Brands That Kick Ass With Music Licensing Kung-Fu 1307 words · 7 minute read

A Good fight music supervision should be like a small play, but played seriously. A good martial artist music licensor does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit. It The music hits all by itself.”Bruce Lee, Enter The Dragon

As part of our series of recognizing brands and businesses that use music cleverly, here’s the newest edition of brands that kick ass with music licensing, kung-fu edition.

HBO - Swimming Dragon Plays With Water


HBO, much like the unexpected ninja emerging from the darkness, isn’t a brand one typically thinks of in terms of heavy music-marketing driven projects. But, this is exactly what a sleeping dragon wants. So when HBO drops upon you a music-marketing based project like a flying round house kick, you feel it.

What caught our eye at Music Dealers was their recent music-based campaign in which they tapped hip hop and reggaeton heavyweights to create custom music about the Game Of Thrones. Designed to increase awareness of the show in under-represented demographics, the project borrows the swag and talent of artists like Wale, Common, Big Boi, Daddy Yankee, Bodega Bamz.

Not a new technique, brands have long leveraged urban artists who possess hypnotist-level brand and purchase influence over their fans and followers. Yes, common-place kung-fu. Typically, a series will include artists as guests, or popular urban artists are licensed within the show. Obviously, these are not options for Game of Thrones. Kanye West won’t appear as a potential suitor for Khaleesi. Nor are you likely to hear King Joffrey ask The Great Hall band if they happen to know “Swimming Pools” by Kendrick Lamar.

When typical licensing/feature kung-fu moves aren’t available, you must go the extra mile.

As many have noted, what’s also cool is that the production style of the mixtape features interlaced quotes and samples from the show, much like The Wu-Tang Clan’s records, constructed with gripping quotes from obscure kung-fu flicks. This style of production obviously resonates particularly well with fans of golden-era hip hop.

Bows slowly On the heels of an upcoming Game Of Thrones season, well done, HBO.

Han: “Your style is unorthodox.”

Williams: “But Effective.”

Oreo - Naughty Monkey Kicks Tree


The Oreo brand is very adept at using marketing kung-fu to furiously send cookie-cutter competitors hurling through glass windows and tables. As of late, they’ve been landing particularly swift and painful judo chops to the ribs and neck through wise and disciplined music licensing tactics.

Take a look at this video:

That music! That video. That’s what I call masterful music supervision kung-fu. The song is the musical equivalent of fists of fury, pummeling the game with the perfect combination of song characteristics: happy, bright, carefree, catchy, fun, energetic, etc.

This particular song was hatched from Oreo’s “Wonderfilled” campaign, their latest marketing initiative built around the deployment of several new intriguing flavors of creamy cookie middle goodness.

Working with powerhouse marketers, The Martin Agency, “Dare to Wonder,” performed by Canadian inde rocker clones Tegan and Sara, is actually a derivative project under the umbrella of the original :90s spot, “Wonderfilled.” The original spot was written by Martin Agency creative director badass, Dave Muhlenfeld (the same genius involved in the commercials), and performed by Adam Young, aka OwlCity.

Realizing the sheer destructive kung-fu power of finding the right artists that communicate Oreo’s distinct sonic identity, both the agency and brand have been very particular about the artists involved in the campaign. Music Dealers divulges these very tenets to the creative world and those that train with us.

Both song versions are pretty spectacular, but Tegan & Sara’s version delivers well-timed and precise kicks and punches of happiness to the gut. Between the music composition and the lyrics, this sounds like the result of intense music-marketing dojo training and passion.

Oreo is a sage in the marketing space. This project has created incredible results for the brand. This video has gotten over 6 million views, and if you combine just three more “Wonderfilled” versions, they total over 9 millions views together. This level of detail and effort; the perfect intersection of song and lyric; combined with social engagementthis is the ultimate flying dragon kick at the end of the kung-fu flick that sends opponents flying through walls.

The Kung Fu is strong with Oreo.

Bruce: Never take your eyes off your opponent… even when you’re bowing.

Various - Precious Ducks Swim With Lotus


This is the swift jab that is simple to execute, yet properly placed, can do substantial damage.

Disney Pixar, Carnival Cruises, Victoria’s Secret, Louboutin….

Many of your favorite brands are using musical kung-fu to create new levels of engagement with fans through Spotify.

In the new era of modern marketing, content curation reigns king, and creating value for consumers that extends beyond a brand’s initial service or product is where true masters are winning the battle.

A well curated Spotify playlist, comprised of music that is authentic to a brand’s image, creates ever elusive engagement between consumer and brand in today’s fragmented, attention-divided world.

This music-marketing tao is what our company stands behind, and these principles are elaborated upon in detail in the book “Hit Brands,” co-authored by our CEO, Sensei Eric Sheinkop.

Outside of the one-time music license for a particular commercial, or the music heard once on a show, these songs live on in your Spotify playlist and become an army of brand-building, engagement creating shinobi, always performing kung-fu on your behalf.

The Social Side Of Spotify

Yet, unlike the ninja, who thrives in the darkness, don’t create your Spotify playlists in the shadows. Be sure to frequently push the links to your playlists on social networks, and mention your curated playlists in your content.

Showcase the human side of your brand by allowing music-savvy members of your team to contribute, while you recognize them socially.

Depending on the size of your following, or the level of comfort you have with your followers, you may choose to make your playlist collaborative with your community, and pray nobody uploads death metal to your Sara Bareilles-esque brand curated playlist (wise master utilizes “music community manager” to curate and remove such songs).

For physical locations, put links to your Spotify playlists on fliers, cards, handtags, etc.

Regardless of how you incorporate Spotify into your arsenal of engagement building punches and kicks, it’s an easy move to execute and should certainly be taken advantage of.


Lee: You have Your music licensing has offended my family and you have offended the Shaolin Temple.

Thank you for training with me as we examine the success of those who excel in the music-marketing dojo. I offer a respectful bow to the brands, agencies, and forward thinking music ninjas involved in developing the music-marketing kung-fu of those mentioned.

Like any martial arts master, with proper dedication and resources, all may master the ways of music-marketing kung fu. But first, one must be able to “see” and “feel” its importance.

Lee: That’s it! How did it feel?

[Student thinks; Lee smacks his head]

Lee: Don’t think. FEEEEEEEEL! It’s like a finger pointing at the moon.

[Looks at student who is looking at the finger; smacks student again]

Lee: Do not concentrate on the finger or you will miss all of the heavenly glory!

And how powerful is your music licensing kung-fu? Are you using music to land vicious back hands that create engagement, licensing leg sweeps that knock customers off their feet, or spinning sync leg kicks that help distinguish your company?

Perhaps it is time you train with wise masters, young grasshopper.

Bruce: My style? You can call it the art of fighting without fighting.


By: Sync Sensei Christopher Rucks