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LEE Jung-Ho

Listening to Classical Pitch

LEE Jung-Ho

May 30, 2012

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Operating in an environment in which a proper image is paramount, Korean companies are coping with a giant mood swing in how they are perceived. Fat profit margins, brand power and technological capability are no longer enough to amass approving nods. Now, humanity and cultural dignity is part of the calculus. As such, companies are increasingly tuning into classical music.

Marketing through classical music suggests grand elegant concert halls filled with well-heeled consumers, but the approach actually aims at a much wider audience. It comes at a time when classical music has reached a crossroads in which it is accessible to many more people. Therefore, companies see the music genre as a way to establish their cultural bonafides, communicate to the mass market and help provide memorable experiences.

The mixture of corporate marketing and classical music is already seen in financial support from companies for performances and orchestras. But if Korean companies follow the lead of their global peers, they will establish horizontal long-term partnerships with classical music organizations rather than sporadic sponsorships. We may also see companies take a proactive role in music productions, creatively grafting on their core competencies and the characteristics of their industry.

From this perspective, Korean business chiefs should recognize opportunities to sponsor concerts that integrate cutting-edge technology. Case in point is a concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra in 2009 in which 28 high-definition cameras were used to film a performance of Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du Printemps" from different angles, which created an interactive experience. The audience members, watching the concert on large screens, felt like they were walking through the orchestra listening to the music. Another example was the use of movie technology for Rossini's comic opera, "La Pietra del Paragone," in Paris. The audience was both amused and captivated by the performance in which the actors performed in front a blue screen while the stage was made into a miniature set. The two images were filmed and synthesized on a large screen above the stage.

With classical music concerts providing audiences with a broader experience that encompasses interactive pleasure and extraordinary images, sponsoring these events through cutting-edge imagery equipment, consultation on virtual reality technology, and investment in digital infrastructure would be a way for media and technology companies to demonstrate their own capabilities as well as their support for the arts.

Another way that companies can display their cultural appreciation is to help popularize classical musical itself. Every summer brings the BBC Proms in the Park series throughout the UK, the New York Central Park concerts, and similar outdoor programs elsewhere in Europe and the US. Equipment needed for the outdoors, including high-capacity sound and lighting systems, a mobile stage, and large screens all present sponsorship opportunities. And more recently, musical organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera in New York, Royal Opera House in London, and the Berlin Philharmonic in Berlin have been scrambling to come up with digital solutions that allow audiences to enjoy musical performances at local movie theatres, or on their PCs and mobile devices. In also providing support to these types of efforts, companies can create a public friendly, high-class image.

A third approach to marketing through classical music is to focus on newly emerging economies. In advanced countries, aging populations and shrunken disposal income mean classical music consumers are dissipating. They are being replaced by people in newly emerging economies such as China, where income and discretionary spending are rising. Classical music has gone beyond being a symbol for culture and sophistication, and has become an icon for social status in these countries. Advanced companies are concentrating on devising marketing strategies that establish infrastructure related to music, especially education. The emerging economies also present an opportunity for companies from Korea and other non-western countries that are relatively new to classical music marketing. They should find ways to integrate classical music into sponsorships of major events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

A company's identity with classical music cannot be established overnight, so the marketing must be approached with sincerity and from the perspective of a long-term investment rather than one-off, ostentatious events. As a reference point, advanced companies' timeframe for sponsorships is at least ten years. Thus, the commitment requires a genuine passion for the arts as well as a detailed roadmap for communicating with orchestras and other music organizations. Once a company is successful in being perceived as one that values culture, then classical music can be used as a dignified communicating a company's name, brand and products.

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