The 59th Annual Grammy Awards: Brand Collaboration Playbook

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As the poet William Plomer once said, “Creativity is the ability to connect the seemingly unconnected.” Collaborations, too, are often rooted in connecting the seemingly unconnected, which makes them inherently creative. The novelty of a collaboration is one that generates feelings of intrigue and excitement, making discovery even more fun. From a marketer’s perspective, developing these types of collaborations requires both creativity and logic — brands have to complement one another and ultimately create a mutual benefit stemming from the perfect right brain / left brain mix.

The Grammy Awards are known for showcasing a plethora of unique collaborations and unexpected artist pairings. This year’s 59th annual ceremony was no different, but more than ever, we saw brands take a page out of the collaboration playbook and get in on the act. Here’s a snapshot of several themes we saw throughout the night:

Playing On Nostalgia In The Perfect Context

While the Grammy’s always pay homage to late musical icons, this year was focused on the recent loss of two relatively young legends, Prince and George Michael. Furthering this theme, Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, was one of the first presenters of the evening, introducing a collaboration between The Weekend and the electronic duo, Daft Punk, that formed in 1993. Perhaps in an attempt to capitalize on the nostalgia, a few brands built their campaigns around throwbacks to the 80s and 90s. With a wide demographic tuning in, the idea of playing on nostalgia taps into both the 80s/90s generation, and younger adults and millennials. This checks multiple boxes if done correctly and around marquee events like the Grammy’s.

Gap got this idea right by launching a new campaign featuring their ‘Generation Gap’ collection with Naomi Campbell and children of the celebrities Gap featured in their 90s ads. This was all set to a cover of All 4 Love, a mega-hit from Color Me Bad; however, Target stole the throwback spotlight and showed their marketing savvy by mixing old and new. The brand ran a full video remix of the 80s hit ‘It Takes Two’ by Rob Base and DJ Easy Rock during a commercial break featuring two current young artists, Lil Yachty and Carly Rae Jepsen. They teased the video throughout the early part of the broadcast on TV and on social media, where the artists posted about the campaign to help build buzz for the actual reveal. From a collaboration standpoint, a number of brands were featured prominently in the video, as it leveraged the Target formula for showcasing products in an artistic manner.

Google also joined the 90s parade but married it with the UGC mashup concept they have been mastering over the past few years. This year, it was an emotionally-charged cover of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares,” with crowdsourced clips stitched together, to promote the new Pixel phone.

Though Sonos took a more modern approach for their ‘Wake Up the Silent Home’ Grammy commercial, it too played off the throwback theme. The ad is based on a research insight that shows music has become more of a solitary act. To disrupt this phenomenon, a woman smashes a glass window by throwing a speaker, in a moment that was reminiscent of the famous Apple Macintosh 1984 commercial.

Utilizing All Touch Points

Another speaker company to be featured in a campaign was Revel by Harmon. The brand is responsible for the sound in Lincoln’s new Continental, and they created a custom guitar amp that was inspired by the car’s design. The campaign also features a collaboration with the popular young blues artist, Gary Clark Jr. In the commercial and companion web video, we see Gary plugged into the new amp and learn about the superior engineering, not to mention the individuals behind the work. However, the brand missed a huge opportunity to tie it all together when Gary had his moment on the Grammy broadcast alongside blues singer William Bell. Rather than using the custom Revel x Lincoln amp, Gary was clearly plugged into a Fender amp. This would have been a perfect opportunity to bring the entire collaboration together, but it’s a common mistake.

Brands should be sure to explore all of the touch points possible, because you’re only as good as your weakest one. While you might not completely ruin a collaboration by not integrating through all components, it can really make a world of a difference. Brands should go that extra step to challenge themselves and push it as far as it can go with those connections.

Consider The Audience

In addition to thinking about the context for collaboration happening around the Grammy’s, it’s also important to think about what will be top of mind for the audience. While in the case of the Super Bowl and its sports competition, entertainment, family, and parties, the Grammy’s is all about music appreciation. Brands like Sonos and car companies like Lincoln Continental are specifically promoting their audio features because contextually they know it’s the night where it’s already top of mind.

All in all, this year presented several collaborations marketers’ would be well suited to take note of. We’re sure to see these themes continue throughout award season and beyond.

Photo Credit: Dmileson via Wikipedia

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