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Music has been an inherent part of culture since time immemorial - so much so that some of the most notable cultural moments are defined by music for example the Bhakti Movement in Medieval India or the Harlem Renaissance of the twentieth century.

Recently, sporting anthems such as Coca Cola’s Wavin’ Flag (for FIFA World Cup 2010) or Uber’s Way-O (for the ICC World Cup 2019) come to mind:

Coca-Cola specifically has since persisted in the brand-music space through constant enrichment and investment. They have created one of the biggest music and brand initiatives that there is in the form of Coke Studio - a concert-like brand platform.

So investing in music/musical content has phenomenal returns, especially from a cultural perspective. Music as a medium forges a deeper connection with listeners and consumers alike.

Some well-established approaches to the brand and music partnerships are musical anthems, talent search shows, title sponsoring a musical program, creating your own brand platform, etc. Let’s first look at a few recent initiatives:

Ladakh International Music Festival - Jawa and Yezdi Motocycles

With an aim to consolidate their position in the region as well as with the Indian Army, Jawa-Yezdi Motorcycles recently took part in the Ladakh International Music Festival organised by the Indian Army. Ladakh is a destination associated with bike trips and thus the brand visibility in the region makes sense. An old and familiar brand joining an initiative to encourage local musicians and celebrate local culture is meaningful, too.

The brand’s approach here represents one of the simplest ways to align oneself with musical initiatives. Taking part in a musical production as a partner or a title sponsor usually works well for young or small brands because it is a great opportunity to increase visibility. It also works well for an old brand like Jawa-Yezdi that is trying to resurrect itself.

But well-known and established brands have little to gain from expanding visibility, thus they have to come up with a much more comprehensive approach:

Sounds of Sleep by Duroflex

Duroflex adds to its category i.e sleep with this collection of lullabies. They complement their product well and at the same time make for quality content. Duroflex’s lullabies recorded and performed in an ambiently lit studio give a concert-like feel. Furthermore, the original compositions sung by eminent singers add to the brand’s library of content. Initiatives like these are a great value-add for the consumers as well.

Folk Songs for a Swasth India by Dettol

Dettol promotes the importance of hygiene with folk songs by The Rais Khan Project. Folk songs by Dettol that deliver the message of cleanliness also make up for top-notch branded content. Rajasthani folk music has become both popular and familiar in the last few years thanks to collaborative musical productions by the likes of Amit Trivedi. Dettol takes a familiar but not overused genre and uses it effectively. Even though the lyrics are all in local languages, the song titles are in English thus expanding the listener base.

Next up there are talent search shows or shows that are an exploration of a specific genre of music:

NEXA Music by Maruti Suzuki and Qyuki

NEXA Music is about passionate musicians who want to make their mark singing original compositions in English. After an initial screening, the contestants are mentored by AR Rahman and Clinton Cerejo. The show has recently moved to season 2 with a good viewership on its youtube channel for season 1.

MG Taal by MG Motor India

MG Taal constitutes another musical offering by a motor brand. Like Nexa, MG Motors also aims for a specific community and genre of music. The production is exclusively for Indie musicians. Like Coke Studio, the process of making a song complete with inspirations and behind-the-scenes footage is also a part of MG Taal.

Productions such as NEXA music and MG Taal not only bring forth content for consumers but also support budding artists and genres. Thus, they score high on consumer goodwill as well.

Recently, Calvin Klein’s Hair Care brand, Meera has taken a leaf out of Coke Studio’s book and come up with:

Meera Music

Meera, a herbal shampoo reinforces its belief in the ‘goodness of tradition’ with this musical series that reinterprets Carnatic musical compositions from centuries ago. The brand has come up with a platform of its own that seeks to experiment and add a touch of contemporary to classical Carnatic music. It stands as a sort of analogy for the brand itself which tries to keep the tradition alive in hair care through its herbal preparation in modern times.

Towards a strategic symphony

With a myriad of formats and approaches available in the brand x music space, it becomes difficult to determine which road to take. Some factors can be decisive while thinking about the same. The first and the most obvious one is of course one’s budget. It directly impacts the production in terms of artists, set-up, platform, etc. But this is not to say that one cannot participate effectively with a smaller budget. A brand can, like Jawa-Yezdi associate itself with a big production such as LIMF which is still encouraging local artists and both original as well as folk compositions.

Next, one’s level of involvement with music is crucial. While a brand anthem might represent a shallow involvement, a production where talent is mentored towards original compositions might represent higher involvement. The medium of music is being innovated and experimented with.

Lastly, there’s the all-encompassing - culture. Which musical movement or culture should a brand be a part of? It depends. One can take forward an existing musical genre- like Dettol. This means one capitalises on what’s catching on already. A different strategy still can be to identify lacunae - for example, a brand may choose to encourage original English music in India if it is not a thriving area. Come to think of it, Coke Studio perhaps originates from a lacuna like that - a fusion of several genres of traditional, Folk, Sufi, Pop, and rock music all of which existed in closed separate categories earlier.

Almost no brands and almost no initiatives function without music, even a short video is complete only when it has a background score. So, involvement with music is almost taken for granted. To specifically use music as a strategy toward brand affinity, brands need to create content that is anchored more in culture and less in the category. Culture needs to take the lead in order for the content to create a memorable musical movement.