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The Secret To Brand Engagement Is For Brands To Support The Creative Process, But Not Meddle With The Creative Process

from the that-would-be-ideal dept

We've talked an awful lot about the intersection between advertising and content over the years, and have been especially interested in how brands can and do interact with various content offerings. But, we always hear fears about how this can equate to "selling out" or somehow weakening the content for creators. And, it should be admitted that this is a legitimate fear if the brand demands too much control. For our media partner, Say Media, I recently wrote up a column pointing out how the problems for brands and content come in when the brands get involved in the actual creative process. However, when they let the content creators create what they want, and simply act as supporters of that process, rather than drivers of it, the creators can retain the artistic integrity, and there's no issue of "selling out." Then it becomes a case of brands supporting an artist -- which fans love -- rather than co-opting an artist, which fans hate.

Over the years, we've noticed that this is definitely a struggle for some brands. As soon as they dump money into a campaign, it's their natural inclination to want to control every aspect of the content that comes out of that campaign -- and that's a huge mistake. We've seen that the more involved a brand is in the campaign, the less effective the campaign is for absolutely everyone. Brands sponsor content creators because they know those content creators have built up a following and can create great content. They need to extend that trust to the point that if they sponsor content creation, the give the creators the free will to do something amazing. Brands may be good at "branding," but if they meddle directly in content creation, the end result doesn't really help anyone.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 5:49pm

    So, like forcibly trying to engage a community with a "special challege" or an "insight case" is pretty much self defeating, because it is the sponsor trying to insert themselves into a discussion without being invited, and being very overt doing it.

    Now I understand why the Insight Community is such a success!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 6:45pm

    The wave of the future.
    Become a platform, an enabler for the success of others.

    Youtube is an enabler, Facebook is an enabler, Amazon is an enabler, others too.

    Hollywood is not an enabler, the labels are not enablers, those are parasites.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. icon
    Suja (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 7:14pm

    A perfect example of this is Ralph Bakshi's film "Cool World".

    Paramount pretty much fucked up the entire movie, it started as a horror about a guy going into a cartoon world and having a hybrid-child with one of the toon women there, the kid ends up trying to kill him.

    What it became was this retarded kiddified mess, there was no horror element left what-so-ever, just lots of random BS and snappy one-liners amidst big actors thrown in for the sake of it.

    The only thing good about it was the soundtrack.

    What makes me sad is that it COULD have been an AWESOME movie if they had just left Bakshi alone to work on his original idea. But that was all dropped in favor of "marketability" yeah see how that worked out...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. icon
    RonKaminsky (profile), Mar 2nd, 2012 @ 11:19pm

    Step by step

    I think a first step in that direction, which brands could consider adopting, is a creative process which is kept totally under wraps until a third-party marketing consultant checks out its effectiveness with both the general public, and the sub-population of the artist's fans, using actual evidence derived from exposure/consultation trials.

    This might prevent the usual knee-jerk "oh, no, that's not how we see ourselves" we-must-veto-immediately reaction.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    abc gum, Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 7:44am

    Is it an ad or is it entertainment, even the news is advertisement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    kitsune361, Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 8:54am


    Perfect example of this: Anyone remember the Indian Fanta comerical you could add your own subtitles to?

    If you give people the tools to do funny things w/ your brand, if you're lucky your marketing will go viral and people will remember it for years. Embrace the chaos.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Joe Fenton (profile), Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 10:33am

    Perfect Example

    Microsoft... remember "Bing! goes the internet!" or those "Our phone is so bad you'll use it as little as possible and get back to real life!" ads? Nuff said!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 2:49pm

    Does it lead to measurable results?

    I've been a big proponent of corporate sponsorship. I got interested in it because I knew a number of Olympic athletes and that's how most of them made their money. They got funding from corporate sponsors.

    When I got involved with music, I noticed that this industry was not nearly as sophisticated about sponsorship as sports is.

    While I want to see more money go to promising athletes and creative types, I also look at it from a marketing point of view. (My background is integrated marketing communications.) If the sponsorship doesn't result in more incremental sales or a better relationship with current and potential customers, the company should consider spending its marketing dollars elsewhere. So the deciding factor from a marketing point of view isn't whether the content is crappy, but does it help the corporate bottom line in the near or long term? I'd much rather see a company sponsor a local kids event than throw money at a musician who doesn't help sell more product. There are so many potential sponsorships; sponsoring creative projects is only one possibility.

