Like musicians who want to deliver a stellar performance, brands want their marketing to hit the highest notes. However, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, an economic downturn, racial and social unrest, it's harder than ever for marketers to know when and what to say. To help, Pandora is taking a cue from artists with its new Pandora for Brands' SoundCheck platform, an informational hub chock full of consumer research and industry insights.
"Advertisers can use these resources to adapt their brand message and build an audio campaign that builds trust and resonance with consumers," noted Crystal Park, Vice President of Industry and Experiential Marketing.
SoundCheck takes its name from the warm-up sessions that artists hold before a show to fine-tune their act. To help advertisers make sound choices, Pandora for Brands offers data and intelligence from its research team, as well as podcasts, webinars, and interviews with its execs. The goal is to provide actionable intelligence on digital audio and advertising.
"As a brand, now is the perfect time to take a moment, truly listen to your audience, and adjust your message to meet their needs," Park explained.
One recent SoundCheck Sessions webinar, for instance, focused on helping brands understand the Asian American audience, their relationship with audio and their consumer spending habits, while another focused on brand strategy to adjusting to the "new normal" in consumer behavior, which was led by Lauren D. Williams, Senior Director of Strategic Audio and Vertical Marketing,
In the audio industry and media at large, Pandora is a leader in supporting its ad partners and developing novel marketing opportunities. By leaning into its extensive listener data, Pandora can help marketers identify audience targets, and develop effective campaigns and activations. SoundCheck offers a road map for how and where to reach consumers.
The platform was originally conceived to help advertisers navigate the marketplace when COVID-19 shutdowns prompted consumers to quarantine and sent shockwaves through the economy. Some advertisers hunkered down and pulled back, while others reengineered their messaging and creative seemingly overnight. It turns out consumers want to hear from brands, with Pandora reporting that 41 percent of users said advertising during the crisis was a good thing. These kinds of insights have helped advertisers make decisions on how and when to message.
Recently, as the Black Lives Matter movement reemerged with calls for social and racial equality, Park said SoundCheck expanded to address those issues. The findings indicated companies can build brand loyalty by taking a position and making change and relating to their customers' concerns. In one recent study related to Black Lives Matter, 80 percent of respondents said they have taken action in response to racially-motivated police brutality.
Some other key findings:
Generally speaking, among SoundCheck's biggest findings Park said, is that, right now, consumers want to hear from brands more, not less. Americans are spending more time at home, they're listening to more audio and on new devices. Pandora research reported that 42 percent of consumers said they're listening to more digital audio than previously, and 37 percent are streaming on smart speakers. Music has been a calming salve, with 82 percent of users reporting that, during these difficult times, music improved their mood, as well as a safe haven for brands.
For advertisers looking to cut through a crowded and confusing ad market, such findings suggest audio is a way forward. "Insights like these help advertisers understand where their audience is listening so that they can optimize targeting and maximize spend," Park said.
SoundCheck may also help grow digital audio ad spending. In the past, some marketers have treated audio, specifically radio advertising, as a second-tier medium, even trying to shoehorn TV creative into radio spots, which undermines the intimacy of audio. As digital streaming and podcast usage grow, however, more marketers are exploring audio, and giving audio more attention. SoundCheck is part of Pandora's push to grow the medium. And Park said there's no better moment than right now to give audio – and Pandora – an opportunity to prove its value as part of the marketing mix.
Said Park: "It's the perfect time to check in with consumers and get a pulse on what they really need and what your brand can do to help."
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