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    Interview with media futurist Gerd Leonhard about the future of brand communication

    We caught up with media futurist and CEO of The Futures Agency, Gerd Leonhard in Paris the other day. Here, in roughly 60 seconds, he gives you his take on the future of branding and communication.

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    Bands & Brands @ Digital Music 2.0/Sonar Festival

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    10 learnings from Seoul

    seoul_iancoWhen writing this, it’s Buddhas birthday here in Seoul. The temples are full of people bowing, eating, and celebrating. I did not know much about the city (or South Korea for that matter) before Ian Kwon from the Google-AdWords-like music service fanatic.fm invited me to talk about music branding at a seminar and workshop. 48 hours later and here are my 10 learnings from Seoul.

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts and ideas. The future is yours, definitely!

    1. Music is hugely important in peoples lives, and most people consume it as mp3s, from domestic download stores such as MelOn. iTunes music store is not available in Korea…

    2. The music market seems to be quite commercialised and characterised by homogeneity. The major music players and media companies almost seem to dictate the overall music taste.

    3. Social media is huge and Twitter seems to get extremely popular here. However, Facebook isn’t as successful as in other countries around the world (South Korea already had a similar service launched many years ago). A lot of Foursquare users getting on board can also be spotted.

    4. The live music scene is flourishing, with most international bands holding concerts. But I also got the opportunity to experience some local music, on the “Green Plug Festival”. A festival that took place in a beautiful park on top of the hills overseeing the city. The area used to be a waste ground, but luckily the government turned it into a flourishing park.

    5. South Korea is one of the countries in the world with the fastest and most well equipped Internet infrastructure. As someone told me, it takes about 5 seconds to download a full movie over here.

    6. iPhone was launched only six months ago, but has already been sold in more than 500 000 copies. It’s hugely popular and people are now longing for the iPad release.

    7. There is an underground South Korean indie music scene, but it has trouble in reaching out, mostly because of the South Korean media concentration, the commercialised top-driven music industry and relative homogeneity in music taste. Social media should be able to change this and give South Korean indie musicians a chance to find careers outside of the country.

    8. Music branding is something very new in South Korea, and visitors of our seminar/workshop at the Gana Art Centre the other day is the real pioneers. A lot is expected to change in the near future (thanks for coming by everyone!)…

    9. Electronic music seems to grow in importance. Club and lounge music is being played by the many design and fashion stores in the trendy districts of central Seoul. The perfect soundtrack of a young nation (well, that depends on how you look at it, of course…) full of energy, heading for the future?

    10. South Korean people seem extremely friendly, sincere and curious. The people I met were very interested in sharing their opinions of the development in South Korea, and I could sense a great deal of national pride. One South Korean guy told me that ’speaking to foreigners gives us an opportunity to reflect upon ourselves, and share thoughts and feelings that we perhaps otherwise wouldn’t share’.

    One other thing that struck me was that media in Europe write a lot about South Korean electronic brands such as Samsung and LG, as well as Korean car brands Hyundai and Kia. And, South Korea has been extremely successful in exporting these type of ‘hard values’ and products, but, what about South Korean culture and the more ’soft’ side of things? When will people outside South Korea start to see more South Korean fashion and design brands, and when will people in the west start to become fans of South Korean indie bands?

    It will be interesting to see if South Korea will be as successful in exporting those things, and adapting to the new marketing paradigm of the 21st century, through: emotions, engagement, experiences and exclusivity. Spending 48 hours in this dynamic city, something tells me that South Koreans will…

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    Lady Gaga - Living proof of music branding

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    Lady Gaga is living proof of the importance of the four Es; emotions, experiences, engagement and exclusivity, to stand out in today’s marketplace. Earlier this year Polaroid announced a strategic partnership with our fastest rising star, Lady Gaga, who now serves as Polaroid’s creative director. A brilliant strategic marketing move for Polaroid. With close to ten million Facebook fans and Twitter followers together, the lady of glam has proved she can move products. But, what is it about Lady Gaga that has made her this successful?

