Opinion: The music of branding

by Uche Briggs & Edward Israel-Ayide

Since 2016, the Nigerian economy has been thrust into a recession by a combination of falling oil prices, lack of an articulated government economic strategy, scarcity of foreign exchange, shrinking investor trust and ultimately a drop in the disposable incomes available to a large number of the populace. Businesses continue to struggle in the current economic climate as margins are being eroded significantly, and revenues from sales dipping have become a norm. Only recently, Guinness Nigeria posted a Q1 net loss of N2.2bn in despite a 6% growth in turnover – This was their first loss-making year in thirty years! Nigerian Breweries declined in Net profit by 23% YoY, with a PBT decline of 69% driven by a gross margin dip of 6.39%. Erisco Foods, with purportedly the largest tomato paste factory in Africa has announced its plans to shut down its operations in the country, due to a lack of government support.

The economic outlook for 2017 based on the baseline projections of the 2017 budget fails to inspire confidence as assumptions of increased oil production (2.2mbpd against a four year average of 1.9mbpd) are threatened by latent insurgency in the Niger Delta region and lack of renewed investment and exploratory activities in the region.

In the midst of the gloom, the music industry remains a ray of hope and confidence. Sales from music and the growth of the industry as a whole continue to rise despite the myriad challenges faced by its consumers. The PwC Entertainment Outlook 2016 projected music revenues to hit $51million by year end 2016, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 12.9%, and peak at $86million by 2020. The evidence of this growth is apparent with Nigerian artists gaining worldwide acclaim. From StarBoy Wizkid to Yemi Alade and Davido, Nigerian music exports are shaping perception around the world, and more importantly, generating revenue and increasing employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for discerning youths. Many brands have come to understand the importance of engaging these music artists to reach their core audience and explore new terrains, and as such are increasingly adopting this strategy to connect with mass audiences.

Music remains a powerful tool to build brand equity and grow brand loyalty, but as it is with every brand asset; its use needs to be conscious, consistent and insight driven. Engagements between brands and music in Nigeria are quite robust, but the preoccupation is largely on celebrity endorsements and content marketing. More brands need to learn how to move beyond the artist’s image to utilize music creatively. Cobhams Asuquo’s creative masterpiece formed the base of Leadway Assurance’s stunning Teardrop campaign. A piece of genius, one must confess.

The afore-mentioned doesn’t negate the power of celebrity endorsements. Celebrity endorsement finds its theoretical roots in Canadian anthropologist, Grant McCracken’s Transfer of Meanings model postulated circa 1989 which shows how society transfers meanings associated with a celebrity to a brand upon endorsement. A case in point of a tactical celebrity endorsement well executed is the Pampers – Tiwa Savage campaign. Industry reports state that Procter and Gamble was coming out of a bad spell following a rebranding exercise gone wrong. Quality issues with the new Pampers product created a huge shrinkage in sales and even after the problems were rectified, the brand failed to inspire consumer confidence. To re-ignite the spark with the brand, P&G engaged then new mom Tiwa Savage on a campaign. The brand is now well on a road to a healthy recovery and was able to gain its rightful place in its segment of the market.

The major challenge in music branding is the absence of a scientific approach which guides the engagement of music (the artists) and brands. Personal subjectivity within marketing teams across companies still inform the choice of artist and music to be engaged. The Nigerian marketing scene is thus constrained by its own ignorance of the trends as regards Music Branding. Very few brands are utilizing the sheer power of pop culture to harness brand growth and drive revenue growth. Contrast Tiwa’s Pampers campaign with Unilever’s partnership with Davido for the CloseUp brand: one struggles to see the fit and/or relevance to the brand.
Engaging music in building brands must begin with a clear understanding of the ‘music personality’ of the brand. The works of renowned academics such as Prof Jennifer Aaker & Prof David Aaker contain models which help articulate the personality of brands. The music personality of brands is an extension of these works.

The ‘music personality’ of brands will provide insight to questions such as: If my brand were a person, what kind of music would it listen to? In defining the music personality of a brand, the tripartite elements of brand values, audience and music comes together to ensure brand fit and relevance are achieved in the event of an engagement with music(ians). One of the more successful engagements is the Orijin-Reminisce affair, a fit and relevance quite apparent in how much the artiste and the brand both appeal to the same core audience.

The second noteworthy point is that brands (and talents) must have clearly defined objectives ahead of a music branding campaign. Nigeria presents peculiar challenges as revenue from music sales is stunted, and shows, endorsements remain the major drivers of revenue for the music industry. Thus the tendency for artists to project their needs towards brands, without understanding brand objectives and their contribution in meeting them, is high.

Clear goals will enable brands sidestep the pitfalls that arise from choosing talents wrongly or creating short term value/solutions for long term problems. A brand’s position on the product life cycle should determine how and if to engage artists at all in creating campaigns. Good objective setting ahead of this marketing practice will help brand managers manage expectations. While some models of music engagement guarantee an increase in revenue, others don’t. Going into music branding with the aim of generating short term revenue but with an approach best suited for strategic brand building can leave managers feeling dissatisfied.

With the frenzied rise of global interest in the Nigerian Afrobeats sound, brands can take advantage of this to build equity on a larger scale. In other words, brands can leverage global exports of Nigerian music to export their offerings. In 2010, Coca-Cola launched African sensation K’Naan in over 100 markets and he topped the charts in more than 18 countries. Coca Cola benefitted 10times more engagement for the music than for the music related advertising on YouTube. Another stellar move by the Coca Cola brand in its African and Asian markets is its investment in the Coke Studio TV show, a platform that brings musicians across various countries and locales together to perform remakes and covers of popular songs as content exclusive to the Coca Cola Company. The show has made it possible for Coca Cola to engage and excite mass audiences by using pop culture icons to drive brand resonance.

The pertinent question that remains, given the circumstances, is how brands and the music industry can better engage one another productively in light of the current economic clime. What is the best in class approach for music branding in Nigeria and what are the nuances of cultural specificities which can help deliver local relevance with global standards? These and many more questions are what keep many a brand manager up at night.

Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija

Uche Briggs & Edward Israel-Ayide are partners at BBG Media, a brand management consultancy firm that helps brands create impactful partnerships and affiliations with their audiences using pop culture.

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