Rhythm & booze: the future of sonic branding in the drinks industry: part 2
Why Metallica tracks are being used to age whiskey (yeah, you read that right)
Hot on the heels of Part 1, we’re exploring the world of sonic branding and sonic alcohol, and how music artists are bringing a face and a sound to this relationship.
In past decades it was a point of difference for musicians to endorse or create a version of their favourite drink, with Iron Maiden being one of the first. It’s a well trodden path, with many brands clamouring to stand out via leveraging celebrity. This has been especially true during the pandemic, where audiences are hungering for a touchpoint more than ever, and these collaborations have been a way to connect with artists. However, this is an evergreen partnership, and the transportational qualities of both alcohol and music will always be highly compatible. Expect to see more music crossovers with the fast growing territories of rum brands, canned beverages, hard seltzer and kombucha in the future.
Music is a key method to reach out to millennials and Gen Z, offering them a way to express themselves through brands, tapping into niche trends and showing authentic understanding of their values.
Absolut’s choice of pop/rap superstar and icon of positivity, inclusivity and individuality, Lizzo, to front their Absolut Juice campaign reflected a strategy aimed towards younger consumers and staking a claim to a brand territory at the forefront of culture. Absolut’s values of social inclusivity are demonstrated through the partnership, with Lizzo expressing the attitude of the brand.
Celebrity on the board
Bacardi recently appointed hip-hop artist Swizz Beatz as the company’s Global Chief Creative for Culture. Swizz Beatz’ behind the scenes role represents an assertive move to stay relevant to their audiences and in tune with the zeitgeist, deeping consumer loyalty.
Musicians are even crossing over to take the helm of alcohol brands, for example Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs has been the face and equity partner of Ciroc since mid-2000s, while Bruno Mars’ has a similar set up as co owner of premium rum brand SelvaRay.
Mars has recently directed a new ad campaign for the sum, with collaborator and fellow spirits entrepreneur Anderson .Paak focused around an original song. The track was produced by Dernst ‘D’Mile’ Emile II – an upbeat tune full of the positive vibe to match a joyful rum party, ending with some smooth, Silk Sonic-style soul.
Big name endorsements at Dom Perignon
Having previously collaborated with musicians such as Lenny Kravitz, earlier this year Dom Perignon announced their new partnership with Lady Gaga. The collaboration is more immersive than a simple endorsement, with Gaga creating a sculpture used in the ad campaign, designing a veiled bottle with Nicola Formichetti, and creating a film with Nick Knight.
She described the project as ‘Pérignon and I are both driven by the need for creative freedom and we’re excited to share the Queendom with you, an artistic universe.’ The collaboration brings Dom Perignon to a new audience- Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters, who tend to be younger, female and LGBTQ+ friendly, who may not previously have associated themselves with the heritage brand.
Sound can even become an element of the production process- an approach pioneered by American icons, Metallica, who own Blackened American distillery. Working with Dave Pickerell, WhistlePig’s late master distiller, band members helped create a blended whisky that’s finished in blackened brandy casks while experiencing the Black Noise process.
Metallica songs affect the whiskey on a molecular level and bring out the wood-flavour characteristics
Black Noise involves exposing the barrels to a bespoke playlist of Metallica songs played through a subwoofer at low frequency for up to 14 weeks. The vibrations rapidly move small amounts of the spirit in and out of the barrel, supposedly affecting it on a molecular level and causing bringing out the wood-flavour characteristics in the whiskey. The playlist is different for each batch, creating slight variations of flavour.
Dark Island in New York also musically mature their spirits, seeking to evoke the whiskies and rums of the 1700s, which were transported by wagon train or in the hull of a ship over a period of three to five months, with the liquid constantly moving throughout that time, resulting in greater depth of flavour and smoothness.
Music’s ability to influence how we behave and our emotions, as well as being a powerful signifier for cultural identity lends itself particularly well to connecting with younger audiences. Artists as diverse as Lykke Li, Bob Dylan, Slipknot and Drake have their own alcohol brands, and many more participate in creative endorsements. The future of these partnerships needs a balance between both bespoke collaborations with household name stars, and more niche events curated for specific targeted audiences. Brands who are able to strike this balance will be able to move beyond the superficial to create truly unique, surprising experiences.