    I have seen some bad music/corporate partnerships. (The wrong music used to pitch a product. No logical connection between the two at all.) It just ends up making both the company and the musicians look bad. I think the flaw is that the company decides to sponsor whatever is trendy without thinking it through.

    My feeling is that when the paring works well, there's much less likelihood of the artists being accused of selling out. And when I say "works well," I mean at all levels including creatively and philosophically. If a band's music is used by a company that ethically doesn't represent the band, there are complaints. And for that reason I understand protests by bands when they see their music being used in marketing or political campaigns that they don't approve of. Bands should be able to say how their music is used because the implication is that if their music is associated with a company, the band probably approved it or at least allowed it to happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    darryl, Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 6:22pm

    we dont need any 'new' ways of doing things ? CP is fixed for all time ?

    The Secret To Brand Engagement Is For Brands To Support The Creative Process, But Not Meddle With The Creative Process

    Would not the secret to brand engagement be for brands to create the creative process, and in doing so create creative product.

    thats how it works now !!

    meddle with it !!!!, of course they do, do you think the "creative process" is written in stone ?

    I guess if we (humans) did not 'meddle with the creative process' would still be using rocks and sticks as their only tools.
    Still unable to create even fire !!

    Masnick, you might want to define what you believe this 'creative process' you dont want them meddling with actually IS. and where is set in stone and unchangable, if it is so fixed you must be able to describe and define it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 9:10pm

    Re: Perfect Example

    joe, what has a ad frase got to do with any form of "creative process", how is it a "perfect example". perfect example of what ? how ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 9:15pm

    Re: Step by step

    wow, you discovered 'test marketing', it's only been around for as long as "marketing" has been.

    why do you think countries like Australia get to see movie releases before they are released in the US ? or other products that are test marketed, well before a major investment in national marketing is undertaken.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 9:34pm


    oh, you mean like IBM, Microsoft, ASUS, Netgear, novell, DEC, Bell, "US Telegraph system", film, video, audio recording, broadcasting (TV/Radio), Radio, optic fibre, trans-atlantic cables, INTEL, AMD, ZILOG, Motorola, Nokia, National Rail, National roads, Trucks, cars, buses, plains............ and so on... oh yes, and hollywood, bollywood, UK-Wood, Europe-wood, Indy-wood.. DARPA

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2012 @ 9:42pm

    Re: Re:

    not to forget Governments, stock exchanges, wall street, fleet St, Universities, schools, laws, police, rules, statues, constitutions, morals, ethics, economics, inventors, creators, artists, builders, scientists and engineers.

    most things, but not Techdirt..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    abc gum, Mar 4th, 2012 @ 10:55am

    Re: Re: Perfect Example

    "ad frase" - must be insider lingo

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    abc gum, Mar 4th, 2012 @ 10:59am

    Re: we dont need any 'new' ways of doing things ? CP is fixed for all time ?

    "Would not the secret to brand engagement be for brands to create the creative process, and in doing so create creative product."

    Errrr - what?

    Perhaps darryl should think about the thinking process before writing the written content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2012 @ 1:59pm

    Re: Re: Re: Perfect Example

    phuck you... :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2012 @ 2:00pm

    Re: Re: we dont need any 'new' ways of doing things ? CP is fixed for all time ?

    abc gum, at his peak !!!... the best he can ever do !

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2012 @ 2:19pm

    Gotta love that stupidly simple set diagram display there,

    two sets "artists" and "brands", intersecting, the diagrams shows that there are a group of artists that are also brands, and a subgroup of brands that are also artists, those intersections gives you supposidly "opportunities for greatness"!

    You dont need anything else, you dont need product, and you dont need consumers, you also do not need promotion, or people with disposible money.

    all you have to be (according to Mansicks expert opinion) is to be both an artist and a brank, and you have a 'chance of greatness'.

    Is this a new type of math, a mashup of set theory and statistics ? that you have a 'chance of greatness' even if you dont have customers OR product !!!

    I know you like to keep things basic, for your regular trolls, but really masnick you are supposed to KNOW BETTER!

