Music on the move

Music is an incredibly powerful communication channel, perhaps the most powerful that marketers have at their day-to-day disposal.

Listening to music on mobiles is becoming increasingly popular, creating the perfect medium for brands and bands to market their wares to consumers in highly personalised ways. By Martin Croft

Music is an incredibly powerful communication channel, perhaps the most powerful that marketers have at their day-to-day disposal.

Couple that power with the ubiquity of mobile phones, and the way they are becoming music delivery systems, it is no wonder that marketers are falling over themselves to get their brands linked up with, on the one hand, mobile handsets and operators and, on the other hand, bands and music companies.

For example, a soft drink brand might sponsor a video for a top-selling band’s single, available exclusively for viewing on a particular mobile phone network. Or a snack food brand might run an on-pack promotion offering free downloads or ringtones.

In the UK, Coca-Cola is promoting the launch of Coke Zero via a deal with Apple’s iTunes online music store. Arch-rival Pepsi has a similar deal with iTunes in the US, and in the UK last year launched a Pepsi Max promotion, with cans offering the chance to meet bands like Westlife, and Girls Aloud, as well as downloads and ringtones.

Markus Berger-de León, chief executive of music download service Jamster, says: “Music is probably the biggest entertainment property now. It’s good to associate your brand with that – particularly if you’re targeting a young market.”

Making connections

He adds: “Everyone has opinions about – and emotional reactions to – music, but it is also a social connector. People used to share music tapes – now they share playlists.”

Jamster is about to launch an online and mobile music service that will enable users to buy tracks, burn them onto CDs and set up peer-to-peer networks for sharing playlists via e-mail or mobile. Mobiles accessing the service will become online or offline music players, with added chat and playlist-sharing functionality. The company is talking to major brand owners about sponsorship deals.

Dan Duncombe, digital media manager at EMI-owned music label Parlophone, says that music publishers have recognised that mobile is the future. “The music industry is looking at how we can deliver mobile content.

“A number of big brands have come to us and bought downloads to give away to consumers. Mobile is an interactive medium, and marketers get the chance to take the relationship beyond just listening to the track or watching the video.”

Patrick Johnston, of consultancy Entertainment Media Research, says that mobile has become the third-most popular way to listen to music, after radio and the internet, but marketers should be wary of assuming too much about the audience for mobile music. “Older groups are getting hold of iPods and mobiles that play downloads, and because they have credit cards, which younger age groups may not, they can go online and buy tracks. So the download charts may be skewed because of that.”

Indeed, the London Symphony Orchestra – hardly the first name to spring to mind when thinking of mobile marketing – has set up its own mobile portal, created by mobile software provider Kodime, and is the first British orchestra to launch its own ringtones.

Kodime marketing director Brigitte Kopke says: “Innovative mobile music marketing is not just the prerogative of fashionable pop and rock musicians.”

Get it right

Furthermore, both music and mobiles are intensely personal to consumers, which means it would be easy for brand marketers to offend, rather than engage, their target market. As Mark Iremonger, head of digital at Proximity London, says: “Mobile marketing is going to be huge, but a mobile phone is an incredibly personal space, so brands have got to respect the rules of the new media landscape when they consider using it. Get it wrong and you don’t just annoy people, you alienate them and create brand terrorists.”

Iremonger adds that mobiles are “pull” devices, not “push” ones – in other words, consumers choose what they want to access and download, rather than having content broadcast to them. He says: “Marketing that is based on push thinking just doesn’t work on mobile.”

Perhaps the last word should be left to the musician Moby, who said in 2005: “It seems like musicians want to sell a few records and put out a perfume line, and I think it’s so sad that there are so many who don’t want to change the world.”

The irony, of course, is that Moby allows marketers to use his music in their ads, giving him the kind of exposure that would otherwise cost millions to buy. Marketers may be using Moby to sell their products, but Moby is using them – and their ads – to sell his songs.

Case study

Mobile phone handset manufacturers are obvious candidates to link their products with music.

Sony Ericsson is sponsoring Ibiza Rocks – a series of concerts taking place on the Mediterranean island over the course of the summer – for the second time.

It will use the various gigs to promote the new Walkman W810i device, designed to compete with the yet-to-be-launched iPod phone.

The sponsorship was set up by Iris Experience. Henry Scotland, a director of Iris, says: “Ibiza Rocks is a ’boutique’ sponsorship property – the whole project would not have happened without Sony Ericsson.”

Scotland says that there are three parties involved in a mobile music promotion: “The consumer, who is looking for enjoyment and entertainment; the brand, which is looking for exclusive content and differentiation; and the band, which is looking for new routes to market.”

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