• Saavn has more than 22 million listeners, monthly.
  • Spotify is betting on crossing the 200 million mark by the end of 2018.
  • Gaana has 50 million monthly active users.

The numbers suggest that music streaming apps have a substantial reach. In addition, a large chunk of music streaming users are millennials – people between the ages of 16 and 35, a key demographic for most brands. Those two factors, alone, make music streaming apps a lucrative platform for brands to engage with their target audience. The case for music streaming platforms via-a-vis brands is even stronger.

Why music streaming apps make sense for brands

Music streaming apps can deliver higher engagement rates for brands. Consider, for instance, Saavn, which launched programatic audio ads last year (programatic advertising allows brands to buy digital ads using machines, thus making the process a lot easier). Saavn delivered an engagement rate of around 4% in 2017, which is significantly better than the average CTR for Facebook ( a little less than 2%).

The higher engagement rate for audio ads is directly related to the immersive quality of audio itself. The right music can enhance brand recall, put listeners in a more positive mood, and even influence trust. And then, there is the holy grail of digital advertising that is ever-present in music streaming – data.

By analysing what users are listening to, brands can personalise their messaging for better results. For instance, take the case of Bacardi’s 2016 campaign, where it used Spotify’s branded moments to engage listeners. The vodka brand sponsored party playlists on Spotify, thus looking to target people who were on their way to a night out. Every time a user clicked on a sponsored party playlist on Spotify, they were shown Bacardi’s 30 second video ad. In exchange, they were given 30 minutes worth of ad-free streaming.

How brands are leveraging music streaming apps

a. The branded playlist

Bacardi’s example above is just one of the many ways that brands are trying to capitalise on the reach of music streaming platforms. 7-Eleven, the international convenience store chain, used Spotify to engage commuters on their way to work. The brand used morning-themed playlists, together with Spotify’s ability to target users according to time of the day, to reach out to its target audience.

Godrej launched its ‘Wonder Woman’ playlist on Saavn in 2016. The branded playlist, one of the first on Saavn, was a week-long campaign that kicked-off on Women’s Day. The campaign’s goal was to reach “urban and upper-class Indians”, according to Godrej’s marketing head.

Maruti teamed up with Saavn in 2016 to launch Nexa Music Lounge channel on the music-streaming app. Utilising Saavn’s Brand Channel solution, the channel was a curated playlist targeted at young listeners, in order to promote Maruti’s Nexa brand. According to initial reports, the campaign fetched a click-through rate of 7%, which is excellent compared to industry standards.

Bira 91 partnered with Saavn, too, in late 2017, to create curated playlists that focussed on hip-hop. The campaign was part of a 360-degree strategy by the beer brand to associate itself with hip-hop and its various subcultures in India. Bose and Gatorade are two other brands that have used Spotify’s branded moments to reach out to their audience.

b. Social messaging

In 2018, Smirnoff launched its Smirnoff Equaliser campaign on Spotify. The vodka brand built an Equaliser tool for the campaign. The tool allowed Spotify listeners to analyse the number of male and female artists they have listened to over the last 6 months. The tool then allowed listeners to equalise their playlist, so it included an equal mix of male and female artists. The campaign was aimed at highlighting the skewed gender representation in the music industry. By doing so, Smirnoff was able to capitalise on a socially relevant issue to establish itself as a brand that cares.

c. The collaborative approach

In 2016, Liva teamed up with Saavn to drive brand awareness. The women’s fashion brand used Neha Dhupia’s #NoFilterNeha, an original podcast on the platform, to reach its target audience. Audio ads were delivered during the show, with brand awareness being the key performance indicator.

Speaking of collaborations, Bacardi teamed up with Major Lazer for its 2017 ‘Sound of Rum’ campaign. The campaign had a social angle to it, as well. Every time a user streamed Major Lazer’s ‘Front of Line’ and listened to the brand’s curated playlist on Spotify, the company donated studio-time to upcoming Carribean artists.

How brands can leverage music streaming apps

Advertising on audio streaming apps is still at a very nascent stage. While brands are starting to wake up to the potential of streaming platforms, the medium is nowhere near the ad-revenues of a Facebook or a YouTube, which in itself is an advantage. Since fewer brands are present on audio streaming apps, users are more likely to pay attention, which means better engagement rates. Here are just a few ideas that brands can use to leverage users of Saavn, Spotify, and other music streaming apps in India.

a. The online-offline approach

Starbucks partnered with Spotify to create an indulgent user experience for its loyal customers. The partnership allowed subscribers of Starbucks’ loyalty program, My Starbucks Rewards, to curate in-store playlists at Starbucks at various locations across the US.

Similarly, Coopers Pale Ale offered Spotify Premium memberships to beer-lovers across several pubs in the US. The campaign delivered a 14% increase in sales for the beer brand.

With Spotify to launch in India soon, food and beverages brands could team-up with the streaming giant to deliver similar campaigns. In fact, the approach can be leveraged by retail chains, too. A GAP India, for instance, could deliver a personalised shopping experience to its most loyal customers, allowing them to curate its in-store playlist.

b. The sports connect

Deezer became Manchester United’s official music partner in 2016. The collaboration offered fans playlists curated by the likes of Anthony Martial and Paul Pogba, thus reaching out directly to football fans. While the French music streaming company is not available in India, yet, the partnership can be directly replicated in the country. IPL is the most obvious brand that comes to mind here. IPL teams could collaborate with Saavn to offer playlists curated by some of the biggest names in cricket to drive fan loyalty.

Brands could also leverage cross-promotional strategies to drive results. For instance, if data insights suggest that there is significant overlap between cricket lovers and a brand’s target demographic, the brand could rope in cricket stars to curate playlists on a streaming app. The campaign could run during the IPL season to cash-in on cricket fever.

c. Mood-based targeting

The idea with any kind of advertising is to emotionally connect with your audience. If a brand fails to do that, it is essentially disrupting a user’s experience, which, in turn, can lower engagement rates and even dent a brand’s image. Listening to music is a very personal experience, compared to other forms of content consumption online. For instance, browsing on Facebook is a lot more about what the social platform’s algorithm decides you are interested in.

Listening to music, on the other hand, is a wholly personal choice. Even when users want to discover new music, they are trying to find particular kind of music, which means they will browse related stations or artists. This personal aspect of music-listening lets brands hone-in on how their target audience is feeling. For instance, people who are celebrating are more likely to listen to a party playlist. Brands, thus, have the opportunity to engage their audience with mood-based targeting.

Bacardi’s branded moments’ example, above, is an instance of mood-based targeting. Mood-based targeting shouldn’t be limited to curated playlists, though. A brand could make different creatives for different playlists, each having a fitting soundtrack, whilst keeping the messaging same.

At the end of the day, it is about being relevant and offering something of value to the users in order to engage them. With Spotify and Saavn betting big on advertising as a substantial revenue stream, and other players such as Wynk and Gaana joining the fray, it will be very interesting to see how brands manage to leverage the unique opportunity that audio streaming offers.

*Other streaming platforms in India, such as Gaana and Wynk, have standard display advertising solutions for brands, so far. 

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