Brands & Merch Howdy Partner

Howdy Partner #4: Sentient drinks and fake job titles

By | Published on Tuesday 12 February 2013


If 2013 carries on as it has been so far, it’s going to be a very busy year for this column.

Over the last few weeks the speed and utter ridiculousness of press statements issued by artists and brands as they enter mutually beneficial partnerships has gone into overdrive.

Most recent announcements can be split into two categories – ‘creative directors’ and ‘people who think drinks understand them’.

Hovering just outside the latter category is country musician Brantley Gilbert, who couldn’t be tempted into pretending he had a personal relationship with Mountain Dew, but did concede that he’d “been a fan of Mountain Dew for as long as I can remember”.

Having been unsuccessful in nudging Gilbert over the edge, Mountain Dew’s VP of Marketing Greg Lyons tried to make the link himself, getting so excited about being able to inform the world of the singer’s similarly to a bright green fizzy drink that he just blurted out some words that make no sense whatsoever: “Being part of the Dew family means making a style that’s all your own, and never conforming to a traditional mould. Brantley exemplifies all that Dew stands for – making country music that is true to its rebel roots, in very much the same way that the brand stays true to its own”.

So, you never do anything that could be seen as traditional, but also stay true to your roots? Also, it’s worth noting that while Lyons starts off talking about the ‘Dew family’, he later switches to referring to the ‘Dew Nation’. Presumably this is a mountainous place with lots of country music and traditional rebels.

But anyway, none of this matters, because none of you have ever heard of Brantley Gilbert and they don’t even sell Mountain Dew in the UK. Plus we’ve already established that Gilbert was letting the side down with his personal quote. And that meant that whoever became the next artist to accept money from a drinks brand would have to go way over the top in order to make up for it.

Enter Taylor Swift, current queen of the brand partnership. She’s done shoes, she’s done pizza, now she’s filling the gap between the two with Diet Coke. Because who can enjoy having comfortable feet and a belly full of bread without a drink in their hand too?

Though bizarrely, that’s not the reason Swift gave for doing the deal, rather she said: “I’ve said for years that Diet Coke just ‘gets me’ and my lifestyle”.

Years. Years, she’s been saying that. Not since The Coca-Cola Company handed her a big cheque a few weeks ago, but for years. No wonder she’s always breaking up with people. There must come a point in every relationship where she brings this up and suddenly Harry Styles, or whoever, isn’t taking her calls any more.

“You know, Diet Coke just ‘gets me'”.
“It just gets me. And my lifestyle”.

It transpires this isn’t the only odd thing Swift has to say about Diet Coke, as Coca-Cola’s President of North America Brands Katie Bryan reveals, saying: “Taylor tells us that every day Diet Coke plays a small part in helping her stay extraordinary”.

Really, though? Are those really words she said? Because while believing that a fizzy drink is your confidant could (at a push) be seen as endearing, going around telling people that you are extraordinary is another thing entirely. Some might say it was a little bit arrogant, but Bryan says that “it’s one of the many reasons she’s the ideal partner to represent our brand”. So make of that what you like.

Still, at least Coke didn’t feel the need to give Swift a made-up job title. Ever since Lady Gaga was named Creative Director of Polaroid, the largely delusional people who populate marketing departments have seen this meaningless job title as a fast track to success. Because what do celebrities like more than money? That’s right, pretending to have a proper job.

“Oh, it’s wonderful!” They cry. “It’s just like being real people!”

And so, enter Justin Timberlake, who now holds down two Creative Director jobs at the same time as he attempts to relaunch his pop career. You’d think all the work he’s been doing to reinvigorate MySpace while recording a new album in his spare time would be enough. But no, he’s also going to help to attract more customers to Budweiser beer brand Bud Light Platinum too.

It’s alright though, stresses Paul Chibe, VP of Marketing for Bud brewery Anheuser-Busch, he can handle the extra workload. “Justin Timberlake is one of the greatest creative minds in the entertainment industry”, he says. “His insights will help us further define Bud Light Platinum’s identity in the lifestyle space”.

Yep, Justin just has too much creativity flowing through him. It’s not so much that he wants to take on all these extra roles, it’s that he has to, otherwise all the creativity will get clogged up in his brain tubes and pop his skull open. Is that what you want? Is it?

And just look how relaxed Justin is now that he’s been able to get it all out. Look, here’s his half of the press statement: “Bud Light Platinum brings a refined, discerning aesthetic to beer that plays well with what I’m doing”.

It just plays well with what he’s doing. I mean, if anyone else had said those words it might have sounded like they were totally meaningless. But when he says them, it all makes sense. He’s doing some stuff, and pretending to have a job at Budweiser plays well with that.

Trouble is, so many celebs have now been bestowed with the ‘Creative Director’ title, the public are starting to get wise to the ruse. It’s time to think up some other way to give what is essentially an advertising deal an air of gravitas. And, thankfully, BlackBerry has found it.

While launching its new range of devices last month, the flagging phone maker announced that it had made Alicia Keys its Global Creative Director. Phew, people will totally believe that one. Not like her husband Swizz Beats, who’s just ‘Creative Director’ at Lotus Cars. Good luck with that one, bozos!

Announcing her acceptance of the job, despite already being committed to a four month world tour to promote her hobby of playing music, Keys said: “Staying connected has become a vital part of my creative process. I have been using the BlackBerry 10 for a few weeks now, and I’m truly inspired by its innovation”.

It’s perfect really; she’s inspired to create by the product that she is supposed to be creative for. Though you have to worry about Keys’ fickleness, given that only a few weeks previously she had described herself as a newly converted “iPhone junky”. Though perhaps it was the day after that when she was handed a new BlackBerry and realised its “potential to help creative people be more productive, and help productive people be more creative”.

Or maybe it’s all bollocks. Last night a tweet appeared on her official Twitter account that was sent from an iPhone. Is she having a relapse? Not at all, says the singer. She was hacked. Totally hacked. Or so she says, anyway. Someone hacked her account from an iPhone and posted a Drake lyric pretending to be her. That’s just like those hackers.

Anyway, moving on, there’s another word I’ve so far managed to avoid using in relation to all these overblown statements, but now it comes to a point when it’s unavoidable. This last deal doesn’t relate to sentient drinks or fake job titles, but it is nuts. Still attempting to squeeze every last cent out of what may well be his one and only hit, Psy is currently advertising Wonderful Pistachios in the US.

Not yet quite up to speed with American conventions for announcing advertising deals, the South Korean popstar said, simply: “The Wonderful Pistachios brand is fun, just like me. Also, I love pistachios”.

Though I like to imagine he let out a little sigh at the end there, as he remembered what he had done to his hit ‘Gangnam Style’ in return for the nut maker’s cash. As Rick Witter before him, he had been convinced to re-record his vocals in exchange for some advertising bucks, but I think even the Shed Seven frontman would have drawn the line at dubbing this bad.

But, hey, enough negativity, every now and then something good does come out of a brand partnership. Presumably by accident. For instance, for no obvious reason at all, car manufacturer Lincoln recently gave Beck money to ‘re-imagine’ ‘Sound & Vision’ by David Bowie. I don’t know how much it was, but it was enough to hire 160 musicians and rehearse long enough to get his intricate new version perfect. Beck had to get his dad to do the conducting though, so maybe it wasn’t quite enough money.

Just kidding Mr Hansen Snr, if you’re reading, you did a fine job. As this video attests:

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