Brands & Merch Howdy Partner

Howdy Partner #9: Shut up and tell me I have a nice smile

By | Published on Thursday 19 September 2013


Part of the inspiration for launching this column was the increasing frequency with which the bizarre and ill-judged quotes attached to musical brand partnerships seemed to be dropping into the CMU inbox each week. And since last we visited the weird world of band-brand-partnership-statements, we’ve had it confirmed that that frequency is indeed increasing. Well, we’ve had it confirmed that brand spend on music projects was up by 6% in the UK in 2012. And that’s basically what I said, isn’t it?

We’re deep into 2013 now though, just past one year since the first of these columns was published. Surely everyone’s now realised how ridiculous they look when they make bold and often delusional claims about the exchange of coolness for cash? No. No they have not. And to see that, we only need to look as far as the relatively recent announcement of Shakira as the new face of Oral-B and Crest’s ‘3D White Collection’. That’s toothpaste, in case you weren’t sure.

Let’s not even get into how stupid the idea of a toothpaste ‘collection’ is, let’s just cut straight to the quote from P&G Oral Care’s Global Marketing Director Stephen Squire announcing this partnership: “As an award-winning recording artist, star of NBC’s ‘The Voice’, philanthropist, beauty icon and mother, Shakira embodies the true spirit of the multi-dimensional woman, and always does it all with a brilliant smile on her face. We are thrilled to have a beautiful, strong woman of Shakira’s calibre to represent the brand”.

She’s going to advertise toothpaste. All he needed to say was, “Shakira has nice teeth”. Instead he buried it in 52 words of nonsense. And worst of all, he thought that was OK.

On the plus side, Shakira admitted in the press release that she did have an ulterior motive with this brand partnership, and it was a pretty admirable one too, because P&G Oral Care had agreed to pump some money into her Barefoot Foundation charity. Though, while explaining that element of the deal, she also claimed that Oral B and Crest are “iconic brands”. I hope she gets a lot of that iconic toothpaste for free for saying that. I mean, she’s got to keep her smile looking brilliant.

Seemingly doing it purely for the cash, meanwhile, are Icona Pop. Already hooked up with Samsung’s Galaxy mobile device range, they announced last week that they’d be promoting vodka brand Absolut’s new drink, Absolut Tune, in the video for their next single, ‘All Night’. And yes, that is a terrible name for a drink, but the knowledge that it’s a mix of vodka and white wine will likely distract you from that. Especially if you drink it.

The duo themselves opted for the always sensible option of simply saying they were “thrilled” by the partnership (“thrilled” being the brand partnership equivalent of saying a friend’s awful new shirt is “nice”).

Even the Vice President Of Vodkas (that’s a job) at Absolut parent company Pernod Richard, Maxine Kouchnir, stayed pretty subdued. Although she, and everyone else involved in the campaign, did sign off on a press release in which she wrote that she was “excyted” about the alliance. I assume that’s a special kind of vodka-ery excitement, rather than a typo.

But we had to travel all the way to Billboard’s interview on the subject for the real gold. And gold aplenty there was. “Absolut Tune is the perfect pairing for the girls and the creative output of the partnership is groundbreaking”, said Atlantic Records’ Exec VP Brand Partnerships And Commercial Licensing (that’s a job) Camille Hackney. “Absolut will play a key role in building our story of Icona Pop as a major music artist. The partnerships that we have secured continue to solidify them as a global musical force”.

Chipping in, Absolut’s Brand Director Afdhel Aziz then added: “Icona Pop is almost the embodiment of what Absolut Tune is – they’re upbeat, very celebratory, collaborative and they’re from Sweden. It felt like there was a natural fit there”.

OK, I suppose I do see how some of those comparisons work (even if they are between some people and a beverage), but is he claiming that Absolut Tune is ‘collaborative’ because it has two different drinks in it? Vodka and white wine remember.

Though a shot of that questionable collaboration is sounding quite attractive if it helps me forget what is probably the most disheartening brand partnership of recent months; that between Status Quo and Australian supermarket Coles. The band having, in exchange for funding for a tour and exclusive promotion of their new album down under, re-recorded their song ‘Down Down’. To advertise mince.

Can’t everyone start buying records again, so we can be saved from pop stars having to pretend that nonsense products “speak to them”. Or that singing about mince is something rock stars are meant to do. I mean no band should ever have to do this. Not even the Quo.

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