Posted by: yogmoney | November 22, 2009

Billboard Magazine (China, Music, & Converse)

The attached is due to run in BIllboard Magazine this week (or next).

Billboard Article – Converse Love Noise Tour
By Geoff Cottrill
November 20, 2009

Earlier this year I travelled to China. I arrived with my own thoughts on what I was going to experience as an American with all the answers. I left two weeks later with questions and excitement about the enormous opportunity in front of Converse.

Converse at our best, is an advocate and catalyst for creativity. Our job is to support and celebrate creativity. It drives how we allocate all of our marketing resources. In China we saw an exciting opportunity to do this. We are part of the music world and we’ve been fortunate to have our shoes worn by incredible artists. We appreciate this more than most people will ever know. We’re compelled to give back to the industry, especially the artist.

In China, we were drawn to the uncorrupted underground indie music scene. It’s thriving inside and outside the major cities and is filled with great bands, energy and an edge that other cities lost long ago. The bands have endless energy but what they lack is support. There is no touring infrastructure or city-to-city caravan of buses and rigs carrying amps and stages. Venues are lacking as are other basics of the industry that we take for granted.

Converse saw an opportunity to assist these bands. We didn’t ask them to star in commercials wearing our shoes or write jingles. We didn’t ask them to sell out. We got to know them and asked what they needed. They told us they had always dreamed on going out on tour to share their music with like-minded kids. Taking it all in, we bought a tour bus and hired a driver. In China, indie music is referred to by so many people as “noise,” that musicians embraced that and proudly say they “make noise.” We loved that idea — and named our venture the “Converse Love Noise” tour. We connected with two bands and created a five-city tour.

Our headliners were PK14, a respected pioneer of the underground scene, and Queen Sea Big Shark, a new generation upstart. Both fans and the curious filled small clubs and street corners and as we rolled into each city we added a local band.  Each night they played to audiences of 200-300 people.

So, what happened along the way? Beyond buying the bus and coordinating the tour, we sent a camera crew on the road to capture the personal stories of each band. The bus went from a blank white vehicle to a colorful mess as the bands and kids along the journey painted every inch. It was covered with art and graffiti and it told a beautiful story.

Our results: We’ve had over three million visits to our website in China; more than 1.8 billion impressions via digital partners, and a print and outdoor campaign.  We edited an hour long documentary that has found audiences worldwide. We increased traffic to our where we distributed more than 100,000 DVDs of the documentary for free. Beyond the business wins, we have learnings that we use daily.

Our team on the ground made friends with the bands. They built a trust and did all they could to provide them with support. They were excited by the magic of what they were involved in. Our Marketing Director in China deserves full credit. She saw the opportunity and persuaded the team to spend some money.

Indie music and originality is the soul of Converse and music is at the forefront of the growing creative youth culture in China where music, art and fashion are all colliding. We saw our consumers everywhere in the product — onstage, in mosh pits, and on the curb. The music scene in China is incubating incredible talent, but it needs support. In a society that views rock music as “noise”, we uncovered the passion of these kids – in their music, with performances that broadened their audience. This platform was the premise of Love Noise. Ultimately, by supporting creativity in China, we have the opportunity to grow together, to add value and influence to this generation of music culture.

If you have not been to China, get there right away. Something special is happening. Take time to get to know the people. Respect the cultural differences and celebrate our similarities. Don’t take anything from China – but do find a way to contribute to advancing the artist community and their cause. Have some fun along the way and make it about them. If you do this, you will build your brand.

Geoff Cottrill is the Chief Marketing Officer at Converse. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Grammy Foundation.

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