Brands & Merch Howdy Partner

Howdy Partner #7: Let’s engage ourselves silly

By | Published on Thursday 30 May 2013

Kid Rock

A big part of the brand partnership is ‘engagement’. It’s a cold and clinical way of saying that the result of any partnership should bring value, whether tangible or intangible, to both sides of the partnership, by giving fans of the artist involved a positive view of their involvement with the artist and the company itself. Which is an even more cold and clinical way of saying that it’s important to do cool shit.

The ‘cool shit’ you can do is, of course, only limited by the imaginations of those involved. Unfortunately, these are the imaginations of marketing people, so are in fact fairly limited. The ‘secret’ or ‘exclusive’ show is a staple, as we’ve discussed before.

Latest to jump on the ‘secret’ show bandwagon is MasterCard, signing up man-of-the-moment (well, man-of-the-moment-prior-to-Daft-Punk’s-arrival) Justin Timberlake to play an exclusive show in New York earlier this month, as well as getting involved in other exciting sounding “consumer engagement opportunities”.

It’s a promotion about as imaginative as the quote MasterCard’s marketing people pretended Timberlake had given them: “I’m thrilled to be a part of a collaboration that offers me the opportunity to connect and engage with fans and bring them closer to the music. MasterCard is a respected global brand and I look forward to working with them to bring something truly unique to their cardholders”.

First, no one ever says they’re “thrilled” about anything, except in quotes other people have written for them. Secondly, no one would ever have actually said any of the rest of that statement out loud either. One of these days a brand partnership press release is going to come with an artist quote that just says, “This seems like fun and if some faceless corporation is willing to pay for it, who am I to argue?” Then we’ll all throw our arms in the air, rejoice, and engage ourselves silly.

Another marketing partnership staple is the competition, though this is one area where there’s room for a little more imagination to be employed in how a band/brand’s contest is implemented. Psy and Kid Rock are currently battling it out for the silliest chores to be presented to fans as some sort of privilege to perform.

Psy is making them compete to become his personal chef on behalf of Korean fast food chain Bibigo. The winner gets to take home $40,000, but will also have to join his world tour and cook all the rapper’s food. I’m not exactly sure how long Psy’s tour is going to be, but this is at risk of looking less like a prize and more like a low-paid job.

If that sounds a bit too much like hard work, why not try Kid Rock’s competition? It’s basically the same but the winner just has to serve him Jim Beam whiskey backstage on his summer tour dates. You only get $10,000 for this one, but, hey, at least you can drink yourself insensible every night and then you won’t remember most of it even happened. (I’m sure Jim Beam would want me to point out here that you should always drink alcohol responsibly, and possibly that getting drunk whilst behind a bar is very unprofessional.)

Also touring the US with a brand in tow are One Direction, though to be fair they’re not attempting to enslave any fans in the process (you can see how that sort of thing might be more frowned upon with the 1D fanbase). They’ve gone for a straight sponsorship deal with biscuit manufacturer Nabisco. The best thing about this is that it means One Direction are currently sponsored by Ritz crackers. They’re mainly talking up Oreos, but we all know it’s the Ritz crackers that are most important.

Senior Director Of US Media And Consumer Engagement (yes, that is a job) at Mondelez International, the agency which brokered the deal, Stephen Chriss told Billboard: “We want to be laser-focused in who we work with. We might not be in music every day like some brands, but we want to bring a lot of touchpoints to a lot of customers and leveraging One Direction will help us do that effectively”.

Leveraging? Touchpoints? All this jargon is making me thirsty, and sadly Kid Rock’s drunk all the bourbon. Luckily, there’s plenty of Mountain Dew to go around, thanks to a couple of partnerships with the Pepsi-owned soft drink brand that have gone bad in the last month.

First, Pepsi found itself at the centre of some controversy when US commentator Boyce Watkins took offence to an advert made for Mountain Dew by Odd Future’s Tyler, The Creator. Yeah, something created by Tyler, The Creator proved to be controversial, who would have expected it? The third advert in a series in which a goat attacks a waitress and then briefly evades capture by the police, the commercial saw said waitress trying to identify the goat in a police line-up.

The rest of the line-up was made up of black men, which Boyce said enforced racist stereotypes, and also said that, as the goat taunts the waitress until she refuses to identify him, it also promoted violence against women. Tyler refuted all of this, but by then Pepsi had already pulled the entire campaign.

Just days later, Pepsi was forced to cancel another partnership between Mountain Dew and a rapper, this time Lil Wayne. In this case, the controversy was not related to anything Wayne had done within the partnership, but rather to some lyrics written for a remix of Future’s ‘Karate Chop’ that were derogatory to civil rights icon Emmett Till. Till’s family took exception and put pressure on the drinks brand to cut its ties with the rapper, which it eventually did, perhaps still reeling from the events of the previous week.

But, hey, let’s not end this on a downer. There’s always room for a mention of a new brand partnership that Taylor Swift’s involved in, and there’s always a new brand partnership that Taylor Swift’s involved in to mention. She’s promoted shops, shoes, pizza and soft drinks. And now, finally, she’s got her own fragrance in partnership with Ulta. Actually, it’s not her first, this is her third to hit the shelves. But while the first two were called Wonderstruck and Wonderstruck Enchanted, this one definitely feels more like her personal smell, it being named Taylor By Taylor Swift.

Taylor agrees that this one is more ‘her’, telling People: “My first two fragrances were more about fairytales, but this fragrance is more about my own style, so I wanted the name to be more personal”.

What do fairytales smell like? I don’t know, but Swift does tell us that her new perfume is “a mix of a lot of things: It’s sweet, it’s sophisticated, it draws you in. It’s really my way of translating classic, yet modern, into a perfume. I hope that wearing this fragrance makes fans feel that any look can be classic and chic”.

I know I said earlier that the artists in these partnerships don’t actually say any of this nonsense, but I like to think that Taylor actually insists on coming up with the quotes herself. I want to believe that she genuinely tells people that Diet Coke “gets” her, and that perfume can affect how you look. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn’t, but I think it’s telling that she never says she’s “thrilled” in any of these quotes.

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