Wednesday, April 30, 2014

3 Reasons Brands Should Leverage Native Advertising In The Music Industry

We've heard a lot of talk in the last year or so about the trend of native advertising, and the important role it will play in digital content going forward. Now that savvy web users are no longer paying attention to irrelevant ads (or, are outright blocking them with web extensions), marketers must find ways to insert themselves into the actual content being consumed online in order to interact with potential customers. This is not always easy. While consumers demand relevance and personalization from advertisers, they are also wary of brands that try to force an association that just isn't there. It's a tightrope that brands must walk in order to belong. Success here comes from providing real value and allowing consumers to make the brand connection themselves.

The definition for native advertising can get rather broad. So, for simplicity, I'm going to refer to it as a marketing message woven into the context of a user's experience. This could be a sponsored piece of content the brand can align with, or even media actually provided by the advertisers themselves that goes easy on the sell and heavy on the larger idea to which they support. But, where should brands focus their native ads? And, what kind of content would they be wise to offer?

To me, it's clear that there is big opportunity for brand marketers in the music industry. Music is not only universal, as they say. Music can express many different ideas, is easily integrated into mobile strategies, and can add support to many other legs of a marketing plan. Think about how often you hear music in advertising. Now think about why that is.

Listeners identify with their music, and the sounds they purchase and interact with play a big role in their lifestyle overall. Music helps people define themselves. Wouldn't it be great for a brand to be able to associate themselves with that defining sound and style? Well, yeah. It would. That's why we see advertisers pour sponsorship money into world tours of big name artists. But, the opportunity for native ad strategies goes well beyond the mega-tour.

Here are three reasons why opportunity is rich for native advertisers in music using small-scale sponsoring:

  1. It aligns with what fans want. As evidenced by pretty much all types of online content consumed these days, consumer attention span is limited. They want quick, shorter content that gets the message across, and allows them to share that message with friends. Focusing on mobile first makes it easily accessible at any time, and new technology such as location-based targeting can be used as a relevant distribution method. The world is going mobile, and marketers can't afford to be left behind.  
  2. It echoes the way some musicians are starting to create. Fans aren't the only ones interested in smaller bits of content. I recently did a Google+ Hangout for a radio show with a musician by the name of Pharoahe Monch who said his April, 2014 release may end up being his last "traditional" album. When pressed for details he said he wants to create more music, but in smaller formats than a full-length album that allow him to get an idea or theme across in a single, or just a few songs. So, while the attention span of the listener has shortened over the years, maybe that of the artist has as well, and it's time to move onto a format that's easier to digest (and share) quickly. Short musical projects, especially those that incorporate video (+YouTube being the new +MTV) should be appealing to marketers because they provide a chance to get in front of an audience with a distinct message. Additionally, the move toward crowdfunding as a means for artists to support their work in a kind-of pre-order format points to the fact that sponsorship at this level is needed.    
  3. Brands can sponsor smaller bits of content, and get a big return. +Rodney Williams, the CEO of mobile music app +LISNR, recently delved into the mobile opportunity for advertisers when it comes to music for +ClickZ, and he was right on. The time for only sponsoring tours has passed. The opportunity now lies in sponsoring smaller bits of content - songs and albums instead of entire tours. Give fans something small, but make it exclusive. Reward fans for performing actions that help the brand - app downloads, shares, brand interaction, etc. Then integrate the sponsored content with the rest of the marketing campaign for consistency. A great example is last year's marketing of Jay-Z's album with Samsung as a partner. The album was full-length. But, commercials and behind-the-scenes footage, lyrics, individual songs, and more were delivered individually through a mobile app available to only the first 1 million to download it in the +Google Play store. This led to data gathering, exclusivity for fans, and a desire to share and get the word out all while leveraging the Samsung Galaxy smartphone as the one to facilitate all of this activity. We should see a lot more of this going forward.
What do you think of native advertising, and the role it can play in music? Let me know in the comments.