A recent article in Forbes got me thinking about Mountain Dew’s unique place in marketing history and how it arrived at its latest effort: “Green Label Sound: Open Call.”

Everyone knows Mountain Dew. Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers and Millennials are all familiar with the Dew-swigging free spirits seen in generations of ads that are now synonymous with the brand. Featuring the likes of rock climbers, white water rapid crazies and BMX daredevils, Mountain Dew ad campaigns have left us with an image of the brand that really doesn’t have much to do with the product at all. The image is the Mountain Dew lifestyle.

Today’s savvy marketers (like the folks at Mountain Dew) know they can’t go on forever using yesterday’s one-way ad messages alone. So about a decade ago, Mountain Dew added a big dose of experiential marketing to its arsenal with the Dew Tour series of extreme sporting events. Stepping outside the traditional advertising exercise of making ads and buying media allowed Mountain Dew to truly interact with its customers. The brand learned some important cultural things about Mountain Dew drinkers at Dew Tour events: Mountain Dew drinkers were into music and arts in a big way.

So, in 2013, the brand launched Green-Label.com. The website centers around youth culture: action sports, music, art and style. The site rounds up Mountain Dew’s Green Label Sound, Green Label Art and Green Label Exclusives programs. According to Forbes, the site has increased its traffic every month since its launch and now currently gets more than five times the traffic of MountainDew.com. At the core of Green Label is content co-creation and the support of young artists.

As a challenge to emerging musicians, Mountain Dew announced in December the launch of “Green Label Sound: Open Call,” a national search for the next up-and-coming musical talent. Through a collaboration with SoundCloud and with the support of former Green Label Sound artist RAC, the contest was designed to give emerging artists a stage for exposure. The contest winner will receive a $50,000 grant to record an EP, the ability to tap RAC for career advice, a music video and an opportunity to take the stage in 2015 at the Green Label House during South By Southwest (SXSW). “So many of today’s biggest artists began their careers by simply uploading their music and sharing it online,” said Greg Lyons, Vice President of Marketing, Mountain Dew. “Through Green Label Sound, Mountain Dew has a rich history of giving emerging artists the support and platform they need to make it big.  We are proud to continue that legacy, and to be part of introducing the world to the new sounds that will continue shaping youth culture.” (The winners of Green Label Sound: Open Call were announced recently, and can be found here.)

It comes as no surprise that an experiential marketing pioneer like Mountain Dew would champion the cause of supporting emerging musical talent. It makes good business sense because it provides great content for Mountain Dew’s marketing efforts. It feeds itself, in a way. As the artist’s career blossoms, the growth in the artist/brand partnership creates an authenticity that traditional campaigns can only dream about. Further, the “Green Label Sound: Open Call” program reinforces the notion of brands creating their own assets (the artist relationship) versus simply “creating ads.” This is key to the future of marketing and something Mountain Dew clearly understands. Find good content and make it inherent to the brand through genuine partnerships.

Mountain Dew’s long-term dedication to experiential marketing seems to be paying off. According to a 2014 Beverage Digest report, Mountain Dew is the third biggest liquid refreshment brand behind Coca Cola and Pepsi. This equates to a $9 billion dollar a year business for parent Pepsico, according to Forbes. A chief takeaway from this: when brands make long-term investments in knowing their customers by creating engaging experiences, building relationships and cultivating the stronger bonds that result, brands win. Millennials respond, artists get heard, brands get credible ambassadors and product moves.

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