Sympathy for the Devil: Dead Rock Stars Sell Their Souls

This kind of advertising appeals to both young and old and is a new shift in marketing, according to Matt Thornhill of The Boomer Market, a company that advises the marketing industry on how to reach the 77 million consumers born between 1948 and 1960. "This is the generation that has been the traditional target of product marketing: the 18 to 34-year-old group. But half of those consumers have now aged out of that demographic -- yet refuse to believe they are getting old," he said.

As a result, companies redefined their strategies. Age doesn't matter in today's marketing -- it's life styles.

"I don't know why they would affix an energy drink to a dead rock and roll guy," joked Thornhill.

Still, Thornhill sees the genius in the Liquid Experience marketing campaign: expanding a product's reach by appealing to 20-somethings, but designing it for the boomers.

"It's a perfect marketing tool and has the best potential to straddle two generations," Thornhill said. "Using an aging rocker is the best way to interest the baby boomers."

Good for a Gag Gift

But some in Generation Y are more skeptical about the appeal of "Liquid Experience."

"When I see these ads, I think, 'Please don't ruin the image for me,'" said Amanda Schupak, 25 and a youth scene reporter for Forbes magazine. She listens to both the Rolling Stones and the new indie rock band Cursive. "The classic artists have idol status," she says.

Still, she understands the power of marketing. "It's hard to argue when some stars are able to make more money from the grave than many are making while they're alive."

Would she buy Liquid Experience? "I might just once and give it away as a gag gift," Schupak said.

Blender.com editor Mike Errico's online music magazine caters to 26-35 year olds with a "snarky attitude." He says he is excited that he will be attending a concert with Bob Seger -- a 1980s rock star whose song "Like a Rock" is featured in Chevrolet commercials.

Blender readers are still in awe of classic rock. Errico says, "It was a much different music industry then, with fewer choices, and these rock stars were able to make a deeper impression. Hendrix was pre-Internet, pre-MTV and pre FM radio in some cases -- you didn't have an iPod, you had a record collection, and in terms of number of songs, it was vastly smaller."

The grand-scale living of the legendary rock stars was elevated to cult status, and new bands have continually tried to emulate the sheer power of the 1970s rock culture.

"It's like evolutionary biology," said Errico. "Business savvy music makers are in awe of when the dinosaurs ran the earth. Today's bands make music in their apartments and garages. None have the gigantic studios of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, where they were blowing drugs and money out of the air vents."

The danger, said Errico, is that the star is remembered for all eternity by the product he endorses. Does anyone care that George Forman, who now sells cooking grills, had a boxing career?

Neal Ferrazzani, a 28-year-old Web developer from Los Angeles, who used to work as a major-label recording engineer, has listened to early classic rock all his life. But he sees hypocrisy in marketing to his generation.

"Those are my musical heroes," said Ferrazzani,. "I'm not sick of hearing the bands, but I'm sick of seeing them on TV. The day I hear Nirvana when Courtney Love is hard up for cash, it's going to kill me."

Hearing today's indie band Postal Service hawking for UPS doesn't offend him. But when he heard Led Zepplin on a Cadillac ad, he turned off the channel. "My heart sunk," he said.

"The '60s generation was anti-establishment, and they gave us a lot," said Ferrazzani. "We grew up with their music and thought they were a pretty cool generation. But now they chew themselves up and spit themselves out. They have lost their souls in the process."

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