a career. But then I guess if someone offers you Lars Ulrich you don’t turn them down.
The person you have to listen to is Steve Pamon of Chase. He explains so many of the issues that brands have when trying to work with music artists. His basic issue is the music business’ failure to act like a business. He does throw music a bone by pointing out its emotional impact on an audience and how valuable this is to a brand.
Listen also to Jennifer Frommer from SFX as she quickly points out the value of content. Rather than simply talking about putting a brand next to an artist she explains the importance of providing platforms and a variety of content that an audience will want.
There is no point in me describing the whole chat, I simply recommend that rather than watching X Factor you check out the films. The mix of people is good and the conversation, while not ground-breaking, is certainly worth some of your time.
My favourite quote is:
Lars Ulrich – “I think U2 are the coolest”.
Always leave them laughing.
I normally don’t like to comment on big music and brand stories as there is little point adding to the din around them. However, I really feel I need to chip in on the U2/APPLE incident.
Depending on who you read, either the biggest thing ever in music happened last week or there was an album launch which nobody was really bothered about. Some say U2 got paid $100m, others suggest that the media campaign was worth $100m, others worried about whether the light stays on when you close the fridge.
In the interest of honest journalism I would like to declare my interests, I own an iPad and a MacBook but I have never owned an iPhone, although I am a little tempted by the 6 as long as it has a battery that can help me chronicle the entire life of a mayfly. I also own a lot of U2 albums, all of them up to 2004, not entirely sure why.
What does the U2/Apple thing really mean? Well Music Ally did some analysis of the data and concluded that actually people weren’t that excited about a new U2 album even when it is free. They also hit the nail on the head by spotting that actually the real money for U2 from this amazing moment of philanthropy is that the back catalogue is doing great business on iTunes.
For me the whole thing demonstrates the power of having mates in high places. The Apple love affair with U2 dates back to the days of Steve Jobs at a time when U2 really were a big band. Nowadays things have changed, kids and teens have no idea who Bono is and U2 are about as relevant to their lives as a finance package on family car. So why have Apple seen fit to bring the band in for their biggest launch of the year? Will it help their business reach untapped audiences and convince the world that the iPhone is cool? Nah. This is about Bono being mates with Sir Jonathan Ive and Jimmy Iovine. It is about Tim Cook’s desire to try and grab a little of that Steve Jobs magic by hanging out with rock stars. This is about being connected.
I think this experiment in music and brand partnerships will succeed for Apple in the way it seems to be for U2. Apple couldn’t give a crap if some teenager knows what The Joshua Tree is because how many 16 year olds can afford a £600 phone anyway. What they seem to be gunning for is the 40 somethings who can. Despite the words of Guy Oseary in a recent Billboard interview I’m not convinced that the upswing in U2 sales is being driven by teenagers. You see they have this thing called Spotify which is really rather good and makes iTunes look a little pants (youth terminology from a while back). This partnership is about middle aged (I’m being generous) men sitting around and asking themselves what band they want attached to their mobile brand, not a skateboard or an app in sight.
Do I think what Apple and U2 have done is smart? No. Do I think this is the future of the music industry? No. Will it make more people buy iPhones? No. Will it help bring U2 to the kids? No. What it will do is get U2 in the news for a week, get some people to listen to an album that they would never have paid £10 for and save Apple a few quid on sync fees for their commercials.
I almost forgot to mention the album. Its a little boring but U2 fans will love it. If you want to remove it from your life here are the instructions.
McDonalds are doing some more music stuff. That’s about all we know at this time apart from it has something to do with their big digital push. In probably one of the most lacking bits of reporting for some time various marketing blogs are reporting that McDonalds are doing some music stuff and far be it from me to not join in the party. There is not really very much detail on what is going to be on offer.
In the not so distant past McDonalds did some work with Music Dealers around the Winter Olympics and then there was that time on band camp… I’m really sorry but all I can tell you at this time is that there is a big digital push that will bring together loyalty, mobiles and music. McDonalds certainly knows the power of music so I would expect something significant to be in the offing.
March seems to have been quite a quiet month for all things music and brand, well at least once SXSW was done. Gaga’s Dorito sponsored vomit session seems to have lead to a collective “Yeah, you went a little too far with that one” and maybe the excess of music and brand in Austin left people a little tired. Anyhow I found this piece in today’s Adweek by Ray Waddell that provides a nice gentle warm up for the summer live season.
Research has shown that consumers really like live experiences and the good news is that while concert sponsorship may not be maintaining its stellar growth of recent times it is becoming a lot smarter and more compelling for brands. As the article points out it seems to be the Rolling Stones who are always pushing the boundaries of tour sponsorship, from their perfume deal back in the 1981 through to their award winning partnership with Citi in 2013, they seem to regularly work out how maximise the value for their pensions and their brand partners.
The thing I find interesting about the Stones’ partnership with Citi is that it had such a significant social media element. You see the audience for the Stones is old. I’m generalising a little bit but compared to say 1D’s tribe, the followers of Jagger et al are more likely to be grandparents than teenage parents. So it is impressive that Stones racked up nearly 750 million social media impressions for their North American tour. The thing I take out of this success is that those seeking to target the younger audiences through tour sponsorship have got their work cut out for them. Older audiences are learning to enjoy social media at a steady pace but the youths suck up and spit out new platforms quicker than they can say “It’s not fair”. So with ticket prices for tours and festivals becoming increasingly excessive, brands need to create ever more engaging and relevant ways to use tour sponsorships for audiences and fans. The key for brands is to avoid their instinctive urges to have their logos as large and omnipresent and instead think about how they can enhance the consumer experiences before and after the event. As soon as a gig starts the brand needs to step back put down the clipboard and enjoy the show.
So onwards to Glastonbury and I hope Doritos doesn’t come out with a Gaga vom flavour for this summer’s Artpop Ball Tour