Music-oriented branding punches through in ways that other kinds of celebrity endorsements do not.
We’re in the musical golden years—anyone can listen to any piece of music anywhere at any time—when most Americans are listening to music on a daily basis, according to a recent Harris Poll survey. Importantly for advertisers, music’s ubiquity and musicians’ popularity offer a unique opportunity to punch through the background noise and connect with consumers.
Whether it’s by using a popular tune instead of a cloying jingle in their ads or employing a singer as a spokesperson, music-oriented branding punches through in ways that other kinds of celebrity endorsements do not. Spotify has begun to push a similar message to chief marketing officers via its “All Ears on You” campaign that promotes the benefits of this super-engaged audience.
Why? Music connects with people in ways that other mediums do not. “Music is incredibly personal and all about self-expression,” said Mike Dunn, executive vice president of Music and Entertainment at the creative marketing agency Rogers & Cowan. “Brands have an opportunity to make an emotional connection by bringing audiences closer to the music and artists they love,” Dunn said. Indeed, 85% of music-listeners agreed that the music they listen to reflects who they are.
This is especially true of younger listeners—millennials and Gen Zers—who are more likely than the middle-aged and elderly to frequently listen to music (85% versus 72%). This audience is virtually all ears, but the relative flexibility afforded by streaming—unlimited streaming choice rather than a passive radio broadcast—means that advertisers need a new approach of reaching them. They authentically connect with younger Americans by taking a three-part approach focused on their desire to discover music, partner with musicians and support music-based social initiatives.
You’ve got to find young Americans where they are listening to music—and it’s not on the radio. While 78% of Gen X, boomers and the Silent Generation said that they regularly listen to music on the radio, only 55% of millennials and Zers do so. Instead, you can find younger ears on YouTube (64% currently use it for music versus 50% of older generations), Spotify (57%-27%), Apple Music (32%-18%) and SoundCloud (27%-7%).
Millennials and Gen Zers are also much more likely than older generations to discover new music on social media (56% versus 40%) or on streaming platforms (51%-38%). TikTok users, in fact, are among the heaviest daily music listeners (90%), with nearly three-quarters of users discovering new music via the platform. Compared to the general population, TikTok users over index on R&B, Hip Hop, Alternative, and World Music—leading the trends around favoring K-pop and Afrobeat.
There is strong upside to seeking these younger listeners out: They are significantly more responsive than the over-40 crowd to music-based advertising appeals. Pluralities said that hearing a favorite song in an ad makes them more likely to shop for that brand (49% versus 41% of older listeners) as would a musician being its spokesperson (46% versus 31%). And it’s not just a matter of celebrity: Non-musical star-endorsements would sway only 32% of Gen Zers and millennials.
But reaching this audience will increasingly require a deft and creative touch: They are much more likely than older consumers to want to shun traditional advertising. An overwhelming 70% of under-40 music listeners said that they would pay extra to ditch ads when listening to music, as opposed to 44% of Gen Xers, boomers and members of the Silent Generation, who never had a choice but to endure words from our sponsors. The generation gap was similar for television and movies.
One possible avenue of appeal: Back local music-based social initiatives. This could be anything from supporting a local music venue to creating a scholarship for young musicians. A plurality of Zers and millennials said that this would make them more likely to engage with a brand. “Gen Zers are still figuring out who they are and the things they like the most,” Dunn said. “The smartest brands are enhancing consumer experiences and authentically engaging fans by aligning with what’s most important to them.” By acting now, brands can forge enduring links with this rising generation of consumers as their tastes mature and gel.
In other words, advertisers can’t always reach who they want, but if they try sometimes they can reach who they need.