    To begin with, Lady Gaga is a brand, and a brand of substance. She is an expert on building emotional ties to her audience, through her music. With specially designed clothes, sometimes haute couture (sometimes no clothes), dance and art, Lady Gaga gives her fans inspiring and unique performances, experiences, that they remember! Further, she gives people things to talk about, myths, often spread through social media by the lady herself, thus engaging fans all over the world into two-way conversations and storytelling, promoting the lady and her music, and reaching new fans. Moreover, Lady Gaga is about breaking boundaries, being interesting, standing out and distinguishing herself from other artists. Thus, she is exclusive. Overall, she is the new marketing model, the four Es, personified, and brands definitely have a lot to learn from her!

    First lesson: It is the brand and not the product that matters most in today’s harsh market. Would people listen to Lady Gaga just for her voice? Second: By using the four Es marketing model, creating emotions, experiences, engagement and exclusivity, brands will build brand equity and increase their sales. Just as Lady Gaga does, brands will move their products. Final lesson: It’s still about the music! Using music - the media most people would least like to live without, as the fundamental key to create the four Es, will strengthen brands. Again, take a look at Lady Gaga. What would she be without her music? A spectacle, a freak stared at walking down the street? She would definitely not be one of the most talked about brands (sorry artists), covering fancy magazines all over the world, reaching new audiences, would she?

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    The music stairway (no, not the Led Zeppelin song)

    The most important question for a brand is not whether they should use music, but rather how the music should be used. The four step ‘music stairway’ illustrates the most beneficial way for brands to work strategically with music.

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    Many brands find themselves on Step One. This step is characterised by the unconscious usage of music. Essentially this is an ad hoc, make-it-up-as-you-go approach, often relying on staff or employees to choose music. The end result is a schizophrenic music experience that sends mixed branding signals to customers.

    Step Two is characterised by a conscious usage of music. Brands have developed their own music identity, through a defined sound with defined values. Often they have a sound logo or theme song. On Step Two, music has evolved into a branding element and strategic tool.

    Moving up to Step Three, a brand becomes even more actively involved in music. This commitment often takes form as music-oriented marketing campaigns ( e.g. “buy and get” promotions) and/or artist partnerships. A good example of a Step Three level of music involvement is Heineken’s ‘Green Room Sessions’ - a live club concept, presenting cutting edge artists and DJs.

    The Forth and final step on the music stairway requires ‘owning’ a strategic platform in music culture. In this scenario, brands are not merely associated with music, but also actively champion music through exclusive platforms or programs that can’t be found anywhere else. The Red Bull Music Academy is a good example of this.

    So the million dollar question is…What step is your brand on?

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    Using brands to help your career

    sxswWe will be partaking in a panel discussion at the SXSW® Music and Media Conference in Austin, Texas. Together with other speakers of international stature, Heartbeats CEO Jakob Lusensky will chat about the topic USING BRANDS TO HELP YOUR CAREER.

    The panel discussion is part of the SXSW® Music and Media Conference, March 17-21, in downtown Austin. The panel discussion is scheduled for Friday, March 19 at 03:30 PM. For more info on the panel discussion, visit http://my.sxsw.com/events/eid/8697, and to find out about the rest of the conference, visit http://www.sxsw.com/music.

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    The results of an exploration Strategy?

    We see more and more brands working with exploration strategies in music these days and the latest one is from car brand Fiat in the UK. An exploration strategy means a brand guiding people to new music and artists that they haven’t heard before. In this way taking more of a grassroot approach and lifting up new talent to a larger audience.

    It’s great to see more brands involving on a micro level but the question remains, what happens to the bands that win these competitions? Normally you hear and read lot about the initiative in the beginning of the campaign but don’t see much of the results. What was really in it for the artist? Did it help them in their career? Did they get the huge success that was promised in the campaign?

    Let’s follow Fiat and see what happens…


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    Are musical tastes genetic?

    A recent study on twins by Nokia and professor Adrian North reveals that 50% of our musical taste is predetermined. Watch this!

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