On the ‘Colonel Sanders DJ’, big brands + culture

Earning the right to play...

Jonathan Emmins on that Colonel Sanders moment, comments originally featured as part of Access All Areas 1st May 2019 and Campaign 3rd April 2019.

How did it get to this? Is it an April Fool’s? Is this some postmodern artistic comment on society? We like to think there must be a couple of young creatives sniggering in the toilets somewhere going: "Oh my God, I didn’t think they would actually do it!"

DJ and producer Alex Metric nailed it when he tweeted: "Ultra selling ad space on the EDM main stage at one of the most commercial festivals feels like some horrendous logical conclusion to the direction that part of dance music has been heading."

Ultra is as mainstream as mainstream can be. Yet watch the video when it cuts to the crowd and they all look like they're watching the most awkward-ever episode of The Office. The organisers should know better. Whether you share their taste in music or not – and EDM isn't my vibe – it makes a mockery of their amazing stage set-up, their artists and, above all, their audience.

With so many exciting options and cultural routes, festivals often feel like a lazy and expensive option for brands trying to tick the youth box (we've even written before on how to get this right).

At music festivals, the majority of the audience probably aren't in the "right state of mind" to take in your brand experience anyway. Even if the fit is right, the brand still needs to earn the right to play.

Brands have the chance to add to and elevate an experience, ideally making something a reality that wouldn't have been possible without their support; a win-win. Done badly, brands are parasitical, forcing their way in-between the audience and their passions. And it doesn't have to be boring and po-faced either. Big up to Nando's who over time have culturally earned the right to play with this audience, always adding value, never detracting and staying true to their values with personality that always raises a cheeky grin. Who wouldn't pick Nando's tongue-in-cheek festival-touring "Cock o'van" over a slightly demonic colonel shouting at you?

When Red Bull announced its closure of Red Bull Music Academy and Red Bull Radio in their current forms, the news was greeted with sadness, thanks and respect from artists and audiences alike. Many electronic music figureheads, like Palms Trax, Flying Lotus and Nina Kravitz, are alumni of RBMA. All credit Red Bull for making culture, rather than riding it. As the original innovators, Red Bull will continue providing a global platform to support creativity. As a marketer, event organiser, music fan and audience member, I can’t wait to see what they do next.