Pass the Courvoisier…

Musicians and alcohol go hand in hand. A song by a musician can immortalise a drink and place it in the minds of their listeners forever. Here are some lyrics that will live inside my head forever:

“I’ll fake it through the day with some help from Johnnie Walker red…” (Elliott Smith)

“Rolling up a fatty, but the Tanqueray straight had me…” (Luniz)

and my personal favourite:

“Now you and me can drink some Hennessy/then we get it on

Mad women wantin to bone Sean Combs/sippin on Patron” (P. Diddy)

In an analysis of popular US music songs between 2005 and 2007, 20% of songs made explicit references to alcohol, and 25% of these songs mentioned a specific brand. The top three brands were Patron tequila, Grey Goose vodka, and Hennessy cognac, accounting for 65% of references overall. (Primack, Nuzzo, Rice & Sergent, 2011)

Songs featuring brands made strong aspirational connections between alcohol and themes such as wealth, sex, luxury objects, partying, drugs, and vehicles.

Effectively, these songs are mini adverts, giving the listener positive feelings, associations, while promoting specific brands of alcohol. As previous blogs have mentioned, for sexual imagery and celebrity tie-ins to be effective, the product have to be congruent with the message, and what could be more congruent than the partying musician enjoying his favourite luxury brand of alcohol?

One example of the effectiveness of brand promotion in songs is the 18.9% increase in sales seen by Courvoisier following Busta Rhymes release of “Pass the Courvoisier”, the song at the top of this blog.

This got me thinking that a great way for companies to build their brands and increase sales would be increased integration with musicians. Perhaps promoting specific brands within the music community would help capitalise on the positive associations that being referenced in mainstream songs can bring.

ImageOne example would be The JD Set  – the series of gigs Jack Daniel’s ran between 2002 and 2011 to promote and bring a serious of one-off, unique collaborations between artists. Tickets were always hard to come by, and you either needed to know the right people, or win a competition to get in, but it was always a great show.

Another incredibly effective example of a brand/musician collaboration is the partnership of entertainment kingpin/sometimes rapper P. Diddy and beverage titans Diageo, who in 2007 became 50/50 partners in the Ciroc brand of premium vodka.

ImagePrior to Diddy’s involvement, the brand’s USP was that it was one of the only vodkas on the market made from grapes. The problem with promoting the brand according to Jon Dobbin, a senior member of the brand’s agency was that: “That whole grape story just didn’t work, because nobody really cared.”

The results speak for themselves. Since the “Diddy merger” in 2007, up to 2010 the brand has grown 552%, and Ciroc has become the number 2 ultra premium vodka in the world. There’s no doubt that P. Diddy’s celebrity and promotional credentials have helped convert younger, affluent consumers with his celebrity contacts and aspirational messages, exemplified in adverts like this:

The brand has also branched out into flavoured vodkas, and if you made it this far, here’s a fun little Ciroc advert featuring Aziz Ansari and Diddy promoting the range (albeit still peppered with aspirational messages and positive associations throughout):

  1. jamesuh said:

    Ahh that dark underbelly of the Alcohol industry. Finally…

    I entirely agree that the integration of beverage brand and music has the potential to be a phenomenally potent cocktail (see what I did there, ey?). If not for the simple fact that recall is dramatically enhanced if it is applied to melody ( )

    It may also encourage us to incorporate the personas of idolised celebs into our already tenuous expectations regarding alcohol. I personally found myself ordering a flippin’ White Russian at a bar in London once, cos’ good ol’ Jeff Lebowski (the Dude from The Big Lebowski) sips on ’em. Never order a cocktail at a bar in London. Jesus wept.

    I’m pretty sure it was only this year that I read an article claiming that music videos replete with product placements would be the new commercial.
    I can’t find it though.
    And the only example that comes to mind is that pesky Relentless ad that hijacks the interminable shite that Professor Green churns out. Although he doesn’t actually mention the brand specifically, I’m pretty sure that the gist of the song is supposed to marry with the ethos of Relentless. Whatever that is. I guess it’d be interesting to see how the message of a song can be used to promote the message of a brand. If at all.

  2. Personally, I think the branded dink somehow supports or endorses the musician and the musician raises awareness of the drink. It certainly plays both ways for me. As reputable musician, he or she feels obliged to endorse (or just plain want to live) a lifestyle, that others could only dream of. They have a reputation to maintain, and dinking the more expensive branded drinks somehow satisfies this. For the brand, the drink included in a song can work wonders in raising awareness making associations with fame, fun and luxury. Even if it is a negative association, it is still raising the awareness of the brand. Several of my favourite songs include the naming of alcoholic brands, some affordable, some expensive. The fact remains that I am able to recall the brand well and I have associated it with an artist who inspires me. If I enjoy her clothing taste, her music, her lifestyle, why not her drink?

    Of Couse it’s perfectly safe to influence an adult such as myself who has experienced the effects of alcohol, but what about the young teenagers who have not? Personally I feel this will have a negative impact on them who may be influenced to dink so that they can live a lifestyle that is more acceptable than not. To support this, Charles K. Atkin explored the effects of televised alcohol messages on teenage drinking patterns (1990) stating that analyses suggest that there is potential for increased prodrinking attitudes and behaviours as a result of such messages. Well done!

