I’m with the Brand: Why it makes perfect sense for a shoe company to open a recording studio

Loved seeing Ben Sisario’s NYT story on Converse opening a recording studio in my hipster hood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  And Sisario was just on WNYC’s Soundcheck about it.

Expensive marketing enterprise or good idea?  Is it “wrong, wrong, wrong” as a few hand-wringing commentors posted on Ben’s story?

In this case, I’m with the brand.  It’s a good move by Converse.  But its an initiative that would only really work for a rarefied group of brands.  In this case, Converse is a great fit.  They’re not opening a label — they recognize the pitfalls of that.  What they’re offering is resource to the creative community; no (apparent) strings attached.  Why not?

Get a group of 15-50-somethings walking around Manhattan or Brooklyn or Venice Beach or Adams Morgan and you’ll likely see a fair number of Chuck Taylors on those influential feet.  They’re also probably wearing big fat cans or iPod buds listening to some Miles or Arcade Fire or Gaga or MC5.    So what Converse recognizes is that street cred has to be maintained very carefully.  No ham-handedness allowed.   They’re offering creative people a resource, without trying to control creative output.  Now that’s going to foster good will.  (Full disclosure, I’m on a charity board with Converse’s CMO — the guy who cooked this concept up).

Now, on the other hand, I’m not sure I agree with a similar tactic that some other brands have taken:  launching ‘branded’ record labels.  Mountain Dew has.  Red Bull has.  Is it wise for a beverage company or package good to do this?  Its fraught with issues:  Artists aren’t inanimate objects!  They have opinions!  They can’t necessarily create a sound or bend their actions or form a point of view or belief based on the brand attributes of a packaged good.  They can, but fans would smell the inauthenticity a gazillion miles away.  Signing an artist or band to a label requires long term  investment in them — hopefully for a long career.  Is that something that a beverage can really walk away from at the whim of a marketing plan or budget change?

Sisario’s story also talks about some failed attempts to do this e.g. from Axe body spray.  It’s a cautionary tale.  Bands and brands *can* form some smart affiliations.  And there are some very smart people at the labels and in the industry who get how hard it is to get that delicate balance.

So good for Converse, I say.  It’s big bold moves like this that makes them a classic brand that continually stays relevant.

I wore my brown CT All Stars today.

2 responses to “I’m with the Brand: Why it makes perfect sense for a shoe company to open a recording studio

  1. loved that you brought this to the students at lim. big ups! proved for great provocative discussion. no doubt all will be beating feet to head to the new joint! meantime, am digging out from the back of my closet my army green, lace-less ct’s…..(time to put the pink ones away for the season)

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