Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Rock & Roll, Christmas, and Brand: Thoughts from the N. J. Turnpike

As part of my post-Thanksgiving holiday return to the city, I spent 7 hours driving through 3 states, taking assorted friends and family members to their homes. 7 hours worth of driving can give a person ample time for reflection. 7 hours worth of Christmas music on the radio can give a person a nasty migraine. But at about the 5 hour mark of my odyssey, something became remarkably clear. Every year, it's practically a requirement for recording artists to release Christmas songs, sung and orchestrated with numbing sameness. Even Dylan, with his aural version of  40-grit sandpaper, delivers the traditional songs in traditional versions.  But hidden within the Christmas music oeuvre, there exists a small collection of wonderful songs, familiar to the ear, yet modified to reflect the unique essence of the singer. Something people in marketing would call "brand identity".  And in a monthlong Christmas music marathon, these are the songs we'll remember. 

Here's an example. Since 1934, when it was written, "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" has been covered by everyone from Aerosmith to Wynona. Listen to a handful of the dozens of versions, and, save for some vocal embellishments, you'll find they're all faithful renditions of a perky children's tune. Except for one. Bruce Springsteen took the song and and did something that none of the other artists did. He didn't simply sing the lyrics and tune, he integrated his sound into the song. It's recognizable as the "Santa Claus" we all know, yet it's completely unique. The tune has been subtly modified, and from the arrangement to the driving intensity of the delivery, it's a Springsteen song as surely as if he'd written it.

OK, that's all very nice, but why is this important?  Thank you for asking. It's important because sometimes, in all of our conversations and postings about businesses and social media, we forget to talk about brand. When businesses begin to utilize social media tactics and channels, they still need to be aware of doing so in a relevant and consistent brand voice. It's wonderful to have employees tweet for your company, but have you provided them with your brand messaging guidelines? Do they understand how to communicate in a voice and tone consistent with your brand?
Developing and communicating a strong and relevant brand identity has been critical for every component of traditional marketing efforts. It's no less important in the social media world. Online, it's your conversations and interactions that are key to conveying who you are and what you stand for. What are your words saying about your brand?

P.S. If you're interested, another song that transcend holiday mediocrity is the version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" by James Taylor. A melancholy version, as it was meant to be, with reinstated original lyrics, "...if the fates allow. Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow." And, while you're at it, listen to the Judy Garland version (same link), who sang the original.

No comments: