Fan Jeff: I’m really mad at Pete Townsend for whoring out “My Generation” to Pepsi.
Marketer Jeff: It’s a good commercial, and I think it works.
Creator Jeff: A creator needs to be true to his inner voice. He doesn’t create for the fan, but if it’s good, people will respond to it.
Fan Jeff: Yes, but this is The Who, the ultimate “stick it to the man, cause he’s gonna stick it to you” band. These are they guys who devoted a whole album to making fun of commercials and commercialism called “The Who Sell Out” way back in the 60’s.
Creator Jeff: A creator owns his creativity, and he can do anything he wants with it. Pete needs to eat. Fan Jeff, you need to get over it and grow up. This is business.
Fan Jeff: Rock and Roll isn’t about business. Not to a fan. It’s about meaning, and belonging, and understanding. And in The Who’s case, their songs are about seeing through the games society plays with the individual. You know, “Meet the new boss…Same as the old boss” and “You tried to walk on the trail we were carving, now you know that we framed you.”
Marketing Jeff: Well, clearly a fan’s relationship to a brand and its products doesn’t always work out the way a brand wants. Brands can influence the relationship, but they don’t control it.
Creator Jeff: This isn’t the first time the Who has used a song to sell soda. And what about concert tour sponsorships?
Fan Jeff: Yes, but this is “My Generation.” It’s not Michael Jackson. This was a battle cry. This mattered to people. How many of us do you think are going to run out and buy a Pepsi now because it’s cooler since they used this song? Did they think of that when they made the commercial? By using “My Generation” they proved they weren’t part of my generation.
Marketing Jeff: So, Fan Jeff, you’re saying that if they were trying to appeal to fans, they’re actually disenfranchising them?
Creator Jeff: This is rubbish. I’m not going to let a bunch of sycophantic, whiny babies who think they’re even part of the process dictate what I do.
Fan Jeff: Fans aren’t part of the process? Look, when I was growing up, I had a few friends who were older and had been in Vietnam. When they found that out I thought Quadrophenia was the best album ever written, one of them, Terry, said to me, “To you it’s just music. To us, it was our life. It was our anthem.” Are those the whiny babies you’re talking about who aren’t part of the process, Creator Jeff?
Creator Jeff: Creators sometimes make things that don’t resonate with fans. Dylan went electric, and fans hated it. Springsteen went acoustic, and fans hated it. Following your muse is dangerous, but it’s what you do.
Marketing Jeff: Brands make mistakes too. They do line extensions that don’t fly. Remember McDonald’s Arch Deluxe? They change their product and sales plummet. Remember New Coke?
Fan Jeff: Look, you’re both missing the point. I am pissed at Pete Townsend. I can’t hear “My Generation” again and have it mean what it used to mean because of what Pete has done. Just like when they licensed “Love Reign O’er Me” for a 7Up commercial back in the ’80s. It took something away from me.
Marketing Jeff: Wait a second. You still love “Revolution,” even though Nike used it.
Fan Jeff: Yeah, but John Lennon was dead already. And I think the label owned it, and I think the Beatles sued. But I was mad at Nike and didn’t wear their sneakers for a long, long time.
Creator Jeff: Yeah, and later Yoko let them use “Instant Karma.” Once you die, man, everyone gets in line to pick at your corpse.
Marketing Jeff: Well, I think it’s pretty obvious that this is highly-charged territory. I think one thing we all can agree with is that the relationship between brands and fans is influenced by lots of factors, and neither party controls it. So now it’s time for my question.
Fan Jeff: What question?
Marketing Jeff: You know, I always end every blog post with the question, “Can someone please explain…?”
Fan Jeff: No man, not this time. Just leave it like The Who wrote it, “…Can’t explain, I think it’s love…”