Wednesday, December 8

Branding Expansion Or Dilution: Train Wine Club

Train Wine ClubCo-op advertising and business partnerships are nothing new, but some upcoming pairings will certainly feel that way. San Francisco-based rockers Train have recently paired with K&D Wines and Spirits in New York to create the Train Wine Club.

"Hey all. My name is Jimmy Stafford. I’m in that band Train, and I happen to like wine. Welcome to our wine club! We talk about our favorite wine, the places we find it, what our favorite bottles are talk (sic) and some of our other wine-related shenanigans too." — Jimmy Stafford

The club offers a good value, even though plenty of people will find it pricey. It ranges from $120 to $480 per month for two California wines monthly, tasting notes, and eight exclusive songs from a live Train concert. Basically, $20 per bottle with some Train mp3s too.

So far, the club has attracted 3,000 registered members. Assuming they are all in for a year, the wine club generates about $1.4 million in revenue. Even so, Crush Management in New York told The New York Times it isn't about money. Bob McLynn, a partner there told the Times it is about “building a cult” around the band, using “the cult of wine.”

Brand Expansion Or Brand Dilution?

The concept of cult is hardly new. Gene Simmons was a mastermind when came to creating the Kiss Army. And even ventures like Sammy Hagar's Cabo Wabo have mass appeal even when the new music might not. Simply put, musicians include outside investments as part of their retirement packages these days.

But what seems a bit more unusual this time around is that the cult presence sought by Crush Management is beverage related as opposed to music and lifestyle (Kiss) or entertainment (Hagar). It's about wine, which seems far off from music — even more off than the single Meet Virginia was from anything found on Train's settled down album Save Me, San Francisco (which fit sipping wine).

On one hand, Train doesn't seem to be doing anything different than people who attempt to use social media to gain popularity and transform it into product peddling, except they are coming at it from celebrity down as opposed to amateur up. On the other hand, one really has to wonder how many bands would like to be remembered for a wine club, good (or not) as it might be.

It feels kind of weird, but perhaps it won't as more musicians move from selling songs to accepting sponsorships and creating signature products (e.g., Michael Anthony's Mad Anthony hot sauce) to product partner salespeople. Then again, it's hard to imagine Jimi Hendrix ever writing a blog post talking about how much he loves soap or something.

The real question for marketers is how much they are willing to gamble on the brand dilution. Anyone can appreciate Crush's point that bands can no longer make a living on music alone. However, you also have to wonder whether commercializing a brand away from the work that created it will save it or hasten the pace toward irrealivance like some had risked via reality shows.

You know. The music isn't great lately, but they know good wine. On a side note, there is no judgment here. It's more of a question, especially because some public relations professionals have been doing the same thing, picking up perks while being online spokespeople for companies or themselves.
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