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Live Nation Network’s Russell Wallach on Powerful Platforms and Consumer Engagement

The-Makegood.com_Russell_WallachRussell Wallach is President at Live Nation Network, the leading provider of entertainment marketing solutions. The Makegood recently spoke with Russell about how to build relationships between brands, bands and fans, create consumer touch points, and impact consumer behavior.

The Makegood: How does Live Nation Network help companies to build relationships between brands, bands and fans that last longer than a concert?

Music is universal and provides brands an incredibly powerful platform to engage with passionate fans in a very personal way.  Live Nation is the only company in the world that has the size, scale and experience to help companies build relationships between brands, bands and fans that extends the fun of concert beyond the event itself, because we have many consumer touch points before, during, and after the show.

Last year we went a step further with the re-launch of LiveNation.com. Designed as a one-stop music fan community, we’re creating a hotbed of engagement such as original music content and interviews with artists, which ultimately helps fans discover and share new music and artists before they even consider purchasing a ticket.

Another component of the site uses proprietary geo-fencing technology that captures fan-generated social content at shows and curates them as social streams on LiveNation.com. This provides opportunities for fans to relive, share, or vicariously experience the performance after the concert. The site has become very attractive to marketers, and we’ve already created several custom programs such as the Sonic Firsts campaign for Chevy Sonic that included artist and fan interview content featuring product placement and editorial direction around Chevy brand themes.

A great example of how all of these offline and online elements come together for a brand, is the Pop-Tarts “Crazy Good” Summer campaign that we ran last summer. Pop-Tarts wanted to engage with teen consumers, and music was the best platform to connect with them.

The program consisted of two “secret” concerts at the beginning and end of the summer plus numerous sweepstakes and promotions driving social media engagement in between. Prior to the shows, Pop-Tarts engaged teens by dropping hints on the artists and locations of the shows.  We followed it up with live chats with the artists on Twitter and Facebook to build excitement leading up to the events.  At the events, we activated photo booths and Just Dance stations to entertain the crowds, and handed out thousands of samples. After the concert, Pop-Tarts continued to engage fans with sweepstakes awarding concert tickets and other music prizes.  The campaign helped Pop-Tarts earn over 250,000 new Facebook likes and provided the brand with the content and context to engage fans for an entire summer and beyond. The program was so successful that we actually just launched a second “Crazy Good” Summer.

The Makegood: What are the biggest challenges the industry is facing and how do you address these?

The biggest challenges we see are the ability of publishers, networks and content providers to measurably impact consumer behavior. The traditional metrics of success: impressions, click-through rates, etc. are being re-examined, and new metrics such as engagements, shares and conversations are getting more brand attention.

These challenges are magnified when trying to reach to Millennials, a demographic group that consumes content and media in a fragmented way across numerous channels and platforms. We’re seeing the most success when using a balanced media approach that reaches consumers across paid, earned, and owned channels.  Music is an ideal focal point for such programs because it provides a natural convergence of content, community, and reach.  According to a recent LiveAnalytics consumer survey, we found that over 90 percent of Millennial concert-goers use Facebook. One example of a program developed with Millennials in mind was our partnership with Samsung last year. The brand wanted to celebrate its milestone of reaching 5 million fans on Facebook, so we created a private concert with Santigold in New York City, where Samsung customers could attend live or watch via a live digital stream that was linked into the brand’s Facebook page. Paid media on Facebook and Live Nation channels, including a targeted email sent by Live Nation to past purchasers of Santigold tickets, drove awareness of the campaign and event. The live stream on Samsung’s Facebook page provided compelling owned media, and the significant PR coverage and social media buzz surrounding the show delivered hundreds of millions of earned media impressions.

The Makegood: How can brands integrate their values with artists and tours and what marketing activities around the live music experience have the highest impact?

When approaching any type of music marketing program, brands should strive for authenticity above all, and that goal should be taken into account when picking the right artists with whom to align, as well as programming the best activations for the partnership.  We’ve found that matching brands and products with the right artists is as much a science as it is an art.  When we work with brands on music marketing programs, we tap into event purchase history analysis as well as the latest digital and social trends. For brands to borrow on the equity of the fan-artist relationship, the message has to be consistent with the essence of the artist and their music, and the activation itself needs to be relevant and aim to improve or enhance the live music experience.  Brands need to provide a tangible value proposition to the fan to get them to engage or convert.

When Skype wanted to drive mobile and tablet usage of their service, we developed a program that paired the brand with one of the most beloved artists of our time, Lady Gaga, and her Born This Way Ball tour. Skype became an official tour partner and leveraged the alignment to promote the social functionality of their mobile app. The partnership made a lot of sense because Lady Gaga’s fans are socially-savvy Millennials, which is the target Skype most wanted to reach. Skype was able to demonstrate the power of their Group Video Chat capability by offering lucky winners a chance to Skype with Lady Gaga herself.  #Skypeball and #SkypeWithGaga trended worldwide on Twitter during the chat. Then, when Lady Gaga had to cancel the end of her U.S. Tour due to injury, Skype repositioned its sponsorship into a “Get Well Gaga” platform where fans could submit get well photos and artwork to Lady Gaga using Skype Photo Share.  The promotion spiked a significant increase in usage of the app, and resonated with the target as an extremely organic alignment of artist and brand.

The Makegood: Your team greatly expanded and you are building out your digital sales and market team across the country. What can companies learn from your people management strategy?

Personal relationships are still very important in this business and we’ve found that having salespeople throughout the country with heavy concentrations where the biggest brands and agencies are headquartered gives us better exposure and access to marketing decision-makers. Also, the notion of sponsorship has greatly changed over the past several years. It’s gone so far beyond slapping a name on a tour or a building, to really taking the brand’s business problem into account and coming up with a solution to not only reach their target audience but positively benefit fans. Our programs often create once in a lifetime opportunities to meet their favorite artists, concert tickets, private concerts, etc.

Philosophically, we emphasize collaboration within our sales organization.  We have tied compensation to teamwork and team goals.  While we have resources dedicated at the local, regional and national levels as well as experts focused on sponsorship, online, and mobile platforms, everybody is encouraged to work closely together to deliver the best possible solution for brands.  That flexibility: the ability to deliver marketing solutions at local and national levels, through online and offline channels, makes us a unique partner in the digital advertising and sponsorship space.

The Makegood: Thanks, Russell.

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