Brand-Tribute_295x175In addition to the search business, Mike Grehan, Chief Marketing Officer at Acronym, knows more than a little bit about music and bands. His father Ray was co-founder and owner of the Club A’GoGo, the famous 1960’s U.K. watering hole where the legendary rock group The Animals started their career. Ray’s business partner, Mike Jeffrey, would go on to become the manager for Jimi Hendrix.

So when rock star Prince passed away and social media lit up with post-mortem praise, Lisa Lacy at Momentology decided to do a deep dive on the practice of marketers paying tribute to dead people who may have had nothing to do with what they sell. “Look at the flurry of Prince tribute roundups from some of the most respected names in marketing news – even they struggle to define clear brand tribute rules and, at times, contradict themselves,” Lacy wrote.

There seems to be general agreement that Minnesota brands were granted some slack when it comes to saluting stars within their geographic proximity. Although brands like 3M and Chevrolet (visual: a little red Corvette) nonetheless got both cheers and jeers.

Grehan, meanwhile, starts with the premise that brands are not people. He told Lacy that a better way for brands to pay their respects to Prince would have been to make a donation to a music charity or to invest in music education.

“Does Prince need a tribute from Cheerios? He never endorsed them when he was alive,” said Grehan. “What if he never even ate them? What if he hated them? What kind of tribute is that?”

In short, Grehan feels that a brand that has no connection to the person who passed and, in the case of Prince, no connection to the music industry is giving nothing and, moreover, probably doesn’t have a staff member who knows more than one Prince record. “Here’s the question…If you think Prince is so great, why did you wait until he was dead to pay him a tribute?”

As for the chances of Grehan ever becoming eligible for such beyond-the-grave commercial sentiments—good or bad—he was taught to play drums by Animals drummer John Steel and also learned to play guitar. Sounds promising.

“At various times in my youth, I was, arguably, the world’s worst drummer in the world’s worst band, only surpassed by becoming the word’s worst guitarist in the world’s other worst band,” Grehan said.

Read the Momentology story here.