    I guess you just dont mind displaying your stupidity to convince a few equally dull fanbois what you say makes even a slight amount of sense.

    I really wish that if you Masnick really had any knowledge of what you are talking about that some time in the future you will start to display that knowledge.

    why embarras yourself by posting such rot ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 4th, 2012 @ 2:24pm

    Re: Re: we dont need any 'new' ways of doing things ? CP is fixed for all time ?

    abc gum, let me guess, you have NO clue what masnicks definition of the "creative process" is either, right !!!

    and you like masnick believe there is only one universal creative process, that is written down somewhere, that you are unwilling and unable to define, that somehow involves a subset of brands and artists !!! and nothing else.

    but you are unable to define what that process is, that you dont want 'fooled with" ... funny..

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Mar 4th, 2012 @ 2:48pm

    Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    If you want to see a company that understands sponsorships across all sorts of sports/events/entertainment, look at Red Bull.

    Red Bull USA - Sports & Entertainment News | Teams & Athletes :: Red Bull

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. icon
    cadallamico (profile), Apr 14th, 2012 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    Suzanne, i'm a big fan of your work. I've read all your articles on brands+music
    Matter of fact i am writing my graduate thesis on the topic with a case study on the Red Bull Music Academy.
    I would love to hear your thoughts about it!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 14th, 2012 @ 10:21am

    Re: Re: Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    Sure, I would love to look at it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23. icon
    cadallamico (profile), Apr 14th, 2012 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    That would be also great...! Though i meant to hear your thoughts on the RBMA itself. or, are you aware of any research that has already dealt with it? it seems to be green field.
    thank you!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 14th, 2012 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    I haven't researched the RBMA in depth yet. As far as companies go, Red Bull is excellent at knowing what to pair its brand with. But now that you mention it, I will poke around a bit specifically with Red Bull's music sponsorships. Certainly from their standpoint, it's important that Red Bull, the brand, remains more important than any specific sponsorships it might do.

    I have always liked the attitude of sponsorships and extreme sports. All the athletes and the events know everything they do is about sponsorship. So there's no apology. If you win a race, you make sure your sponsor's logo is shown on camera. If you are a 10-year-old skateboarder, landing a sponsorship is proof of your legitimacy. And I think another reason extreme sports and their sponsors tend to fit so well is that, at least in the beginning, they came from the same culture. The earliest sponsors were the companies supplying the equipment and clothing to the athletes.

    Then when you have a consumer product tying itself to an athlete to such an extent that the company builds the athlete a private halfpipe to train for the Olympics (as Red Bull did for Shaun White) there's an authenticity there, too. (Their partnership ended in 2011. Shaun White ends sponsorship with Red Bull - ESPN)

    In terms of creative efforts, it can run the gamut of good and bad. Sometimes the most blatantly commercial still work well, like the Absolut ads over the years. In fact, when the creative and the sponsor get it right, it's perfect because it's a statement on art, on popular culture, on advertising, and on popular culture.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25. icon
    cadallamico (profile), Apr 14th, 2012 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    I find what you say about the non-apologetic nature of landing a sponsor to the point it's a legitimating factor very interesting.

    I wonder if this can work for the music as well, because as musicians and their fans tend to be way more skeptic about brands interfering with their art, to protect it

    I was a participant (as a musician) at the Red Bull Music Academy, and from my experience and the interviews that i carried out to other participants, it is evident that the RBMA has an extreme legitimating factor. The selections are strict, but mostly it has reached a tipping point as far as quality that now it's able to attract the best talent as far as participants, and pretty much music heroes as lecturers (nile rodgers? bootsy collins? bob moog? you name it)

    Whether this is a wise choice compared to absolut's more blatantly commercial i am not sure.. and i'm constantly asking myself if it is worth the investment. Sure they put a foothold in the freshest music scenes around... but then? the product?

    It was really interesting to read your posts on the gift economy and they sparked some ideas...:
    Brands patronizing the arts and becoming "producers" of entertainment enabling others to do it, ok... The problem though is to be credible....
    But what if they succeed in becoming credible (like the RBMA). can this be a sort of new mecenatism, patronizing the arts that can affect the music industry?

