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Are Motivational Anthems Worth the Effort?

It was May 13th, the start of the Summer of Love, 90,000 hippies were contemplating the journey to the Monterey International Pop Music Festival, just outside San Francisco. Scott McKenzie captured the mood: “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”. Monterey was the first widely promoted and heavily attended rock festival and became the template for future events, notably Woodstock, two years later.

The effect a song had on this signature gathering drives home the marketing potential of the anthem: even if you love Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Ravi Shanka; even if you’re awed by the fact such a talented line up performed for free – you can’t deny it was all marketed rather well. Think 1967 and – especially if you weren’t born yet – the image that probably springs to mind is a whole bunch of hippies with flowers in their hair. This is partly the press attention, partly the footage, but also the famous soundtrack.

But what is the link between successful pop festivals and business marketing? And how can B2B marketers tap into all this? Well, to a limited extent BlackBerry tried a similar thing recently. The video cover in September of REO Speedwagon’s “Keep On Loving You” was created to thank developers supporting the BlackBerry platform. “Devs, BlackBerry is going to keep on loving you” featured the VP Developer Relations & Ecosystem Alec Saunders, VP Application Platform & Tools Chris Smith and VP Global Alliances & Business Martyn Mallick, and included lyrics such as: “We’re going to keep on loving you / Our updated SDK is really cool.”

However you view this – it is obviously very easy to find fault – the YouTube video has already achieved 366,934 views, over 3,000 likes, and only 1,721 dislikes – the comments naturally vary. On top of which, this recent endeavour appears an awful lot more successful than when Microsoft Vista hired Bruce Springsteen to sing the praises of Vista’s SP1 release a few years back.  The YouTube page for this has had more than a million hits to date but also shows almost twice as many dislikes as likes.

Surprisingly or not, (depending on your perspective), there have actually been quite a slew of corporate anthems attempted over the decades. Last year the Guardian presented a scathing top five of the worst of these.  It put Symantec in third place with its motivational soul music/anti-virus technology hybrid: “We got you personal firewalls/Security is where we stand tall.”  In second, it picked Ernst & Young’s cover of Edwin Hawkins Singers’ “Oh Happy Day”; whilst the gold award was presented to McKinsey’s “There is a Dream”. This featured the notable lines “There is a dream, a dream that’s ours: we’re gonna be the best R&R in the world.”

It is easy to pick holes but what can we learn from all this? Should businesses call it quits and accept music isn’t the answer. In a recent article in the Canadian Huffington, Mitch Joel wrote a piece about the podcasting comeback… maybe the moral of the story is organisations should stick to the spoken word?

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