August 31, 2017
by Carla Johnson
Beyoncé. U2. Bruce Springsteen. Tony Bennett. Yo-Yo Ma. Chick Corea. These are just a few of the thousands of music creators recognized by the GRAMMYs since its inception in 1957. And a handful of the 22 top winners in GRAMMY history.
The GRAMMYs are the one night a year set aside to honor the best of the music industry. But it’s only one way that The Recording Academy celebrates its brand purpose all year long. The Academy is a not-for-profit trade organization that first produced a television music awards show a few years after its inception. This show is the only peer-presented award to honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.
I had an opportunity to talk with Evan Greene, the CMO of The Recording Academy, about his challenge of creating a consistent, seamless experience for members and music fans in an industry that has diverse interests and constantly changing expectations.
You talk about the way to achieve authenticity is to understand what you stand for as a brand, and then getting the entire organization to speak in a consistent, authentic fashion. How do actually make that happen in your organization?
It’s certainly easier said than done. One of the toughest things in the world is to shift corporate culture. If you have a culture that isn’t attuned to speaking that way you have a hill to climb. You can’t simply decree that this is the voice of the company. That may be a good idea or the right idea, but that doesn’t mean people will adopt it.
Getting every employee to talk about our organization in a similar way takes a lot of work. It means sitting down with key stakeholders and sharing the plan and talking it through. It’s creating investment and evangelists in the organization. Creating the idea and the essence of our brand and the narrative around it – celebrating music – just gets us to the starting line. It’s not that you build it and they will come. You have to build it and then articulate what it is, why we created it and why it needs to be implemented.
There’s the creative process of the brand purpose and then there’s the implementation. You have to feed it. You need to consistently create content that aligns with the ideals and the sentiment, whether that’s the editorial direction or the content that you create from videos to websites and everything that touches your internal and external audience. We make sure all of it aligns with our brand voice and that we create consistent content.
Our marketing department makes sure that everything has the right voice, tone and visual assets so we all row together. We craft and distribute the tools so everyone across the company is equipped to be a touchpoint for what our brand stands for.
There are some brands that do it really well. If you visit a Disney theme park, every team member has gone through an amazing amount of training. They know what the brand stands for, how to communicate it, the vibe, the tone, the sentiment and the ethos of the brand. That needs to happen throughout the entire company at every company.
What about brands that think this kind of a unified message and a consistent experience is a ‘nice to’ have, rather than ‘have to’ have?
Ultimately this stuff matters. There’s a short game and a long game. The companies that win the long game really respect the message. And they respect their ultimate constituents enough to deliver that kind of message
If you think about the brands that really resonate. The ones you have a relationship with and you trust, there’s consistency across the board. You don’t have trust a brand that delivers inconsistent experiences. You don’t think about brands that do it poorly, but you recognize the brands that do it well. We live in a world in which we make connections with brands that do things extraordinarily well. They get rewarded by trust and consumer loyalty.
And I would say that the way that our strategy has evolved is to become more and more focused on doing things differently. We see ourselves as the agents of change for the GRAMMY brand. We like to do things that haven’t been done before. We like to do things that are new and fresh and exciting.
I believe that every organization can show up in a way that’s consistent and authentic, yet still be perpetually innovative in how they do that. Can you tell me about your creative process? From where do you draw inspiration? And how do you connect the dots to relate it back to your brand?
One of the reasons that I love marketing and became a marketer is that I love a good story. You can tell a good story in one frame, 140 characters or a two-and-a-half-hour film. It starts with the story; is it interesting and innovative? Is it different? I’m always looking at what other brands are doing, I’m reading, and looking at what works and doesn’t. That really inspires, my work. It may not always inspire creativity in the moment, but it establishes a framework where I can notice and identify creative intent. The things that excite me are the programs that are a little bit different that make you look twice. You never know how you’re going to apply ideas. It’s like writing, it takes you down a path that you didn’t expect when you started.
Of what things are you most proud at The Recording Academy?
A number of things I look back on with pride. We’re a traditional, not-for-profit, conservative organization at our core. That we were ahead of the curve on social media, having a conversation with friends, fans and followers was great. And we have 12 million people in our social ecosystem.
We have GRAMMY-inspired watches and jewelry used to raise money around the world for charitable organizations for music. The jewelry uses alloy from the GRAMMY award in these products, so people have the ability to wear a piece of the GRAMMYs on their wrist.
A couple of years ago, Intel challenged us to help them redefine what it means to be a company beyond a chip maker. They wanted to be known as the company that uses technology to enable great experiences, and that Intel on the inside means great experiences on the outside. They challenge The Recording Academy to come up with something different and unique for the music industry.
We knew that what resonates with music fans is the extraordinary moments of the GRAMMYs on stage. We thought that GRAMMY moments could come alive and be taken to the next level through extraordinary tech was interesting. Because we don’t integrate brands into the show, there weren’t any on the stage. It was about the lead up to the awards and the story afterwards. Intel received a tremendous amount of consumer coverage, which was huge because they normally only get trade coverage. This really changed the entire conversation for them. How can Intel play a deeper role and take some permission, have some ownership of the music story and narrative. They found a perfect way to do that, by expanding on one of the most compelling aspects of the Grammy telecast. (Read more about the challenge and Lady Gaga’s performance here and watch a video of the performance here.)
Creativity is a currency in which we all trade. Creativity and innovation are what break through to get people’s attention The brands that you end up developing the deepest relationship with are the ones that are the most effective in delivering their message. It all comes down to story and respecting your audience. If you do that, the positive consequence of that is that you will develop trust and a deeper relationship. Now more than ever we live in a world in which relationships matter more than ever and develop those through trust.
Are you interested in learning how to discover your brand purpose so you can create authentic experiences for employees and customers? Contact me and let’s talk about how we can help. You can also follow me on LinkedIn, and Twitter, and if you like what you see, Subscribe here for regular updates.
About Carla Johnson
Carla Johnson is a world-renowned storyteller, an entertaining speaker, and a prolific author.
Over the last two decades, Carla has helped architects and actuaries, executives and volunteers, innovators and visionaries leverage the art of storytelling to inspire action. Her work with Fortune 500 brands hasn’t gone unnoticed and the latest of her seven books, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing, sets the benchmark for a new era in marketing. Named one of the top 50 women in marketing and the chair of the ANA’s Business Marketing Association, Carla regularly challenges conventional thinking.
Today, Carla travels the world teaching anyone (and everyone) how to cultivate idea-driven teams that breed unstoppable creativity and game-changing innovation.