Music and women

Sound strategy: Beating the drum for branded content

In Trends by Peter Gearin

How two brands used music videos and interactivity to sell their messages to women.

What do the engineering faculty at the University of NSW and The Strand Arcade shopping precinct have in common? Yes, both are in Sydney. Both want to attract more females. And both have recently come up with remarkably similar strategies to appeal to young women fusing music, video and interactivity.

The grand, Victorian-era Strand Arcade recently collaborated with singer Sloan Peterson on a video for her release 105. Not only does The Strand provide the classically handsome backdrop, it houses the labels of fashions worn in the video by Peterson and performers from the Sydney Dance Company and the Australian Ballet School. Peterson and the dancers sashay around The Strand’s pastel walls and mosaic tiles wearing premium Australian brands such as Dion Lee, Scanlan & Theodore, Bassike and Jac+Jack.

It’s a good look for The Strand and its well-dressed occupants, but that’s not the only kind of marketing playing out here. The video is also a way for the shopping arcade to create an electronic “look book” for its retailers’ new-season styles; those viewing on a mobile device or PC can click on the clothes being worn to find out how much they cost and where they can be bought.

Agency The Royals devised the integrated campaign that showcases The Strand, its fashion labels and a fine local musician on the rise – 24-year-old singer-songwriter Peterson from Cronulla. Her face might well be the one used by The Strand’s sales team when they identify their ideal customer.

The concept of using fashion, video and branding is relatively new. In 2012, Canadian retailer SSENSE created what it described as “the world’s first interactive shoppable music video”. It pioneered the use of interactive “hotspot” technology to encourage viewers to “shop this look” throughout a video for I Think She Ready by Aussie rapper Iggy Azalea featuring Fki and Diplo. When the video was seen on the SSENSE site and the viewer hit the hotpot, a box appeared with the artist’s outfit – each item was presented and available to buy.

In 2016, retailer Ted Baker took the interactive “art meets business” idea in a slightly different direction. It engaged the services of Guy Ritchie to direct a short film, Mission Impreccable, to launch its autumn/winter collection. According to Wired magazine, interactive video firm Wirewax used motion tracking to make the clickable links “stick” to the clothes.

The University of NSW had an entirely different marketing problem to solve. Rather than getting women to buy a $500 dress, UNSW needed them to commit to a four-year undergraduate degree in engineering.

All universities struggle to get females to enrol in STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths). UNSW has one of Australia’s best engineering faculties but just one in five of its undergraduate students are female. With a goal to drive this to 30 per cent by 2020, UNSW wanted to deliver a female-friendly message that an engineering job is not only likely to be very well paid and contributes enormously to society, it can also be rather cool.

That’s why it based its 2016 “Women in Engineering” campaign around a video of young women generating glamorous androids in a futuristic lab. Pressing buttons on glass touchscreens and twirling high-tech knobs, they “create” dance-ready versions of Australian DJ act Nervo, hair and makeup done and dressed in killer heels.

This official video for Nervo’s song, People Grinnin’, was part of a national campaign called “Made By Me” to improve gender diversity in engineering. The UNSW-led collaboration, involved eight universities, industry mouthpiece Engineers Australia and advertising agency Whybin\TBWA. Its aim was to change the way young people, particularly girls, think of engineering.

“We want to show engineering as the creative, diverse and future-looking career it really is.” Dr Alex Bannigan

Throughout the video, cards would pop up to describe the engineering behind everyday objects, such as drinking water, a smartphone and makeup. From these cards, viewers could click through to a microsite to learn more about the featured objects and explore profiles of interesting engineers. These ranged from a medical imaging researcher to an International Space Station controller to a humanitarian engineer delivering clean water to communities in developing countries.

Engineers around the country were invited to photograph their work and post it to their favourite social media platform with the hashtag #madebyme. It showed how much of our man-made world exists thanks to engineering.

“One of the biggest barriers to more women studying engineering is that they are just not told about it,” UNSW’s Women in Engineering manager Dr Alex Bannigan says. “They don’t know what engineering is, or what engineers do, and those that think they do know about engineering often have a very limited understanding of the kind of work involved – usually with a heavy emphasis on hard hats.

“We want to change the image of engineering among young people, particularly girls, and show engineering as the creative, diverse and future-looking career that it really is.”

Bannigan says only those actively looking for information ever find out about engineering. “We needed to find a way to meet teenagers on their home ground and surprise them with an insight into engineering that would open their mind to its possibilities,” she says.

Links & references

The pleasure and pain of celebrity collaborations in Brand Tales

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