Brands are looking for a classic connection with consumers
Why did the Czech car manufacturer Skoda embark on a musical path? Last month, it launched a virtual Carnatic musical talent scouting platform called Deccan Beats. The brand invited applications in four languages (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada) and called on musicians such as Andrea Jeremiah (Tamil), Geetha Madhuri (TV), Sithara Krishnakumar (Malayalam) and Raghu Dixit (Kannada ) to supervise the Talent.
Skoda has co-travellers. Last month, FMCG major CavinKare also launched a music initiative. He unveiled a YouTube channel – Meera Music – to boost his 30-year-old Meera haircare brand. Launched by Carnatic music duo Ranjani – Gayatri, the channel is a musical celebration of top talent.
Of course, brands have always had a symbiotic association with music and musicians. But the chorus was mostly pop. Suddenly they seem to do jugalbandi with classical music – especially Carnatic. What’s the new pitch?
A rich mix
Due to the extended lifespan of the pandemic, classical music has exploded through a mix of formats on social media and has become accessible to more people. The target audience is changing and, according to Raja Varatharaju, Business Leader, Personal Care, CavinKare, “Many young consumers are developing a propensity for this genre, contrary to popular belief.”
Varatharaju explains that the Meera Music initiative is an extension of the brand’s thinking – the goodness of tradition. Classical music, with its cultural richness, fits perfectly into this reflection. “Bringing the benefits of tradition to them (consumers) is one of our main motives. We want to be a small part of the larger, ongoing musical movement in the digital space,” he adds.
If it takes off, it will be a proof of concept for the brand to grow, broaden the reach of the campaign and become language independent, Varatharaju says.
An interesting point made by Varatharaju is that engagement with classical music goes deeper than just sponsoring a show or running a digital advertisement. “With an ad, if you swipe right or left, up or down, you’re done. But these kinds of curated offers and experiences are going to emotionally upset the audience,” he says.
Certainly, classical music leads to deeper connections with its concert-style content with a longer lifespan in the virtual world compared to pop songs that run in 15-second bursts in Reels and Shorts.
For Skoda Auto India, classical music blends well with its 125-year-old heritage. “It has a historical legacy and is embedded in the culture, and that’s what we represent. There’s a subconscious pull,” says Tarun Jha, himself a Hindu-trained musician and head of marketing at Skoda India.
The brand is betting on Deccan Beats to strike a chord with South Indian audiences and expand to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. “In a South Indian household, early in the morning suprabhatam until you go to bed, classical music is everywhere, like an airy presence. It’s a polite and subtle way to be a part of their everyday life without intruding,” adds Jha.
Courting the South
Another reason brands are investing in Carnatic classical music, says digital marketing expert Shubho Sengupta, is that the North-South divide in advertising is subtle, but it does exist. Lately, brands are taking the cultural route to bridge the south. “Carnatic music is community-oriented, family-based, and a gateway to understanding culture. Generations of family listen to an artist and it gets passed down,” says Sengupta.
Also, an additional reason for the high stock in the classical music space, Sengupta speculates, is that it has a certain aspirational quality, and for expensive cars and goods moving up the value chain, it offers an opportunity to connect with a creme de la creme audience – classical music aficionados who attend paid shows, both digital and live concerts.
The content imperative
Post-pandemic, digital is taking center stage for brands to engage with their target groups, and content has become an important part of the marketing mix. With classical music online when the pandemic brought down the curtain on sabhasbrands have spotted an opportunity.
Take the example of MGM Healthcare, based in Chennai, which was one of the first to take advantage of the sabhas. [email protected] music property started in 2020.
MGM’s two-day hybrid musical show featured pianist Anil Srinivasan, singer Sikkil Gurucharan and singing duo Ranjani-Gayatri – incidentally the artists’ only live performance that year – and garnered more 50,000 views worldwide.
Today, as the pandemic wanes, the company continues to ramp up its branded music initiatives with the idea that music heals. “Music therapy works and is used in our hospitals. All of these initiatives aim to establish MGM Healthcare as a destination where people come not just when they are sick, but to bring holistic wellness, in mind, body and spirit. We wanted to change the stereotypical idea of healthcare branding and engagement and tap into something new,” says Prashanth Rajagopalan, Director, MGM Healthcare.
This Margazhi season, the brand has collaborated with singer Sanjay Subrahmanyan on four live shows.
To know if these marks are hitting the right notes, Sengupta says the music has to fit that rhythm for it to work, and the connection has to be meaningful. “If you force that connection, people can see through it. You may get some attention for a brief period of time, but it won’t last. You can craft your strategy, craft the math, but the emotional aspect has to be genuine,” he concludes.
March 20, 2022