CEO Creates Music Experiences for Brands and Bands

Rob Goldberg Helps Marketers Bridge the Emotional Gap to Consumers

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Who: Rob Goldberg, founder and CEO of Gold Marketing Group.
Robert Goldberg says 'marketers are unable to articulate what they are truly looking for in a music tie-in.' His job is to help them figure it out.

Why you need to know him: Based in Los Angeles, Mr. Goldberg's company produces branded-entertainment events and projects for marketers, including the Target Red Room, a series of exclusive concert after-parties for musicians, including Gnarls Barkley, James Blunt, Wolfmother, Angels and Airwaves and Dashboard Confessional, and their friends, family and fans, sponsored by the retailer. The company also produces the Target Red Room compilation CDs, featuring tracks from artists on the cross-country Target Red Room Tour.

Credentials: Before Mr. Goldberg founded Gold Marketing Group, he was VP-partnership marketing at Launch Media, now better known as Yahoo Music. While there, he created integrated-marketing solutions for brands across Launch's properties, including the Launch Concert Series and Warped Tour, as well as a long-lasting pact between Yahoo Music and Target Corp. He began his career as founder and CEO of the Ilizwe Trading Co., a youth-focused footwear and apparel company based in Cape Town, South Africa.

What does your company do for advertisers through entertainment? "GMG develops, creates and executes entertainment and music experiences and programs that benefit brands, artists and talent partners alike. Uniquely, because of our retail experience in the music, film and TV worlds, we're able to create and cross-promote ideas that deliver not only brand awareness but also actual sales."

How many events does your company produce for brands each year? "Between 25 and 35." Among the events GMG has produced to date includes the Target Red Room for Target and its partners, such as General Motors Corp., Virgin Mobile and Levi's Strauss. It also created the Fusion Flash Concert Series for Sony and Ford Motor Co. and NYC Children's Day 2006, featuring Teddy Geiger, for Target.

You also produce compilation CDs for brands as well. How many of those do you produce? "Between eight to 10 a year."

Marketers across the board want some kind of connection with music acts. What are they looking to get out of a tie-in with an artist through an event? What are they asking for? "Often times marketers are unable to articulate what they are truly looking for in a music tie-in, because as soon as you move beyond 'music equals cool' they struggle inside the complexity, and sometimes idiocy, of the music business. Additionally, marketers are looking for ideas 12-18 months out, while the music business tends to work 12-18 weeks out, so marketers are often just asking for something, anything, that fits with their time frames. What GMG has been able to do is bridge the gap in both time and ideas that work for both worlds. To actually answer the question, as opposed to ramble: Marketers are looking ultimately for credibility for their brand. Music is the most powerful way to connect with consumers on an emotional level and experiential marketing through music is an amazing way to achieve that connection, if it's done in the right way and in a credible way."

For the compilations, how do you choose the music? "Each compilation has a different audience and a different set of strategic goals -- awareness, brand extension, cause marketing -- so the artists are chosen based upon the appropriate fit and the opportunities in the marketplace."

For which brands does music work best? "Music works best for brands that are interested in having a real relationship with their consumers, not just to make a media impression. Music is universally personal, and brands that recognize that and find a way to use that concept to their advantage are the ones who ultimately succeed in marketing through music."

And worst? "Arrogant brands, or the marketers who run them. Marketing through music is not something that can be owned, despite some marketers' interest in applying media sponsorship to marketing through music. More impressions do not make better marketing. In fact, for a number of our clients, we work to show them that on certain programs they can achieve more through less, achieve more credibility and the right kind of awareness by showing music fans that they understand how to reach out to them through music, not just that they have a big pocketbook. You can't approach it like a media buy."

How do you measure success of what your company does for clients? "We sit down with our clients and try to create a program that has both tangible and intangible results, but ones based upon logical assumptions. Additionally, we try to create and execute ideas that achieve the goals for everyone involved, beyond simply a big payday. A program that aligns the interests of an artist -- selling CDs, selling tickets, extending their own brand in a way that doesn't compromise their credibility -- with those of a brand marketer is ultimately the one that will have the greatest success."

There is still some confusion as to what branded entertainment actually is. How do you define it? "Branded entertainment is a catch-all phrase -- which is why it can be dangerous and overused -- to describe the separation of entertainment- or marketing-based ideas from traditional financing and distribution models. It describes a new freedom to bring ideas to life in ways that were previously nonexistent because of the barriers to entry in the entertainment and media space."

What are some good examples of branded entertainment you've seen recently? "One that doesn't get much press or buzz. PlayStation has been part of the Vans Warped Tour since its inception. They have built the credibility and value for their brand in this lifestyle segment by, in some ways, simply showing up, year after year after year. They have shown that they care about the lifestyle and can add value to it, not just throw a logo up on whatever the cool tour is this summer."

And bad? "Programs where brands throw huge amounts of money to try to own something that consumers are trying to enjoy. From TV to film to music, consumers have a growing distaste for brands that try to simply intrude on their emotionally charged involvement with entertainment."

What's on your TiVo? "'Deadwood,' 'Entourage,' 'Brotherhood,' 'The Wire,' 'Rescue Me.'"

What's on your iPod? "Everything from Wolfmother to Mickey Avalon to Gnarls Barkley to Jay-Z to Tom Waits to Prince to Snow Patrol to the Pogues to ... as much as I can possibly get my hands on new or old. I like to go back to music I know and love or have been exposed to briefly and see if I can appreciate it more so or in a different way because the emotions or experiences I'm experiencing at the moment."

What do you do on your downtime? "Introduce my 16-month-old daughter to the music of Coldplay, Radiohead, Tom Waits, the Eels via walks with my iPod and speakers fixed to her stroller."