J’Something and the art of brand building

2015-02-16 13:30

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He’s landed a list of celebrity endorsements longer than his arm, including being Knorr’s celebrity chef andthe face of clothing brand Arrow New York.

João da Fonseca, known to his fans as local music group Mi Casa’s frontman J’Something, has parlayed his music career into a business empire incorporating music, television, advertising and logistics.

He has set up three companies to handle it all.

It’s common to open a newspaper in South Africa and read about a fallen superstar who’s been declared bankrupt or buried penniless. But Da Fonseca reckons local artists are becoming more aware of their brand power.

“J’Something is a brand, a brand within a huge brand. It needs to be treated with a lot of loving care.”

City Press meets Da Fonseca (26) at the offices of one of his companies, Something’s Cool, in Johannesburg’s trendy Milpark neighbourhood. It is a hub of activity, with partner Dale Herbst and four other members of the team hard at work.

This week Da Fonseca was announced as soup and condiment brand Knorr’s new celebrity chef – though the sweet aroma of foodie success isn’t new to him.

Knorr already had a relationship with Something’s Cooking – Da Fonseca’s television show on DStv’s Mzansi Magic channel – andthe singer says the celebrity endorsement was meant to cement the existing relationship.

“They wanted to make it more of a concrete kind of thing.”

The cooking show came about as a “mix of meeting the right people at the right time” and ran over 13 episodes. It was produced by Something’s Cool, co-founded with Herbst.

“There’s a lot of collaboration. I’m the creative and Dale is organisational,” explains Da Fonseca. He comes up with ideas and Herbst andthe team make it happen.

“We are currently in preproduction for Rich Kids, Your Perfect Sishebo and What’s For Dinner with J’Something,” says Herbst.

The unique selling point of Something’s Cool is Da Fonseca’s ability to expand on one idea andbuild an entire campaign around it.

Da Fonseca is also a director of 34 Music, which handles Mi Casa’s business affairs. Another company handles the J’Something brand.

It is this brand that cookware company Le Creuset and car maker Mini Cooper, among others, have queued up to align themselves with.

Jamie Paine, Le Creuset’s head of marketing and retail, says: “The J’Something cooking show was a good fit, as it was another opportunity to showcase thebrand to a new, young market in a fun and interactive manner. Our collaboration with João is based on a mutual love of food and cooking. We discovered each other and have really enjoyed the energy and passion he brings to everything he does.”

But sometimes the partnerships come with restrictions. “As Mi Casa, we can’t align ourselves with anything other than Mini Cooper,” Da Fonseca says.

So how would he value the J’Something brand?

“It is built around me. There is no monetary value to it. [If there was], nobody would be able to afford it,” he says.

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