Ralf Luelsdorf is a man of Music, of Marketing and of Telco. Since always he has been a big music lover and since 2003 he is the Head of Music Marketing for Deutsche Telekom. He is responsible for overseeing strategic music-related activities activated from the international level and evolving the brand image and Marketing campaigns within the areas of music and entertainment.
We wanted to know what Music Marketing is within the Telekom Brand Strategy but also to get to know Ralf a bit better before the IAA Global Conference, so we chatted on creativity in a broader way, on brand, initial insights and differentiation and got to know a bit of Ralf’s personal music preferences.
What does creativity mean for you?
To be always open-minded, curious, ready to look beyond one’s own nose.
If creativity is an unlimited resource, how do you harvest your team's creativity?
By having the best team available! And to be again open-minded, curious for ideas coming from the team.
How do you "train" your creativity outside of work?
I’ve never trained my creativity. It was always there. But you cannot switch it on and off when and wherever you like. Sometimes I listen to music or sometimes it hits me when I have a talk with inspiring persons.
When does the creative process end for you, how do you decide you have the winning idea?
It never ends! Even when I found the holy grail of idea you need to be still creative in the process of prototyping or production.
Could you share a life story (personal or professional life) on how creativity improved the world? It could very well be a story of how an unconventional, "crazy idea" saved the day, a story on how lateral thinking helped you come up with a better solution.
Telekom came up with the idea of a casual Smartphone game to fight against dementia – Sea Hero Quest! This game saved millions of hours of traditional research by working with smart data which gamers gave us by playing Sea Hero Quest! And it also won 63 international creativity award including 11 Cannes Lions!
What does Music (Marketing) mean within the global brand strategy of Telekom?
It’s not Music Sponsoring – it’s now part of our marketing! Which means we use music to build a strong relationship to our customers and to new target groups. Music helps us to emotionalise a Telco product and service which became more and more a commodity. There is nothing better to express our brand vision and attributes than music.
Why electronic music?
Very simple: 1st our industry is highly innovative, which means we always look into the future and never back. We are not a heritage brand like Jim Beam or Harley Davidson, where handcraft ship and traditions represent major parts of the brand DNA. Therefore electronic music (which is till today the most innovative music at all) was the right choice for us.
Furthermore 2nd: electronic music is made digital from the very beginning. Of couse nowadays every music is transformed into digital signals but back in the days this genre was much more appropriate to Telekom! And think about our strong Sound logo which represent the digital pulse.
3rd our roots are in Germany and electronic music is strongly influenced by German artists like Kraftwerk, Can, Tangerine Dream and others. And don’t forget – the heart of the Techno movement in Europe is Berlin.
What insight did you have over 10 years ago when you started this project? And how is the context different today than at that time (for sure there are much more music festivals, more brands that promote music).
The last 10 years were a big change in the music industry but also in other industries like ours.
With the digital transformation artists and labels started to search for new ways to generate revenue which were falling down because of the digital piracy and the decrease of physical sales. But also the marketing and advertising world has changed to new ways to attract customers and to market products. There are plenty new opportunities which came up with social media and the whole digital world. 17 years ago we were some of the first who used content marketing to emotionalise our brand and to showcase our services and products. Even we were at the spearhead of this new movement, nowadays a lot of brands are active with music marketing or in the field of music. That means we have to have even more creative than others, find new ways, ideas and partnerships but we also need to keep our natural community within Electronic Beats. Sometimes this is like balancing on the edge.
Generally speaking, how do you think sponsoring music events can genuinely help brands? When there are many brands sponsoring such events, how does one still stand out, distinguish itself?
First of all a brand manager needs to ask himself if the field of music is the right area and way to express the brand and to reach out the respective target groups. It doesn’t work if you just sponsor a festival only to create awareness for your brand, there has to be a deeper connection to the brand values and attributes or to the product you want to market. If this is not given, it doesn’t feel connected and appropriate. The fans or festival goers would only see a branding on a concert or festival without any deeper meaning and only for the purpose of brand awareness.
On a more personal level, is there any electronic music festival you’d consider a must-go? How about a Romanian one, have you ever visited one in Romania?
I’ve been on a lot of music festivals but I mostly prefer a more intimate set up. I am not a fan of a packed line up with hundreds of artists and DJs and I don’t like DJ gigs which are only 30min long.
In my opinion that doesn’t make sense, because from the early beginning of DJ culture the DJ was always the host of a full evening. And it was his task to take you on a musical journey when he played in a club. Of course I like festivals like Sonar Barcelona, because they offer a good variety of different performances. You find there intimate club gigs, huge concerts and experimental music performances.
By the way, this was the reason why we started Electronic Beats with a city festival in Bucharest two years ago to deliver exactly this mixture and ideally to cover a full city with music rather than just one place. And this city festival was a great experience for me too. I visited so many cool places in Bucharest which showed me, that Europe’s East can be absolutely vibrant, inspiring and innovative! I think the great times of Bucharest are not gone - it has just begun!
Come and hear more insights on how creativity and music marketing intertwine in Deutsche Telekom Music Marketing at the IAA Global Conference, 24-25 October, at the Romanian Opera House!