Share ideas that inspire. FALLON PLANNERS (and co-conspirators) are freely invited to post trends, commentary, obscure ephemera and insightful rants regarding the experience of branding.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cameos and Connections

It all started last week whilst watching 106 and Park. #4 on the countdown was Ludacris’ video (ft. Mary J. Blige) for his song “Runaway Love.” Watch it here. Solid beat, typically tight Luda flow and Mary belting out the hooks while 3 stories of young girls with reasons to runaway play out. I was pretty hooked. Then, the final verse/scenario hit the screen. What? Is that Namond Brice from HBO’s The Wire (Julito McCullum) in the car with his pregnant girlfriend? Yup. I thought, “Good call Luda. Good call Namond.” Not only that, but each “star’s” star started to rise in my mind; their more positive images and association led to an overall enhancement of the video, which made me seek out the song on iTunes the next day.

As you’d probably expect, neither guy is the first. In fact, The Wire characters/actors are a pretty popular choice for rappers. However, when you give people the opportunity to make this connection themselves, you give them the opportunity to feel a stronger connection with you (often, your brand). In this case, resulting in a song purchase. This is no small feat—I hadn’t bought a new song on iTunes in a month (a weak moment where I couldn’t imagine life without Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars).

I’ve been waiting to have time to develop a more focused and interesting hypothesis. Certainly, I can’t prove that surprise and delight always leads to sale. Yet, it seems that the more you surprise and delight a person, the deeper relationship they’ll form with you. And as brands strive to become more multi-dimensional (and human), they look to expand their personalities and increase their connections. Cameos are one way to surprise and delight by showing/proving you’ve got other (outside) connections. In essence, you’re adding a friend.

It’s really like a brand is making famous friends (in the form of people and other brands). This is different from paid endorsement. They are giving love because they have similar beliefs. (See Kevin Bacon’s new social charity network , which should really have its own post.) Is this the new elasticity? (I can see Apple and Nike together, but Home Depot and VitaminWater? – that’s ridiculous!) Or Kumar on 24!!! – what the!?!

Of course, advertising and TV shows and music and other entertainment are different. But whether it’s people or brands, when two “likeables”/”believables” come together it can increase the likeability and credibility of both! It can help them reinvent themselves together like Old Spice and Bruce Campbell. Is a connection between Emerald Nuts and Robert Goulet mutually beneficial? (That could have its own post as well.) Finally, can feel less ad-y and more fun, like Burger King, Milk, and Hersheys.

But cameos are not the only way to surprise and delight; not the only way to make a deeper and more meaning connection with your viewer/customer/enthusiast. You can show you have similar interests, backgrounds, goals, and cultural knowledge. Don’t think that MTV’s latest promo for Maui Fever that connected Rupaul’s “Supermodel” with main character, Chaunte, didn’t make me more loyal!


petar said...

is this not an simple update to the old spokesperson marketing trick. get Michael Jordan to endorse food, people wanna be like mike, so they eat like mike. now in 2.0 land we do not wanna be like somebody, we wanna like somebody who is being like us. So here you have luda asking ( indirectly)" you like the wire don't you, wich get's you to give a mental yes reply. "hommes, if you like the wire, and i like the wire, why not acknowlegde that we are alike ( not equal but we share similarities). alsmost like a friend. " so why not support a friend ( who happens to be rapper) and buy my song.

this goes to show that execution is equal to idea.

El Gaffney said...

great addition petar.

i wonder though if i didn't watch the wire and after the video, simon rex gave a shoutout to the girl from akeelah and the bee who also appears in it. would cause me to think, "hey, i've heard of that movie, what's it all about?" and go online look it up, be interested, ask some friends over IM if they'd heard anything and then rent it. go from limited awareness to action -- wonder if there's anything in the idea of "Surprise to action" vs. "Call to action".

say i noticed jon seda and michael rapaport cameos as well. then i'm hooked. i'm telling friends and i'm searching past videos for things/people i missed. i'm looking for luda's videos and albums before they drop next time.

the idea of familiar fame is one about which i've been thinking as well. more people want to be (and believe they will be) famous. many brands are famous and if brands are your friends, you're one step closer to fame - they can make you famous. it can't be too elusive or attainable - about as easy as it would be to be friends with famous people. not michael jordan or ct from the real world.. kristen cavallari.

petar said...

you are on to something. It's like a mix between american Idol and the ad from KFC with the singer from hooty and the blowfish. in that ad you can spot more and more stuff once you look at the ad over and over agian. ( it's a example of trans media planning courtesy of the faris yakob and others). now what we do is ad 2.o stuff to it; fame and community. i saw the video, i cal my friends to tell that the guy from the wire is in it. they say,"but did you notice this and that. so you go back to check the video again. this leads to cognitive dissonance. "I must like the video beacuae i am watching it over and over. but if i watch the video of the song, and i like the video, it must mean i like the song as wel. Suprise!! you have just rasionalized your action of buying the song. the american Idol part refers to the feelings, that if i like the stuff famous people like, than i am indeed on my way top becoming famous, like them. would not suprise me if sales of ray -j 's music go up, just because people are curious if that guy from the video can sing any better then they who have downloaded the video (who afcourse in true 2.o fashion all believe that they can sing, flow, or even make a better porn video).

El Gaffney said...

in music, collaboration is no new thing...yet it was the theme (spoken) of this year's Grammy's. (just an fyi, it was a bk ad with hootie and brooke burke and all the other stuff i didn't realize). also, just happened upon an interesting article on cnn about familiarity and fame - noting the success of wheel of fortune:

"Chris Lamb, a communications professor who teaches a course in mass media and society at the College of Charleston, said the reasons for the show's longevity include familiarity -- and the dream anyone could be a contestant and win.

"We live vicariously through the players on 'Wheel of Fortune,' " he said. " 'Jeopardy' is 'Wheel' with a master's degree -- it requires a little bit of work."

also, i wonder if i would have had the same response to marlo (a little too hardcore to connect with) vs. namond vs. my boy randy?

petar said...

you probalby would have. because for a large part they ( cameos) are mirrors. they have enough in common with you, or enough qualities that you wish/think you have to make a connection. to keep up the wire example, omar is one of the most beloved characters. I read an article in xxl magazine with the actor who plays omar. he said all kinds of people ( working class, college, and guys from the block) come up to him and say that omar is real. now does that mean they have no problems with open gay men, problably not. but he has enough other qualities to have them say, he is ok. ok enough to watch the show, and buy the dvd box when it comes out (no pun intended). on a morl basic level, i think celebs are justification. I think about brand alot, work on them daily, but even i can't tell why i buy half the stuff i buy. BUT i can justify every purchase. so mayby it makes it easiers to like a luda song, because the guys from the wire think he (luda) is worth their cred. and if a brand like the wire says it's ok, well their's my way out. just me thinking out loud.

El Gaffney said...

yes...but isn't it fun to overthink it sometimes :)