JAZZ MUSIC: WHEN “BAD” BECAME THE BRAND

Great conversations with Glenn Sabin and Lee Mergner of Jazztimes Magazine in recent weeks.

Two important topics we’ve touched upon – the need for some real “stars” in today’s jazz world, and the question of “where’s the bad” when you need it?

Think about the jazz standouts of the Fifties and Sixties – Miles, Coltrane, Monk, Evans, Dexter, Chick, Blakey, Tatum, the list goes on and on and on. Now close your eyes and conjure up each of those performers in full-blown image. Remember the album covers. A young Miles on “Birth of the Cool.” Trane on “Blue Train.” Monk on “Solo” or “Underground.” Birth-of-the-Cool1Can’t you feel the intensity of those shots, the raw brilliance of expression that made you feel like you were there in the shadows, watching heroes along with the photographer, waiting for the sacred moment that the shutter would fire? Black-and-white 35mm film was made for those moments – freeze framing shots that drove nails of passion into the minds of not only jazz lovers worldwide, but jazz passersby – those who happened across the albums in record stores and knew nothing about the genre, but were still assaulted by something unique, powerful, sensual and raw that every cover exuded.

Those were our stars. And they remain our stars, primarily because precious few have come along to take their place, not only as musicians, but as artists, writers, players, performers, lovers and believers. Believers in the malleability of those 8 notes, and the tenseness of their sharp/flat step-siblings.

Maybe we don’t have any real “stars” these days because there’s no real anger in jazz anymore. The edgy temperaments that once defined so many of the early greats flamed high, then burned out. And somehow, the furnace never got re-lit. The embers went dark and the andirons grew brittle with the passing of time.

Which led to the second topic I discussed with Mergner – where’s the bad when you need it?

I’m talking about the air of danger, real or imagined, that created these iconic brands that have been with us for 40 or even 50 years, in some cases. True, the foundation was built on their ability to create, play and perform. But there was something else there – a palpable taste of darkness, wickedness, meanness and even malevolence at times. Not with every artist. Not with every producer. But in enough cases that you begin to realize those some of the images we revere may have been closer to photojournalism than we realized. Not staged, not arranged in a Leibovitz-like loft, not created by the labels, nor manipulated by the corporations. Not even brought on by the slide of the addictions. But something more – something “bad.”Coltrane

Was BAD the BRAND?

Today we see “Bad” as an intentional and calculated move. Rap stars commit felonies, deal, steal, murder, serve time…and die. Tupac, Biggie Smalls, Suge Knight, 50 Cent. A thousand others with enough cred to convince us they’re real. And yet, it’s a false realness. Just being “bad” by society’s standards doesn’t mean much anymore.

And the real question – is it enough to be a craftsman alone? Is it enough to play? Or does there have to be an electrical current of demonocity that powers your core? Something beyond the token posturing of “I’m a badass, don’t push me” that isn’t tied to financial gain?

I sometimes wonder if today’s jazz craftsmen have to live the often-damaged lives of our earlier heroes, in order to bring any semblance of meaning and relevance to the music they create today. If so, they’re failing miserably. Not that they aren’t psychologically, emotionally, physically shattered in their own ways. But 99% of us in the world can claim that.

I just want to know if the music becomes more meaningful only when the man becomes more meaningless?

Once upon a time, musicians became musicians because there was no other choice for them. Having money wasn’t the endgame. Wielding power was unlikely. There were those who literally couldn’t put down their horns without feeling weakened, diminished, damaged and lost.

Try this – name just one player today who falls into that category, someone who loses on ounce of lifeforce for every minute they’re not pouring music from their pores. Now wait, there are many, you may claim, but I’d challenge you on that. Why? Because, if they’re there, why are we not receiving that transmission through their photographs, their interviews, their recordings, for God’s sake?

Maybe I’m just babbling here. Maybe it wasn’t about the “Birth of the BAD.” After all, those days of the Fifties and Sixties are long gone. Maybe we just captured them on film and vinyl, but they’ll never come around again. If that’s the case, then we’re saying it was the “moment in time” that was the brand. Rare, fleeting, unrepeatable, but captured in our minds forever. Not the men, but the moment.

Bad or not, was it the moment?

More to come,

Nelson

MUSIC + WORDS + SOCIAL MEDIA = MARKETING SUCCESS

Quick question – What’s the world’s best connector?

I’d say that it’s got to be Music, with a capital “M.”

