Brands have leveraged music in marketing for a long time, producing iconic spots such as Coca-Cola’s "Hilltop" commercial in the '70s and the last decade of Apple iPod ads featuring bands from U2 to Feist. There’s no denying that an effective way into a consumer’s heart is through their ears.
With new technologies in the digital and mobile space, today’s consumer is more connected—and sophisticated—than ever before. They are barraged with marketing messages throughout every waking moment. Correspondingly, consumers have become more discerning and more skilled at controlling and curating the media they consume.
Today’s fan takes their music with a side of social as demonstrated by the rise of Spotify. They are creating living communities of music on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. They are discovering and evangelizing new bands before the recording industry is aware of them. A fan today is not just a passive listener; they expect their favorite artists to tweet them back.
But just as consumers’ access to music has changed over the decades, so must brands’ relationship with music. Marketers must singularly focus on creating an authentic connection that consumers respond to. Be it via social, mobile, content, or loyalty programs, marketers must create a music environment that speaks honestly with consumers, not at them. Fortunately, artists are looking for partners to help them create new platforms and touch points to communicate with their fans, which gives brands the opportunity to align themselves accordingly. It’s a brave new world, but one thing remains the same—authenticity in music marketing is king.
Take The Dave Matthews Band and UPS, for example. Last year, we partnered with the logistics giant to help "green" up the movement of some of the festival stages for Dave’s "Caravan" tour. UPS assumed the responsibility for the logistics planning and shipment of select festival stages. This alliance made it possible for the tour to reduce its carbon footprint; a goal the band has been championing for over two decades. It was an authentic partnership that made sense for everyone involved: the band, the brand, and the fan.
These deeper partnerships are also allowing brands to address strategic business objectives beyond building awareness, to creating social connections. Last year you might remember that Google and Lady Gaga partnered on a number of promotional elements including a 91-second fan-sourced commercial for Chrome, a YouTube Q&A with fans, and Lady Gaga joining Google+. Mutual admiration between brand and artist led to campaigns that leveraged social networks and technologies to connect with fans/consumers, and re-confirmed Google’s position in search and social by bringing in one of the most socially savvy pop stars on the planet. Tapping an artist who has built an entire community, The Little Monsters, via the web, was a smart move by Google to create a strategic and authentic music partnership, while simultaneously bringing together the worlds of tech, music, and marketing seamlessly.
We all know that music continues to be an effective way to create personal and meaningful connections with desired consumers. Here are four tips to consider when designing your next music marketing campaign:
1. Music is both content and media
Media can be defined in paid, earned, and owned categories. Music provides a vehicle that delivers all three. Converse Rubber Tracks is a grassroots program that provides unsigned bands with free recording studio time and sound engineer services. Converse then retains limited rights to use the songs on its website and social media channels. Converse is trying to be a part of the fabric of young artist discovery while delivering PR, impressions, and engagements through music.
Think of music as a language and a culture that connects your brand to fans. The success of using music content as a way to gain consumer mindshare parallels the traditional metrics of media success. However, the key to success is commitment to a long-term value proposition. Brands cannot do just one program, sponsor just one tour and expect to deliver "brand fans" via music. If you want to create a long-term bond with music fans, you need to make a commitment for the long haul to retain authenticity.
2. Music is social
Music naturally brings people together and gives them something to talk about. But social media provides a platform that inspires actions as well as words. Smirnoff and Madonna recently partnered on a promotion to celebrate the importance of dance in great nightlife, and developed a global competition to find a new dancer to join Madonna’s upcoming tour. Bucking the Hollywood trend of reality TV dance shows, Madonna took her search online with social media channels and even hosted the promotion on her website as part of Smirnoff’s Nightlife Exchange Project. Through the partnership, Smirnoff was able to demonstrate its generations-long commitment to global nightlife culture, generate original content, and drive social media engagement.
When designing your music marketing strategy, consider going one step beyond the event, and give fans a channel to re-engage with your brand. This could happen via Facebook, Twitter, or other digital communities. Leverage artist affinity to connect to them, and provide exclusive and added value such as content and access to keep them in the fold.
3. Music drives loyalty
Music fans are among the most loyal and passionate people in the world; they will travel far and wide to support the artists they love the most. We have worked with Starwood for several years to enhance its Starwood Preferred Guest program with "once in a lifetime" music experiences such as karaoke on stage with Sting and a pre-show eat-and-greet barbeque prepared personally by the Zac Brown Band.
The benefit of music as a currency is that it can be as common as a song download or as extravagant as a personal face-to-face with a favorite artist. Music fans continue to stay at Starwood Hotels because of the points they can earn and the perks they can get. It’s a value exchange for both fan and brand. If you’re thinking about developing a loyalty program, consider music as your hook. Then, identify your loyalty goals and the lifetime value of your potential customers to develop the best toolkit to deliver ROI.
4. Music is data
Because of technology available online, through mobile devices and apps, marketers have unprecedented insight into the data and preferences of music fans. Brands now have the ability to analyze consumer behavior in macro and CRM levels. With the proliferation of data available today, we can not only track trending songs and artists across retail, social, broadcast, and file-sharing channels giving brands a real-time chart of trending music before it hits traditional top 100 lists, we can match ticket sales data to demographic and household information empowering brands to target offers, benefits, and rewards based on preference.
As we continue to become a more fragmented culture, marketers should consider unlocking data to understand music fans and their preferences and triggers to create a successful music marketing program.
In short, successful music marketing is a blend of art and science. Just as important as data is to creating a successful CRM program, authenticity is to matching the right artist with the right brand. Music can be a powerful component to your marketing mix, but must be handled with care to convert music-loving fans to brand-loving customers.
Russell Wallach is President of Live Nation Network.