Creating a successful, profitable brand that also has a devoted following of fans is, of course, something every band dreams of. As record sales trend downward owing to developments in the music industry over the past few years, using a brand in other contexts to continue earning money becomes more and more important. Chalmers students Andreas Nordsjö and Johan Henriksson have looked at how the world-famous death metal band In Flames can make use of their brand in other ways than they do today so they can continue with their success.
Artists today cannot count on earning as much money as they used to when music is produced and albums are released, since record sales to some extent have been forced to give way to all the streaming music offered via the Internet. Going on more tours and producing brand-related products, like T-shirts for example, has almost become a must for surviving in this ever tougher industry, where fans and their opinions play a decisive role. Andreas Nordsjö and Johan Henriksson state as much in the introduction to their degree project, carried out at the Department of Technology Management and Economics at Chalmers.
Mapping fans is important
The students, in collaboration with In Flames, looked at the opportunities for expanding the band’s already well-established brand. Through interviews with focus groups in the band’s fan club and a survey study that was posted in places such as the fan club’s Facebook page, they got a picture of which alternatives could strike home with the fans. They also conducted interviews and workshops with the band members and other people who are part of the In Flames organisation, and interviewed various music industry experts – among them Michael Brandvold, the man behind the KISS success story and the rapper Petter Askergren.
– People are quite careful of their brands in the music industry; losing credibility is every band’s nightmare. The desire to take a chance on a new product is minimal, and safe bets are the name of the game. But in our research among In Flames fans, we noticed that there was still space for a number of extravagances, Andreas and Johan say.
The studies showed that as long as the band doesn’t deviate from the original line of the brand in the fans’ eyes, there are great opportunities to create something more than songs and tours. The fans must therefore be carefully mapped to get a clear overview of who actually is listening to their music, who’s going to concerts, and who’s buying the band’s products. The students argue that it is also important to find out how the fans see the brand, thereby getting a picture of what could be regarded as OK.
– It’s also important that the products brought out in line with the band’s brand are innovative. Copies of other people’s products aren’t appreciated in the music industry, it has to be something unique, Andreas and Johan argue.
Three success factors for the brand
According to the students, In Flames has been very restrictive when it concerns using the brand in various contexts. Based on the studies made, they put together proposals for how the band can broaden the work on their brand to continue their success story.
– Along with two other master’s students at Chalmers, Axel Berglund and Dastan Namousi, who focused on IT solutions for In Flames, we identified three ideas and a plan for how they can be carried out. We can’t go into detail about what the ideas are, but it deals with broadening the band’s current product selection in collaboration with new and old partners. Everything is based on our studies, and thereby suited to the group’s fans. Our ideas are in line with the success factors we identified and carrying them out should increase the band’s opportunities for succeeding in broadening the brand, Andreas and Johan say.
The ideas were presented to In Flames in mid-January, and the reactions were positive. The ball is now in the band’s court and they will consider and assess if, how, and when they’ll go further with the students’ proposals.
More research needed
The students say that their results are supported by prior research into brand extension. Over the course of their work, however, they discovered that brand extension in the music industry in particular is a field that has not been previously researched very much.
– If further research is done in the field, we believe bands and artists could be more successful in broadening their brands, which would be good for both them and their fans, Andreas and Johan argue.
Later this spring, they will have a follow-up meeting with In Flames to further discuss whether, and if so how, the ideas can be realised.
Andreas Nordsjö and Johan Henriksson are studying in the Quality and Operations Management and Management and Economics of Innovation master’s programmes, both of which are run by the Department of Technology Management and Economics at Chalmers. Jonas Hjerpe was their advisor on the degree project.
Photo: Patric Ullaeus, Emma Henriksson