Consumer Trends and Mastering Engagement at Pandora Radio

Last week I was out at the AMA Atlanta February Signature Luncheon on mastering engagement and building passionate fans. I was thrilled to attend as the event featured Pandora’s SVP of Strategic Solutions, Heidi Browning. Being interested in consumer engagement/trends, music and networking, I connected with Heidi on Twitter prior to the event and was fortunate to meet her following her presentation. Highly recommend attending her events and connecting with her.

The event dealt with how streaming media companies are utilizing their users in shaping experiences and driving brand loyalty. Pandora, the world’s most powerful music discovery platform, sits on mines of data and boasts nearly 80 million active listeners, making them a leader in the industry. Heidi went over macro consumer trends, industry truths, challenges, engagement tips, and a few insightful case studies.

Introduction

 

Heidi opened by explaining her passion behind the work being done at Pandora; creating meaningful connections between bands, brands, and music. When she’s travelling, and it happens to come up in conversation that Heidi works for Pandora, the stories and love for the brand expressed by mere strangers is overwhelming. Everyone has their story and passion behind the brand, often pointing to their favorite station or time spent listening.

Here’s a quick look at Heidi’s customized Atlanta presentation slides — brilliant.

Atlanta Loves Music!

1 Million Unique Listeners
561 Million Songs Streamed
37 Million Hours Listened
25 Million Total Thumbs

Atlanta Gets Down!

Top Artists for Women: Kehlani, Tink, Ciara, K. Michelle, Jacquees, Meghan Trainor, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, Keyshia Cole, Selena Gomez.

Top Artists for Men: Metallica, N.W.A., AC/DC, Young Jeezy, Ariel Camacho & Los Plebes Del Rancho, Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Los Temerarios, 2 Chainz, Tupac.

Atlanta Keeps it Hot!

Top Genres for Women: Today’s Hits, Today’s R&B And Hip Hop Hits, Pop & Hip Hop Power Workout, Today’s Hip Hop and Pop Hits, R&B Love Songs, 80’s R&B, 90s R&B, Rap Strength Training, Today’s Country, Twerk.

Top Genres for Men: Rap Strength Training, Today’s R&B And Hip Hop Hits, Today’s Hits, 80s R&B, Today’s Hip Hop & Pop Hits, Rap & Hip HOp Pre-game, Trap Rap, Pop & Hip Hop Power Workout, Rap 2015, Today’s Country.

Very interesting insights to the Atlanta consumers and music scene, highlighted by Workout stations, and a few surprise Latin artists. Heidi took this opportunity to mention that the Latin segment is one of their fastest growing markets — also very interesting.

Nationwide, an impressive 80 million people listen to Pandora monthly, which was accomplished with little-to-no paid media, as Heidi explained. They built the passion and engagement organically, but realize that this technique is not sustainable and they must continue to deepen relationships for more engagement.

Heidi then took us through a few consumer trends and industry truths.

Macro Trends

 

#1 – Fragmented, Shrinking Consumer Attention Spans

It’s been said that humans now have a smaller attention span than that of a goldfish. Well, Heidi reiterated this development and honed in on how valuable it truly is to get a share of someone’s attention.

#2 – Personalization Everywhere: “Now Playing – You!”

Personalization impacts everything these days. A strength of Pandora’s is seen in their personalization and recommendations algorithm. They’re among the best-in-class, and are looking for ways to increase your thumbing to continue to personalize and build a deeper relationship.

#3 – Data, Data Everywhere

Between the Internet of Things, wearables, connectivity, etc. etc. we’ve become obsessed with our “quantified-self” and self-improvement. With these obsessions come inherent sharing. Lots, and lots of social data sharing. (We’re looking at you, Mrs. 15,000 Fitbit steps per day!)

#4 – Show Me You Know Me!

This derives from the Millennial-based expectations of any given brand. Millennials expect a two-way dialogue, and have (for the most part) learned to tune out mass media. Make Millennials feel invested in with personalization, and your brand will ride the coattail of Millennial love for years to come.

#5 – Sonic Boom.

Heidi described this macro trend as a complete transformation. At CES (the International Consumer Electronics Show, held annually in Las Vegas) we’re seeing a switch from touch screen innovations to sound-based innovation. Think voice activation, voice recognition, and the various other uses of sound in the future. Today, if your strategy includes audio, it will help you dramatically in breaking through the clutter and get in with the “earphone culture.” Fact: You can process multiple visual cues at once, but can only process one sound.

Truth Trends

 

#1 – Mobile apps > TV

Time spent in mobile apps has finally passed time spent watching TV for the first time ever, in Q2 of 2015 (via Flurry). Excuse my photography.

#2 – 75% of people choose music as their top choice of entertainment (via Nielsen)

Music is the universal language that connects us. It’s a deeply emotional experience, and transcends culture. Example below.

 #3 – The music you listen to between ages 16-22 is the most meaningful (via Edison Research)

Think nostalgia, and the memories you have from that time period. There’s a reason Millennials like 90’s music so much.

#4 – Experiences > Things.

67% of millennials would rather spend $150 on an experience, over a physical item. Interestingly enough, this trend was also true in 74% of women. Fact: Millennials are a generation that are NOT hoarding and collecting things.