    RBMA shows that it's possible to be credible. New musicians still need to stand out from all the music out there, and the Red bull provides a sort of A&R/signalling function like a label would do. Plus artist need to manage to finance their art...and Red Bull can help.
    it looks like all the elements are there!
    what do you think?
    (sorry this is too long... maybe it shouldnt even be in this thread..!)
    my email is

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 14th, 2012 @ 2:21pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    For some, part of being creative is to work within a set of challenges. So a film maker who shoots a commercial or a songwriter who writes a piece of music for commercial purposes can be considered creative within those parameters.

    Can a creation developed for commercial purposes have integrity? It depends. There's a long history of craft and design being tied to utilitarian purposes. And as a result, among some circles, craft and design aren't really "art." Similarly, a jingle writer might not be considered a real songwriter. But I wouldn't go so far. If I like the creation, it doesn't matter to me why it was created.

    My articles on the gift economy were the last I wrote because I needed to focus on some other things first (I'll be blogging again eventually). But I was trying to add some clarity to the economics of arts, and then move on to the economy as a whole. I've gotten to the point where I don't think we can "fix" the economics of art without looking at a much bigger picture.

    My background is marketing and economics so I've always been open to talking about business topics. But on the other hand, I'm a bit frustrated that most economists talk about tweaking a bit here and there and then we'll be back to where we were as if that is a good thing. I'd rather see us view the whole economy today in a major transition comparable to how much changed when we hit the Industrial Age.

    My sense is that if we can find a way to generate a decent income for everyone, the arts and artists will be adequately taken care of in the process. On the other hand, if the world's wealth is concentrated in the hands of just a few, and even if they become major arts patrons, it may not be enough.

    I will do some browsing around about Red Bull and music.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27. icon
    Suzanne Lainson (profile), Apr 15th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Does it lead to measurable results?

    I did a bit of reading on RBMA. I could just reply to you directly, but I thought I would post here.

    First, I notice that on the site there is this:

    "The Red Bull Music Academy is not a sponsored event, but a long-term music initiative, committed to fostering creative exchange amongst those who have made and continue to make a difference in the world of sound."

    Although it may not be a sponsorship by Red Bull's definition, it is still a branding opportunity for Red Bull.

    I was mentally comparing sports and creative sponsorships. For sports, the sponsor generally backs either

    1. The athlete.
    2. The event (e.g., X Games, Olympics).
    3. A process (this isn't as common, but it is possible that a company might sponsor sports-related workshops or camps).
    4. A stunt.

    For creative endeavors, the sponsor can back
    1. The artist.
    2. The output (e.g., a song, a painting).
    3. An event (e.g. festival, contest).
    4. A process (e.g., the Red Bull Academy).

    When I was first making this list, I didn't have a sports equivalent to an artist creation (a stand-alone thing or concept), but then I remembered there are athletes who try to break records and get sponsors for those particular acts.

    The disadvantage of sponsoring individuals (be they athletes or artists) is that you have to deal with their personalities and whatever ups and downs they have. If you sponsor an event, the participants come and go, but the event can continue from year to year. So an athlete or artist that wants corporate sponsorship has to show the company that dealing with him/her is a better/easier relationship than giving money to a hopefully well-run event.

    In terms of individual outputs, an output in the arts is better than a stunt in sports because there's a longer life to a song or a painting than there is to having an athlete flying off a mountain or jumping over lots of cars. But for an extreme sport sponsor, a stunt might have a lot of value, particularly now that a spectacular success or a spectacular failure can go viral on YouYube. (There's little/no value in paying for a very bad song, but paying for a guy to slam into a mountain could be more than worth the sponsorship in terms of publicity. (Death/injury in extreme sports is not necessarily a negative for an extreme sports sponsor.)

    Anyway, getting back to RBMA. I looked for, but didn't see any criticism of the program. So it looks like it is serving Red Bull branding quite well.

    However, I'll add that from my own observations, whenever there is a festival, sponsorship, workshop, etc., that picks some applicants and not others, there's some grumbling somewhere. Typical complaints include: The selections are too narrow. The judges are promoting a certain style. The event/judges are too incestuous. And so on.

    But my usual response to those is this: If you are unhappy with the event or see an under-served niche, create your own. That's how we get lots of different film festivals, or music festivals, or arts non-profits. If someone else isn't doing what you want, do it yourself.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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