Monday, November 16, 2009

Britney's brand of concert

Another confession. I went to the Britney Spears concert in Melbourne last Friday night. How do you reconcile that with my earlier 'fess up that I drive a VW Passat? Superficially, it paints me as a very complex character, but there is consistency in my brand selection. It's all about making room in your life for a tween daughter - more room in the VeeDub to drive her and her friends around and more room for taking her to concerts and events that she is not quite free just yet to go to alone.

So what about brand Britney, which has copped as big a hammering in the Australian media as any thanks to her lip-synced show? In case you hadn't heard, fan protests have ranged from walking out after three songs to demanding their money back. And the media cognizenti have been unable to resist heaping more misery on young Britney than she really deserves.

Having experienced the Britney Big Apple Circus first hand, I have to say the critics just don't get it. The circus, on and off-stage, is not about singing live, it's about star power and celebrity. My Gen Z daughter simply said 'whateva' when I raised the point about lip-syncing (or miming). All she wants to see is the person metaphorically, if not literally, in the flesh. It matters not to her and her generation brought up on video clips, animations and virtual worlds, that the person does not actually sing. To her, it's not what the event is about. She's experienced Britney Spears' virtual world and that's all that matters.

Even the support act, DJ Havana Brown, is not questioned. Imagine years ago if you had put on a DJ as a support act to a live performance. You would have felt dudded. But not the 14,000-odd Gen Y and Gen Z females who made up 97% of the audience at Rod laver arena. They were up dancing and gyrating to the DJ's high-energy sound, just as if they were in front of a live band at the local pub.

So all you older folks who know better and sit in judgement, take a step back and listen to what the teens are saying. The world has moved on. No careers are going to be destroyed a la Milli Vanilli for lip-syncing. Shows are about celebrity - grabbing a moment in time to experience the aura of a powerhouse, personal brand.

If you're in marketing and/or communications - this is a warning shot! There is a rising generation of Gen Z that talks, walks and experiences life differently according to an emerging set of techno-driven values. If you don't get that this may be the first generation happy to attend an avatar concert, prepare to vacate the chair and make way for those who deeply understand, even if they do not share, those values.

My perspective on the concert? Bored fascination throughout. But at least I understand the show is not for me. It is about branding and channel selection that has well and truly dialled me out of the target zone.

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