Genuine the big idea

As a creative business, it’s easy to get a little obsessed with the need for ‘The Big Idea’. Needless to say, we’ve met numerous agencies who are looking for one, and pitched to many brands that want to see if we have one.

This has niggled me for a while now, not just because we inevitably give away a lot of ideas for free, more because I’m not sure you actually need ‘The Big Idea’ to make the most of music culture within the brand marketing mix.

Don’t get me wrong  – we LOVE big ideas – immensely effective, seemingly simple communications, that take the understanding of a brand’s product, or perhaps the brand’s values, to impressively emotional and shareable levels. The recent Cannes Lion winning NIVEA SUN KIDS is a great example of the former and DOVE’s REAL BEAUTY SKETCHES the latter.


It’s just that, arguably, the music, the bands, the gigs and festivals, the parties and numerous permutations of music culture are, already, ‘The Big Idea’. At least as far as music fans (q.v. people) are concerned. Brands need to stop trying to BE the topic of conversation and start striving for more of an authentic immersion within the glorious, powerful, melee of music.

This is not some exercise in vanity; indeed a small, select group of brands have already managed to do this so successfully that the people who inhabit certain music niches (e.g. electronica, dance and hip hop for Red Bull; indie and alternative for Converse) consider these brands as an integral part of their lifestyle decisions. The outcome being that the brand becomes culturally relevant; culturally potent.

genuine nivea protects children

Of course this still requires a huge amount of thought and a host of good ideas. Each project needs identity, character and, more often or not, must provide genuinely worthwhile, added value to the experience.

Furthermore, such ‘cultural immersion’ requires detailed knowledge of the music ecosystem – and possibly more planning and greater sensitivities. Perhaps this is why many brands simply invite competition winners to see a live band, hosting subsequent A/V footage on Youtube – probably to ever-diminishing returns. Certainly our research indicates a distinct lack of ‘Halo’ brand-music partnerships, despite the now accepted, unique potential of music-based marketing communications.

So, somewhat in the spirit of Grey London’s, ‘Long Ideas‘, I recommend a mindset change. Rather than asking, ‘How can we create branded music content?’, ask yourself, ”Where are the opportunities for our brand to align with music culture, and communicate with the huge audience that thrive within it?’  In the words of Geoff Cottrill, CMO at Converse, speaking at the SxSW conference earlier this year; “I’d rather contribute to culture, than sponsor it”.


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