Marketing Challenges

#1: Fragmented Media
#2: Data, Data Everywhere
#3: Creative for Mobility
#4: Measuring ROI

Solutions: Pandora is always looking for ways to win share of attention, and by doing so have placed the consumer at their core. They’re beginning to humanize their data, with insights as to, “What does this really mean?” By putting the consumer at the core, Pandora’s been able to connect on a deeper and more emotional level, thus raising engagement.

In leveraging the passion point of music, Pandora created their “Thumb Moments” campaign. We watched the clip featuring Nick Jonas surprising fans with one-on-one concerts, but below you’ll see an example with Matt Nathanson. The idea behind these campaigns was simple: Increase the amount of thumb actions (critical to Pandora’s long term business), thus increasing the long term retention strategy and enhancing user customization/personalization.

Clearly this type of campaign is not scalable or sustainable, so Pandora needed to come up with something else…

Meet Thumbprint Radio, a uniquely personal station comprised solely of your thumbed-up songs! The concept was product of a Pandora Hackathon, and has been wildly popular since launch. To get this station: Create a Station –> “Thumbprint Radio” –> Enjoy! In launching the product, Pandora activated 33 influencers to describe their experiences with Thumbprint Radio. Reaction – That’s my S#!%! 

The initial takeaways (after 1-2 months) of Thumbprint Radio seen below, with significant results in the Recaptured Fans, Station Ranking in Listening Hours, and Increase in Thumbs categories.

Case Studies

 

#1 – Huggies + Kimberly Clark

Simply put, Huggies partnered with Pandora to create a Baby Making Station around Valentine’s Day. Yes, you can imagine the playlist includes lots of Barry White. The station lives on for as long as you’re opted in, meaning the brand needs to refresh the playlist every few weeks to ensure listener retention.

This introduces the concept of Sponsored Listening, still somewhat new to world of Pandora. Basically, ad-free music for uninterrupted music “moments” we’ll call it. 🙂

#2 – Taco Bell

Taco Bell had a very different challenge, being a physical fast-food location with specific price points, as they hoped to raise awareness of a new menu innovation – the breakfast menu and a free Biscuit Taco. The campaign was aptly titled, “Breakfast Defector.” In creating this campaign Taco Bell partnered with Pandora to take Sponsored Listening to another level. Basically, an ad would appear for a free Biscuit Taco, and offer for 60 minutes of uninterrupted music if you opted-in. Taco Bell was able to hit 40+ million Millennials through Pandora, and integrated a layered mobile campaign to include audio, display, and video ads to recapture the audience.

The campaign launched successfully through the concept of offereing the audience a sipmle chose and a reward. By opting-in and engaging around a 15 second ad, you received a free Biscuit Taco and 60 minutes of uninterrupted music. Of course, Taco Bell’s brand messaging would be placed throughout the 60 minutes, but without disrupting the music experience.

Awareness Results: +16% lift in “Biscuit Taco” product association, +28% lift in “Breakfast Defector” message association, and +26% greater awareness of the Biscuit Taco than unexposed survey respondents. (via Millward Brown)

Localized Results: 15% more likely to visit a Taco Bell location, and 1 in 7 of the exposed listeners who visited ended up returning within a 10-day period. (via Placed)

Heidi wrapped up with a touching story of how personalization drives 1:1 engagement. Enter the lives of Maggie and Kyle, two lovers united by their love of music (in Maggie’s case, Pandora). Kyle decided to make his engagement personal, memorable, and creative; so he reached out to Pandora and was able to secure a custom ad on a specific station during their car ride that evening. Thankfully, the ad played while they were in the car and Maggie gave Kyle the “I do” (how could she not??). This is just one, small example of what Pandora is capable of, and how spending time on personalizations can mean the world to their biggest fans.

Before opening up to audience questions, Heidi reiterated that it’s time to take industry-wide risks and share success stories, as marketing/advertising are changing as a whole. We’re at a crucial crossroads where we need to move the industry forward as a group, and every collective effort helps.

Audience Questions

 

Q1: How do you find and activate influencers?

Heidi: Our agency finds the influencers. Pandora will internally find influencers who participate in sharing the stations/service in general, but most of the efforts are on the agency side.

Q2: Demographics of Pandora listeners?

Heidi: Roughly 50% iOS and 50% Android. 80% mobile, 20% desktop. However, Smart TVs, Sonos, Xbox and Playstation, etc. usage is increasing rapidly. This falls in the social listening category, as an in-home experience, as people are utilizing the service while hosting guests.

Q3: What’s a major challenge that keeps you up at night?

Heidi: Growing the user base. The music industry is complex by nature, and you must stay on top of the latest news/trends related to radio, on demand, and live events. However, this presents an opportunity in data mining as well. Based on data analytics, Pandora is able to activate local, live events (i.e. Atlanta hip hop show for Pandora listeners) as the artists are trending in an area. Pandora does this about 54 times per year, and the shows are complimentary to listeners as sponsors foot the bill.

To supplement the live event activations, Pandora acquired TicketFly in late 2015. TicketFly specializes in selling tickets to smaller/mid-sized venues, where a 40% unsold ticket figure is not uncommon. Pandora is able to target the right people at the right times to sell more tickets.

That wraps up my recap of Heidi’s Pandora consumer engagement presentation. For anyone interested, I found a previous version of the presentation slides on SlideShare:

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One thought on “Consumer Trends and Mastering Engagement at Pandora Radio

  1. Pingback: Pandora: Product, Ads, & Monetization | steffan pedersen

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