And when you combine the right music with the right words, and then spread the message using Social Media, your product campaign might turn into a bonafide “marketing success”.

The key word there is “might”.

Everyone loves music, in one form or another. Your preferences may run toward classical, while mine run toward jazz, and Sally Jane loves classic rock, while Bobby Ray loves hip-hop. But there’s always something about that rhythm, rhyme, tone, beat, melody, harmony, cadence and scales that grabs our attention and makes us pay attention.

And if you’re paying attention to the music you love, then you can be sure that others on the planet are digging it too!

Today, more and more companies worldwide are discovering the power of associating music with their brands, and using that association to draw consumers closer into their webs, both literally and figuratively. (Just think of what Charlotte could have done with the Internet.)

Of course, this isn’t really anything new. Background music began gently accompanying product advertisements back in 1923, about the time commercial radio came to the public. Jingles gradually evolved, but the first one was probably from General Mills, which produced the world’s first singing commercial.

It was called “Have You Tried Wheaties?” and was released in 1926 on Christmas Eve. The lineup was four male singers (“The Wheaties Quartet”), who sang this –

Have you tried Wheaties?
They’re whole wheat with all of the bran.
Won’t you try Wheaties?
For wheat is the best food of man.

At the time, that advertisement was a huge success – customers loved it – and it literally saved Wheaties from failure because of its previously dismal sales. In 1929, GM’s advertising manager Sam Gale observed that an astounding 30,000 of the 53,000 cases of cereal that they sold were in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, the only location where “Have You Tried Wheaties?” was being aired.

GM then changed tactics entirely and bought nationwide commercial time for the advertisement. The result – sales skyrocketed and the now incredibly popular cereal was saved!

So there’s an example of a successful “Music + Words + Advertising” Campaign.

These days, remember that we’ve added Social Media to the mix.  And that gives advertisers a chance to spread their messages more than ever.

Of course, there are millions more people promoting their own products and services, too, so the competition is a lot stiffer than it was when Wheaties launched its campaign.

Music + Words + Social Media = Marketing Success

Next post – how companies today are taking music marketing to the next level.

More to come,
Nelson

MUSIC JINGLES: WHERE DID THEY GO?

Talk about a fading memory.

Whatever happened to the great original music jingles that used to dominate radio and TV commercials back in the Fifties and Sixties?  You don’t hear anything original these days, or if you do, there’s nothing memorable to keep an advertising tune stuck inside your head.

Most historians say General Mills was the originator of the first real jingle, when it created a song to promote Wheaties back in 1926. Sales for the cereal had been suffering and General Mills was thinking of discontinuing it.  But on Christmas Eve that year, radio listeners were treated to a new jingle called “Have You Tried Wheaties?” by the Wheaties Quartet.  As a result, sales skyrocketed and Wheaties soon found its rightful place on the nation’s breakfast tables, where it has remained ever since.

Using the jingle which asked “Have You Tried Wheaties? ” allowed General Mills to skirt NBC’s prohibition of direct advertising at that time.  (Advertising wasn’t allowed during the earliest days of radio from about 1922 to 1930.)  Because it wasn’t a hard sell tactic – it was simply a question – the jingle was approved by the censors.  General Mills was thus able to get the brand’s name embedded in the heads of potential customers without trying to actually sell it.  Sneaky, eh?

Soon the jingle movement took off and hundreds of companies began trying this new approach to advertising.  By the time of the economic boom of the 1950s, these catchy “mini-tunes” were reaching their artistic peak.

Here’s the Wheaties radio spot, followed by some more early advertisements, courtesy of “Aleena911″ on YouTube.

http://bit.ly/d2ZOgx

Advertisers used jingles to promote all types of branded products, such as breakfast cereals, candy, soda pop, processed foods, tobacco and alcoholic beverages. Also jumping on the bandwagon were automobiles, personal hygiene products, and household cleaning products, especially detergent.

But as we moved into the Eighties and Nineties, advertisers began to move away from original jingles and began using popular recorded songs to promote their brands. Soon, the songs we sang along to on the radio began to be applied to products, crossing into the territory that jingles had once dominated.

That trend continues today, but interestingly, we may also be starting to see a resurgence of custom jingles. The reason – businesses are finding them to be a more affordable option for their advertising dollars. The costs of licensing preexisting music (such as those radio hits) has started to quickly push those tunes out of the reach of many companies.

“You can trust your car to the man who wears the star,

The big, bright Texaco star!”

http://www.bit.ly/9Qjo4W

 

“Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee.”