  3. I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of alcohol after the three years I spent trying all sorts of alcohol and mixes. Never the less I have been exposed to such advertising alcohol in music.
    I believe the lyrics went like this: “Im going to chase this whisky with Patron, I want a girl on my lap and a jagerbomb”, ever since hearing these lyrics I have always wondered what Patron was, and if I ever saw it in a alcohol establishment I would no doubt try some. The thing is I don’t know why I would want to try it, I have no idea of the taste of the alcohol but here I sit influenced by some lyrics to try a Patron.
    Its not just in lyrics though this happens in all sorts of media, I am sure you will al remember the inbetweeners programme where they buy some Drambuie, due to that programme I did try some and in all honesty thought it was disgusting.
    You say in your blog that businesses should work with musicians to help with branding, well there is evidence of brands working with the music industry but mainly at festivals, at the download festival there are stages named after brands such as the Pepsi Max Stage, so there is evidence of product integration into the music scene, just not so much into the actual music yet. There is no doubt though of the influence that music can have on brands.

  4. As you rightly point out consumercolumn, there is plenty of product integration in the music scene already, particularly at music festivals.

    While rap artists (they’re all about the benjamins baby) clearly have no issue with endorsing and singing about whichever product makes them the most money, one reason perhaps that products are less integrated with other genres of music is potentially the perception that a lot of rock and indie artists have of selling out. For example, in 2005 Welsh band Super Furry Animals turned down an offer of $1.8 million dollars from Coca Cola for the rights to use their AMAZING song “Hello Sunshine”.

    Clearly, a difficult decision, according to frontman Gruff Rhys: “When you’re offered money like that, you have to think hard about it. There’s five of us in the band . There’s kids to feed”.

    However, considering the way that the music industry is going, with the increased emphasis on downloads, and the amazing publicity and revenue potential when your song is featured on an advert (think Jose Gonzales’ “Heartbeats” or Radical Faces’ “Welcome Home, Son”), surely it’s only a matter of time before rock and indie artists cave and start singing about their favourite brand of alcohol in the desperate hope of a lucrative tie-in deal?

  5. This is such an interesting topic within consumer psychology! I think different brands and companies have become really clued-in when it comes to using the music industry to market their products. Music festivals are absolutely saturated with different brands trying to immerse themselves in the festival atmosphere, and alcohol brands are always to the fore of it. Obviously, the sheer volume of people makes promotion at a music festival a worthwhile venture for an alcohol brand. However there are even more advantages to combining music and marketing.

    Hackley and Tiwsakul (2006) have a really interesting article that you might be interested in, entitled “entertainment marketing”. It makes an interesting point about the concept of ‘cool’ which I think is a really strong feature of marketing and the music industry. Exposure to a brand using popular entertainment infers a sense of cool about the brand, and so a positive association is formed. Due to the fact that people are so exposed to the brand during the festival, they make emotional connections to it (Hafez and Ling, 2006). The music industry can really offer some great tools in the promotion of a brand.

  6. Co-incidentally enough, one of my old housemates Sam Airey is playing a special gig with his band tonight in the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds to launch the arrival of a new limited edition beer called “The Blackout” (inspired by the song he wrote of the same name), in a co-operative venture with Revolutions Micro brewery in Leeds. (Check out the label website:

    It’s gonna make both parties a tidy sum of cash and some good publicity I’m sure – tickets to the show are £6, and include a free bottle of beer and new downloadable tracks.

    As we’ve suggested, rock and indie artists may have different attitudes than hip hop artists to commercial collaborations with companies. In this case study, the scale of the event is smaller, and both parties (one a niche independent micro-brewery and one an independent, niche artist) have a similar approach to making music and brewing beer. So maybe it’s all about the artist finding a brand that represents their level and their values, and working together with that company.

    If, as we’re led to believe, music companies are on their way out, maybe drinks companies, with their greater resources will become the new business partners of artists – in a strange modern throwback to the Italian renaissance tradition of artist patronage…

  7. conningconsumers said:

    Interesting facts I never thought of this association. Musicians seem to be the best endorsers of alcohol products. In the consumers eyes these people are the cream of the crop they party with the best people so they want to be just like them. I didn’t quiet get why after trying to make the vodka seem exclusive and prestigious in the first ad that they decided to go for humor in the second it lost its appeal for me when they tried to go with the humor. I feel they did a bad job with it. An example of a terrible association that could only have hurt the brand was in Keshas song Tick Tock when she said ‘Before I leave, brush my teeth with a bottle of Jack’. Jack Daniels could not have been too impressed with that.

  8. I totally agree with you on both points conning consumers!

    Firstly, it was surprising to me to see P Diddy go with such a different direction with the second advert. However, all I can presume is that they thought they had gone as far as they could with the ‘classy ad’, and then gone for the mass market appeal (and cashed in on Aziz Ansari’s monstrous fame in America) for the second ad.

    Secondly, the line from Kesha about Jack Daniels is an example of a negative association between drinking and the musicians lifestyle, and as you say, it’s unlikely the makers of Jack Daniels would have been too happy about it (although there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?). It also highlights a possible reason why drinks companies may have been slow to allow artists free reign with their brands – you can’t always count on the song making a positive reference to the company.

  9. jimmyg said:

    Well we know that brands are hoping that through celebrity endorsement, consumers will think that they will absorb some of the perceived qualities of that celebrity whether it be smoothness, riches or success with the opposite success. Diddy and Ansari certainly seem to be a good match for Ciroc and research has shown that this is incredibly important with endorsements. As long as there is a good ‘fit’ between the product and the celebrity sales will presumably increase. However marketers should be aware of the numerous times that celebrities have been dropped by their brands because of bad or unsuitable behaviour. Magic Johnson was dropped by his brands after his public announcement that he was HIV positive. Kobe Bryant also lost out when he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2003. The ‘best’ celebrities may also display the most ‘risky’ behaviour for the companies in terms of maintaining the reputation of the brand.

    I think location is also important here. We listen to the songs while drinking the drink in the club that the song mentions. The brands want us to recall the sophistication that they conveyed in their advert and the assumption is that we will buy the drink to recreate some of that sophistication on our own night out.

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