Creating Your Brand Soundtrack is a Risk. Are you Ready to Take it?

When you’re thinking about how to digitally market the next new thing, your mind likely jumps to visual platforms like Instagram. Sure, this can be an effective approach, but it’s old news.

It’s time to freshen up the digital landscape with audio – because it has more value than you’d think. Nielsen reports that “79% of audio is consumed while people are engaged in activities where visual media can’t reach them” (Marketing Interactive, 2017). If you’re taking the subway, grabbing groceries, or hitting the gym, audio is the best way to consume media. So how can brands effectively reach this market of audio listeners and bring them into the brand community? Through the power of music.

Given that in America alone, people are listening to over 32 hours of music a week, you shouldn’t wait to create your brand soundtrack (Nielsen, 2017). Take it from retailers like Nike and H&M, to food moguls like McDonald’s and KFC. These are the brands that have begun to incorporate music into their brand identity and brand community by utilizing one of the largest companies in music streaming: Spotify.

Spotify allows brands to create verified profiles with branded playlists – a playlist created by the brand, for the customers. It’s no surprise these popular brands want to appropriate popular music to better align themselves with consumers personally and emotionally. The problem is, there’s more you need to consider than the catchiness of the song.

Brand Personality Is Important. Every Brand Has One and So Does Yours.

Whether you’re a person or an organization, ask yourself: what is my brand personality? You may be a performer, provider, idealist, or nurturer. Whatever it is, this defines you.

By utilizing the Big Five dimensions of personality, brands can ask themselves the same question. They can decide on the levels of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional stability and intellect they want their brand to hold. This allows brands to form a character that consumers can relate to and connect with in the brand community.

We all know that brand personalities aren’t new, but they aren’t always leveraged to their utmost potential. Playlists give brands a new way to exhibit their personality. If you want your brand to be hip and trendy, look at KFC’s latest campaign in France.

They recently leveraged their personality with the branded playlist on Spotify titled “Bucket Bangers”. Comprised of artists around the world, the playlist contains 42 hip-hop tracks that mention the brand. From Kayne West and Kendrick Lamar to the Beastie Boys and Afroman, KFC successfully took advantage of the power of popular culture. Not only did this raise awareness of the KFC brand and their signature Buckets on the menu, but it amplified their personality bringing in more people into their brand community.

Starbucks has taken the same approach. The brand embodies a relaxed persona, reinforced by the cozy in-store atmosphere – comfy chairs, chill music and wooden accents. With over 100,000 followers, their “Coffeehouse” playlist embodies this experience. It includes a variety of artists and songs to enhance Starbucks’ brand personality. The result is a mellow and laidback playlist which includes artists like Lana Del Ray, Fleetwood Mac and Hozier. Starbucks handpicked these artists and songs because they embody the brand’s personality through music. It’s an attempt to merge their customers’ music interests and personalities with the brand. The best part for brands? You can take this experience with you – whether you’re at a Starbucks location or in the comfort of your home, just open the Spotify app.

It’s No Longer a Single Jingle that Defines the Brand Mood – It’s an Entire Playlist.

We’ve all listened to music and understand its ability to unite, inspire and create a depth of emotion with people. When we listen to upbeat, energetic and joyful songs, we tend to feel happier. When we listen to songs with slow rhythms and sad demeanours, our emotions tend to match this tone. Imagine you could relay these feelings toward your brand?

When a company selects a song from an artist, they must choose wisely. The songs must embody the brands desired tone and emotion. It’s straight forward. Take a positive and upbeat song and associate that feeling with your brand to create a positive response. Some of the world’s most popular brands have already done this to further the emotional connection with their customers.

Not only is Nike a leader in the fitness industry, but a leader in emotional branding. From purchase to use, their products provide consumers with a feeling of motivation and athleticism. Nike recognized the opportunity to amplify this emotional experience by teaming up with, again, Spotify. The “Nike Run Club” playlist intends to inspire, motivate, and energize consumers. Listeners of the playlist can get pumped up for their workout with Nike more than ever. The result is a stronger and more positive emotional attachment to the brand. Nike’s approach is direct, but this doesn’t need to be the case – emotional branding can be easily incorporated in other ways too.

For years, retail stores have built soundtracks to play in their stores. This sets the vibe of the store and adds to the shopping experience. Happy music equals happy customers, right? Just ask H&M. They play the “H&M in Store Music” Spotify playlist for customers, well, in-store. While its name may lack creativity, the playlist aims to enhance the customer experience, influence customer emotions, and impact purchasing behaviours while shopping. Hearing your favourite song while trying on an item of clothing might just make you happy enough to purchase the product. As for other brands, these playlists allow consumers to connect with the company both in and outside the store. This tactic can establish a customer’s emotional connection with a brand, resulting in positive brand perception. It’s pretty simple if you’re paying attention.

Avoiding the Risk

Branded playlists offer a new layer of depth to a brand that the audience can connect with. But keep in mind, you can mess this up. The artists and songs you choose must accurately reflect your brand ‘s personality – and that’s not always easy. You must always be mindful of an artist’s past scandals and controversies. A brand that chooses to embrace Chris Brown in their stores will not be a brand that also chooses Ariana Grande.

Including a controversial artist on your playlist could make or break the relationships you have with customers as it subtly indicates support for them. The same goes for lyrics. If your brand doesn’t use explicit language, then your brand playlist shouldn’t either. And don’t forget genres either – if your brand is geared towards adolescent girls, you’d be jeopardizing the brand community by playing heavy metal music in-store.

An inconsistent brand identity will lead consumers to turn their back on you. These slip-ups could stir up negative perceptions about your brand and, unless you want that, we’d suggest you avoid it. If you do this right, your brand has the aptitude to build up recognition, engagement and loyalty with consumers in the brand community.

Tune Up!

It’s a reality: People love to listen to hours and hours of music … every week. Using music to create your brand soundtrack is a powerful opportunity to grow your brand community by harnessing an audience that already exists. It may have its risks, but the rewards are there if you’re in tune with your community.


Blade Brain Trust

The Blade Brain Trust brings you relevant insights to help you build your brand community.

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