“Winston takes good, like a…Cigarette should.”

There’s a million of ‘em. And there may soon be a million more on the way.

More to come,
Nelson

 

CLIENT: Amplifier Content Marketing

Amplifier Content Marketing (Silver Spring, MD) was a startup company that hired me in 2008 – 2009 as their Vice President of Business Development.  A lot of work went into identifying prospective name-brand companies and products like Southern Comfort and Melitta Coffee which we educated about the benefits of content marketing.  By providing them with a unique blend of fresh, original music-oriented content, we helped those companies position themselves as “music publishers” of sorts, so they could attract, engage and retain new customers that matched the demographics that Southern Comfort, for example, was trying to reach.

As a marketing tool of our own, we developed a bi-monthly newsletter (online and offline) to actively promote Amplifier.  In addition to writing MANY introductory letters and sales presentations, I also wrote articles about the importance of music branding, such as this one about the iconic American rock band Chicago.   Copywriting_-_AMPLIFIER_1-1

Just click on the newsletter to read it.

And, if you’re interested, the Amplifier website itself can be found at www.amplifiercontent.com.

 

CLIENT: Boxwood Technology

Boxwood Technology  (Herndon, VA) helps associations and their members with their recruiting efforts, among other things.  They wanted a creative campaign called “Recruitment Branding” that taught recruiters how to attract high caliber talent by positioning themselves as high caliber resources.  In turn, the best talent would probably want to work with those recruiters who knew how to match them with the best jobs.

First, I created six (6) original concepts for Boxwood to consider.  I’ve included one here called “Be the Spark”.  As I usually do, I developed a theme and graphics to first introduce the idea to Boxwood (my client), and then wrote a first draft of the copy that we might use for the actual deliverables (to their client).

I walked Boxwood through each concept individually and then asked them to choose the Top Two that they liked.  After that, I did a quick re-write of the copy for those two concepts, including any comments or direction that Boxwood might have offered to me.  This got us to the point where a third-round review was all that was required to lock in the final concept and copy.

Below you’ll find the “Be the Spark” concept, a full-page promotional “Recruitment Branding” educational flyer, three online banner ads, and several emails from the various campaigns that I wrote for Boxwood.

Note:  These samples are comps that still contain stock photo images I selected for each concept.  When I write, I almost always recommend visuals to help the graphic designer bring my vision to life, as I did here.  Please click on each link and each ad —

Boxwood_BeTheSparkConcept

BoxwoodRecruitmentAd1

bannerbanner6

bannerbanner3

bannerbanner2

Email #1_Brand2Recruit_Version1

Email #1_Brand2Recruit_Version2

EMAIL#2_FirstDraft-2

EMAIL#3_FirstDraft-1

CLIENT: Kaiser Permanente

Occasionally, a company brings me onboard in a full-time role as a senior copywriter, communications manager or marketing director, usually when they need help with more than just a project.

Kaiser Permanente, the mega-HMO, was one of those.

From 2010 – 2011, I worked there as a Senior Business Communications Manager, creating consumer educational materials for their healthcare products, writing direct mail pieces, updating the Kaiser national website with fresh content, and supporting 5 product managers.  I also worked on a daily basis with legal and compliance officers to ensure that all communications were within the required guidelines.

My most significant work was an educational and promotional campaign for Kaiser’s Skilled Nursing Facilities.  I conducted video interviews with physicians, case managers, nurses and facility managers at several locations, and then created a 16-page oversized full color brochure with accompanying location sheets and an introductory letter.

I also developed and wrote a completely new section on the Kaiser Permanente website pertaining to Skilled Nursing Facilities.  You can find it here –

http://www.kpskillednursingfacility.com/

Some more of my writing samples from Kaiser Permanente —

Skilled Nursing Facility – Brochure Concept

Skilled Nursing Facilities – Brochure – Page 1

Skilled Nursing Facilities – Brochure – Page 2

Skilled Nursing Facilities – Brochure – Page 3 

Kaiser – Flexible Choice Member Guide – Cover

Kaiser – Flexible Choice Member Guide – Text 1

Kaiser – Flexible Choice Member Guide – Text 2

Kaiser – Flexible Choice Member Guide – Text 3

Kaiser – Flexible Choice Member Guide – Text 4

Kaiser – Flexible Choice Member Guide – Text 5

KAISER – External Communication – Letter 1

Kaiser Bridge Program – Bilingual Survey

Kaiser Bridge Plan Survey