How music culture became intertwined with corporate branding

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With the barrage of advertising seemingly intravenously injected into us these days, it’s hard to remember. Hard to remember the days when a glossy magazine ad and a specialized typeface were what we associated with a brand or product. First it was the frilly packaging and cute, witty slogans that made our neurons fire and memory trigger- and then we got bored and even worse, we became passively resentful.

We began to feel disconnected from our products, tired of routine and emotionally disenchanted by the way we interacted with our shaving razors, toilet papers and home appliances. Sure, they might be able to muster up a smile out of us every once in awhile – but true excitement? Forget about it.Our collective consumer culture was drowning with silent discontent, droning along, doomed to accept the fact that we were never going to be friends with a little blue box of macaroni and cheese- and it seemed best this way.

Then somewhere, at sometime, (endless googling has turned up nothing useful) someone -or, much more likely, a group of somebodies –
had the proverbial light bulb go off above their head.

We can make a box of macaroni your friend.
We can make you feel like an iPod is there for you.
We can make a search engine that’s cooler than your older brother.

Wait. What….? How?

The integration of musical personalities, music being an art form that creates an intense emotional bond between the artist and the fan, with a brand. Not only will the corporate brand benefit from aligning themselves with the ever elusive ‘hip’ – the artist themselves are given an opportunity to be showcased (and paid handsomely!?!) on a scale they wouldn’t have dreamed of otherwise. Win-Win? Certainly seems that way.

I’ll never forget the first time this phenomenon truly struck me, but it certainly wasn’t the first use. It was an ad campaign for the release of the iPod touch back in 2007 – which now seems ages ago.

I had never heard the song before, but I loved it- I raced to my computer and immediately took to task of finding out where the song had come from- it seemed so perfect for the product – I feared it may have been created by Apple and only exist as a 30 second clip.
Much to my delight, that wasn’t the case.

The song was by a Brazilian electronic group named CSS – and I proceeded to buy their album right then and there. I never ended up buying an iPod touch – I already owned a first generation iPod at the time – but it didn’t matter; Apple had won me over as a fan. It didn’t matter that their product was of no use to me or I didn’t have the money for it – I just knew that they were ‘dope’ and I would have to act accordingly.

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This realization changed everything for me. It made me observant to the trend- which has done nothing but become more commonplace: Jay-Z songs being used by Chrysler, and….well…. I was actually going to continue this list, but in the process of linking to some others, I learned this practice has become so pervasive that there are entire websites set up as a way to FIND OUT what songs were used in that commercial you just watched. (I wasn’t alone in my initial excitement for this phenomenon, it turns out)

Don’t believe me? Head on over to and find out who exactly was playing in that Target commercial that just roared over your living space. As your love for that band grows, whether you want it to or not, your connection to that brand grows. You subconsciously associate those feelings and things you experience to that soundtrack with the brand that ‘gifted’ them to you. (No, I don’t have any hard scientific evidence to fully validate those claims, but it seems plausible, right?)

This practice is starting to go far beyond song placements in advertisements or casual endorsements… and just openly going straight for the jugular…..Andre 3000 for Gillette anyone?

Microsoft’s search engine, Bing – I’ll give them a link since i’ve already named dropped Google in this article… #Fairness – opted to align themselves with the heavily tattooed, openly dope smoking Wiz Khalifa (Something unthinkable for a software company 15 years ago). These ad campaigns bear little resemblance to their eighties counterparts- there is no information offered as to what bing even does- it just highlights the artist and happens to have the brand splashed all over it… true cross promotion?

And that’s kind of where i’d like to end the story for nao (see what I did there? Branding yo), I’m choosing to leave this open ended with a few questions for the readers out there to mull over.

Obviously the brands are benefiting from this practice, but in the long term, will the value of art suffer? Or, conversely, does this mean more meaningful art will be able to flourish?

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