Gimmicks vs. Branding

7 Jun

There appears to be two schools of thought in the realm of marketing in respect specifically to the entertainment sector. These two schools are known as gimmicks and branding – the traditional way of branding to be exact. You’ll often hear fans of musicians say that they’re “reaching” or “selling out” when these acts begin to align themselves with brands and brand personalities that are completely opposite from the principles they’re previously abided by. Some fans take this sentiment too far, where any types of brand alignments are perceived as selling out. However, co-branding and endorsements are a great way to expand your own brand and make money, especially in a field – like music – where record sales have plummeted by billions of dollars overall. Like many areas of business, there is a fine line to walk and a marketer can easily cross it into a gimmick when trying to brand talent. With that said, how do you brand an act without becoming too gimmicky?

            It all begins with believing in the person you are marketing and investing time to learn intricate details about that person while making a complete and collaborative effort to showcase the marketable characteristics of that person. For example, take Wiz Khalifa, a rapper known for his recreational marijuana use as much as his rhymes. One way his brand was expanded was by having his own line of rolling papers to roll up marijuana. His album’s first single “Black and Yellow,” an ode to his hometown sports teams (the Pittsburgh Pirates and Steelers), was not only a huge crossover hit, but his team was able to take it further, by partnering with the Pittsburg Steelers and manufacturing the “Terrible Towel” with the song’s title printed over it. Because his followers and crew are called “Taylor Gang” – named after his love of low-cut Converse Chuck Taylors – a great idea would be to partner with Converse and create his own design of Chucks, maybe with marijuana leaves printed all over it.

The point here is to take what is already inherent in that person’s character and brand it to uniquely be associated with that person. This is where spending time observing and investing in becoming familiar with your client or partner comes in handy. Anything they say or do: fashion, mannerisms, hobbies, can become a slogan or campaign. The key to not crossing the fine line is to avoid straying from the act’s persona in order to create a façade. A marketing campaign can easily become a gimmick when you begin to add characteristics that previously did not exist rather than magnifying the already present ones. For example why would you market a kid from the hood, who has yet to make a name for himself as a hotshot, big spending, blinged-out type of clown? That same kid might have another quality – say a love for language – and BOOM! You can create a blog site where he publishes his writing or anything related to THAT particular person. It’s as simple as that.


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