How to Turn Music Fans Into Your Customers

Seven Ways to Strengthen Your ROI Using Music Beyond Pop Star Endorsements

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SHANGHAI ( – Celebrity endorsements are an old trick used by marketers in China to connect consumers. As China's music industry and consumer tastes evolve, however, fans are starting to pay attention to the music, not just the pop stars endorsing products.

Claire O' Shannessy
Claire O' Shannessy
Even so, creative and original uses of music in China are virtually absent. The tried and tested, and increasingly ineffectual, "halo effect" of endorsement marketing is preferred. Very few successful brand campaigns in China have been centered around music to date.

Pernod Ricard provides perhaps the most obvious example. Chivas whisky has become the biggest-selling whisky in China using a predominantly music-based strategy. Pernod Ricard has backed a long-running series of high profile DJ tours that helped cement its branding of the "top-100" DJ music rankings into local folklore, followed up with an even higher profile series of live shows with bands like the Black Eyed Peas and Christina Aguilera.

Clever use of celebrities, a rounded campaign that leveraged celebrities out-of-home, print, TV, radio, online media and ongoing in-venue promotions have elevated Chivas to the status of the biggest and best known whisky brand in the country.

China Mengniu Dairy Co. gained fame in 2005 as the sponsor of the wildly popular televised singing contest Super Girl.

Nike's Converse brand rocked China in early 2009 with "Love Noise," a documentary film and integrated marketing campaign about one of the most quintessential aspects of the music world--the road trip.

But examples like these are hard to find and the lack of success stories has discouraged marketers from using music to its full potential in China. In many cases, marketing departments have a shallow understanding of music, and are also inexperienced in the strategic tools available to them to exploit a music platform through seeding and other music-branding models.

Blame can also be laid at the feet of the music industry, which has scant understanding of marketing, endorsements, above-the-line ad campaigns, experiential, digital, viral and mobile applications and retailing. They also lack the ability to justify a music investment after a campaign has run by providing return-on-investment calculations to clients.

Problems like this are not unique to China. According to a study by Sounds Like Branding, 97% of marketers believe music can strengthen their brand, 76% says they use music actively in their marketing and 74% think that music will become more important in the future. But the same survey showed seven out of ten spend 5% or less of their marketing budget on music.

Globally, advertisers are not committing their time or resources on a scale that mirrors the importance that they place on music,. Here are seven tips to ensure strong ROI for a music program.

1. Understand the elements.
You must have a deep understanding of all the elements and music leverage points like seeding programs, digital landscape, mobile applications, endorsement deals, creative and relevant activation to maximize value.

2. Find a strategic fit.
Using music isn't enough, it must be the right music for your target segment. Research brand and artist personality fits. For example, find out where the artist lies on the fame scale, evaluate synergies and conflicts with previous brand commitments.

3. Forge a deep connection.
When done well, the bands, the fans and the brand should all benefit from this relationship.

4. Create compelling, relevant and unique content.
Creative and useful experiences and engagement allied to pre-event participation and continuous conversations can turn music alignment into something massively valuable.

5. Employ planning and execution expertise.
Do advance creative, planning and execution, and also focus on post-program assessment.

6. Leverage, leverage, leverage.
Get as much access to the artists as possible, ensure you can use the content created in your own brand stories.

7. Choose your agency and music partners wisely.
You want a partner who understands both brands and music. That's not easy to find.

Claire O' Shannessy is an account director at Splatter, a music communications agency in Shanghai.

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