How Cracker Barrel Earned Dolly Parton A Grammy

dolly partonAlready no stranger to the Grammys, Dolly Parton received her ninth award recently for her performance alongside known a cappella group Pentatonix. Part of the reason for the success of this latest collaboration appears to be, the result of some clever marketing by country-themed restaurant chain, Cracker Barrel.


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Guest Post by Jordan Passman on Forbes

With 47 Grammy nominations, Dolly Parton is one of the biggest music legends of all time. The iconic songwriter took home her ninth award this year for “Best Country Duo/Group Performance” alongside the a cappella group, Pentatonix. The recognition was for their unique remix of Parton’s hit, “Jolene,” which was awarded its first Grammy in 1975 for the “Best Female Country Vocal Performance.” While Parton has captivated many generations of fans over her lifelong and incredibly active career, it is noteworthy that after 42 years, this reimagined song is reaching more fans than ever. Perhaps more interesting than anything else is the fact that this successful collaboration is a result of the marketing genius of southern country-themed restaurant chain, Cracker Barrel. 

By tapping into artists and music that resonate with their consumers, Cracker Barrel (in collaboration with FltyeVu) has implemented a number of creative strategies that utilize music as a branding and social tool. This includes creating new musical content that they can sell on CDs in their country stores and exploit across their social media channels. This strategy is clearly working with over 22 million hits on the “Jolene” music video, and of course their shiny new Grammy award: 


According to Adweek, Cracker Barrel and Pentatonix started working together back in 2015, and it had been the group’s dream to collaborate with Dolly Parton. Cracker Barrel was able to arrange that marriage, and the rest is history.

Don Hoffman, VP of Marketing at Cracker Barrel explains, “Music has always been a part of the Cracker Barrel brand, but over the last year, we’ve become tighter in understanding the value proposition of music to our business. We’re committing to making Cracker Barrel a music and entertainment brand on a broader scale.”

It’s amazing to see companies like Cracker Barrel harnessing the power of music to influence consumer interaction and brand awareness. This authentic approach also positively impacts artists and the music industry as a whole. According to Hoffman, “We got really lucky and hit [Pentatonix] on the upswing. I call it a win-win-win: It helped Pentatonix grow its popularity and exposure; it was a resurgence of energy for Dolly, not that she needs it; and of course, it was a huge hit for us.”

While marketing and promotion is traditionally the responsibility of a record label, more and more brands are stepping into that role (i.e. Coke, Red Bull, Nike, Starbucks). With the traditional label model adapting to modern times (and sometimes struggling through the many challenges to keep up), I envision various types of branded collaboration growing exponentially over the next decade.

The relationship between artists and brands is symbiotic. Each party has so much to offer and can compliment each other’s goals for broadening visibility and strategic growth. Because the music business is not the primary revenue stream for brands (unlike traditional labels), these marketing efforts are more creatively driven and the risks of failure are less detrimental. The ever-changing landscape of the music industry can be unpredictable, but the value in music for marketing is constant. This is a great example of a smart strategy with seamless execution.

Cracker Barrel’s Grammy is an exciting indicator that what started as a marketing tool is penetrating into the traditional music business. This ultimately leads to more opportunity, exposure and interesting music for brands, artists and consumers alike.

Will brands ultimately replace traditional record labels?

Jordan Passman is the Founder & CEO of SCORE A SCORE, an LA-based company focused on simplifying custom music and licensing.

Keep up on Twitter @TheJPPass


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