For years I have been telling my students at Berklee College of Music that music and entertainment are fashion industries. I’ve backed that statement up with a variety of propositions related to why and how people make purchasing decisions; these rationales also apply to other art forms, and to some extent restaurants, leisure, sports, and travel. In this article I will give a brief overview of this perspective, and show how it may alsousefully relate to marketing and sales in a broader spectrum of industry sectors such as media, art, and leisure.
Music, cinema, spectator sports, museums, restaurants, and vacation travel are all sub-sectors of the entertainment and leisure businesses. As a sector, entertainment& leisurecontribute significantly to the GDP and GNP of developed countries, including the USA. Hollywood (and Bollywood) produce gigantic revenues; many billions pour in annually. The concert industry is also huge and expanding steadily. Entertainment tends to be fairly recession-proof, as people seem to need entertainment whether times are good or bad. Certainly, entertainment as a sector makes an outsize claim on disposable income. This is the first attribute it shares with the fashion industry, which also makes a claim on disposable income of a sizeable demographic swath.
“People seek to enhance their sense of self-worth through association with brands….” (Eckhart Tolle)
Effective marketers understand that most of their success depends on psychology. Why do people spend vast sums of money on fashion items? Besides the mechanism in the above-mentioned quote, there is the aspect of exclusivity. Some things are expressly expensive precisely so that few people can have them. This gives the owners a sense of cache; an imparted “special-ness” that announces their superiority to the world. There is braggadocio involved with having the nicest car on the street or the fanciest watch on your wrist.
People like to be accepted within their peer group; conversely they are terrified of being ostracized. One only has to examine a group of pre-teens or teenagers and their tastes in music to witness this dynamic at work. Typically, all kids in a peer group will listen to the same style of music, or even the same musical groups. Some music is considered “cool” while other music is definitely not so. If a youth wants to be accepted into the peer group, he or she must adopt the tastes of the group in music.
We see the same characteristic striving in adults. Around the water cooler, discussion of the celebrity-owned restaurant visited, the exclusive vacation taken, or the most recent film release viewed marks an individual as “hip”, up-to-date, in the know; a member of the cognoscenti. People base their sense of self-worth on such things, and those who are not “in the know” are made to feel less than worthy. These concepts are integral to understanding marketing in the music, entertainment & leisure, and yes, the fashion industries.
People are generally suspicious of advertising. They have heard all the claims, and they know that companies are spending huge sums in an effort to get them to buy. There is a resistance to the sponsored message. Word of mouth is a recognized channel for advertising. People will decide to see a certain movie or try a certain restaurant because a friend or acquaintance made a recommendation. There is indeed a minority group of people called “connectors” (described by Malcolm Gladwell in his excellent book “The Tipping Point”) that make it their mission to tell many others about the commercial offerings they like, use, or patronize. As a marketer, it is imperative that this group be made aware of any product or service if a trend is going to develop. Marketing campaigns must address this issue and market first to connectors, if they are to be ultimately successful.
To summarize, entertainment is a fashion industry because it competes for the same disposable income, and uses the same psychological marketing approach asfashion. The decision making process in the mind of the entertainment consumer is driven by the same psychological impulses as buyers of fashion clothing and accessories. They want to be seen as knowledgeable and up to date with the current trends. The consumer of entertainment, like the fashionista, seeks an enhanced self-image through the association with a branded product, celebrity, trendy location, food, art, sports team, music venue or nightclub. They identify their tastes with who they are, and where they fit in the social order.
What can we take away from this? We can ask ourselves why people buy, and undertake serious research and observation to discern the origination of trends. This can lead to better positioning through better-targeted image creation, with product development kept in the forefront of these efforts. Through our understanding of fashion marketing we can learn to better market products in the entertainment and leisure sectors. We can observe our own purchase patterns and preferences and analyze what they are based upon. This makes for a very interesting study with many possible applications.
If we consider that branding of products and services is becoming more commonplace among those with celebrity image (and central to their revenue structures), it all starts to make sense. It is especially important for those dependent for their livelihood on the music, entertainment & leisure industries to understand they are actually working in an area of the fashion business.
Tom Stein is senior Professor of Professional Music at Berklee College of Music in Boston, MA and a consultant in the entertainment, media, and education industries. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the editorial board at the Turkey Tribune.
Comments, responses and questions can be directed to the author at [email protected]