Coca Cola – a new music industry player


It wasn’t until last month that I would have ever considered Coca Cola as a potential strategic partner in a disruptive media business. The moment was at MIDEM in France, and Coke VP Emmanuel Seuge was on stage presenting to a modestly sized room the work the brand had been doing with a US company called Music Dealers. Music Dealers is a way for musicians to connect with brands and vice versa, effectively replacing the traditional middle man – be it label or publisher – and Coke had sourced music for their ‘Open Happiness’ campaign via the channel. They then decided that they would make a minority investment in the company and expose Music Dealers to their 3000+ marketing staff globally.

Then Seuge dropped that Coke was looking at a strategic involvement and possible investment with Spotify. This is interesting. What it involves I don’t know but two things are exciting here.  One, a company like Coca Cola is looking at their involvement in the media world a bit differently – they are a participant, not a spectator – and they are taking the approach that media is not just an investment in awareness and subsequent sales, but an investment in the future of the business and, in particular, it’s consumer connections. Two, Coke is aware that their infrastructure and network is a significant asset. The size of their marketing function, the relationships they have with the media, agencies, partners; the sheer size of their retail network … is a significant asset for a company they choose to partner with.

Two days later another Coke SVP, Wendy Clark, stood on stage with Mark Ronson to preview components from their 2012 Olympics campaign ‘Move to the Beat’. Ronson has partnered with UK singer Katy B to pen an original track for Coke, and Ronson worked with numerous athletes to create original tracks sampling the sounds of the Olympics. It’s a significant initiative and one that is global in size and incredibly ambitious.

Elsewhere at MIDEM, Segue was judging the MIDEM start up competition and Coke and Music Dealers were selling artists on the benefits of this new platform. In short, Coke were one of the most active companies at Midem, including labels, publishers, advertising agencies and managers. What this said to me wasn’t that brands will replace labels, or brands will become the media … not at all. It showed me that right now content is more important than ever and right now marks a significant period for content creators as there are some incredibly interesting opportunities being presented for all involved.

Seuge explained their approach as follows. “Our mandate for music activation is that it must be new, innovative and delivering an experience that neither the brand nor our partners can do without the other.” When you think about, this is hardly new or revolutionary, but it is a simple and elegant concept which is always at the core of music and content based campaigns that really connect.

In a similar vein to this shared commitment to innovation, Digitas presented the ‘AMEX Unstaged’ initiative that they were part of with VEVO and YouTube. Big numbers, great strategy and amazing execution. It worked for everyone. Artists got exposure at a key time in the release cycle. The brand brought scale, resource and credibility, the audience won as they experienced something in a never before seen way Converse CMO Geoff Cottrill presented ‘Rubber Tracks’. Same situation – Converse partnered with indie artists to give them something they value – studio time – and asked for not a whole lot in return. The band got professional studio time, the audience got new and cool music, and the brand gave back to music and jumped in for the ride – in a subtle way.

The takeout for me was clear. In an age of abundance, quality content is more important than ever.  There is no shortage of content available via digital channels – in fact it is virtually infinite – but there is always a hunger for good content that is new, innovative and delivers something of value to the parties involved.

And this sort of shared commitment I think is an exciting space. Brands and content creators working together to achieve mutual goals. What does it require? Well, it requires proper collaboration and a tearing down of the barriers that stop this, it requires honesty from both sides, and it requires the time and context to allow truly new ideas to occur. This all sounds easy, but often is made hard through habit and politics.

However if a monster global brand like Coke, with all its history, process and scale, can break through habit and politics, surely it’s something other brands can explore.

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