After spending almost 16 years at Target, Frank Crowson left retail to join Guitar Center. He talked with MC about the joys and challenges of communicating the company’s mission to the public.
Toys, Music and Advertising
I was a toy buyer at Target for five years. People ask if it was like the movie Big. Some parts were, but there was more pressure to achieve results than Tom Hanks had.
I was also the head of the music department on the merchandising side, so I was in charge of the team that decided all the albums Target carried, which ones we got behind and the ones we launched advertising campaigns around. I was also on the board of NARM, which is now the Music Business Association.
Those jobs were highly related to music and entertainment. On the toy side, the business related to what was popular. Target does massive advertising campaigns around movie and album releases. We did partnerships with Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift, Adele, Pink and others. I worked with labels, management and distribution companies to build programs with those artists and their teams.
Benefits v. Drawbacks
In any job, you have a handful of things you look at and think, “I can’t believe they pay me to do this.” And then, you have other things where you say, “They don’t pay me enough to do this.” If the first hand is more full than the second, you’re in good shape. Whenever my roles lead me through arts- and entertainment-related spaces, that first hand was much more full.
While I was happy at Target, when [the Guitar Center] opportunity came it felt too good to pass up. To influence the music business and be a part of it from the musician’s perspective seemed like such an amazing opportunity I had to take it.
The Art of Science
Retail marketing covers different things. It’s a constant blend between art and science. It’s heavy on the financial analysis one minute and then flipping 180 degrees to evaluating and shaping creative the next. We’re serving the most creative element of the population but, at the same time, we need, from a business perspective, to be savvy on the science side.
Connecting and Inclusivity
Everything we do is a connection with the musicians we serve. Everything we do expresses our brand. We go deep into the what’s, why’s and how’s of music makers. We’re on a journey of customer obsession, to understand not only what people think of us, but what’s important to musicians. We’re building a brand that’s inclusive across what we refer to as the three G’s––gender, genre and generation. We’ve been working on driving inclusivity.
We’re Not So Different
If there’s one common thread that unites musicians, that would be amazing. We went looking for this thread and found a huge rope, because there’s so much that unites musicians. The perceived divisiveness is more of a perception. What unites them is more prominent than what divides them. The reality is that musicians love and want to make music. We’re rallied around this belief that there’s no such thing as too much music. Every note of music that enters the world makes the world a better place and there’s no point of diminishing return.