While many millennials own a record player, and you may even find a professional hipster re-visiting the 90s through modern earphones plugged into a Sony Walkman, it’s clear that Spotify is an unrivalled game-changer when it comes to millennial audio consumption. And now, they've moved into consumer analysis with eye and ear-opening results.
OK Computer – the sophistication of the Spotify algorithm:
At first, there was the pure novelty of streaming an album straight to your phone. Then suddenly, it was possible to create a 90s resurgence of double denim and cargo just by swiping ‘Download’ on Radiohead’s OK Computer in your Spotify app. Today, Spotify’s unique algorithms create personal music packages tailored exactly to your needs, and users benefit from a range of different playlists – from the ‘Discover Weekly’ bundle introducing you to tracks based on your current listening habits to the ‘Release Radar’ ensuring your finger stays on the pulse.
Earlier this year, Spotify released their first annual Culture Next report, outlining five key global trends that’ll transform the way businesses connect with their young consumers: All the Feels, Band of Others, Subliminal Attraction, PolyFly, and Surround Sound. With the study spanning the UK to the US, and Mexico to Brazil, it’s certainly a valuable source to inform brands’ communication with the youth of the 21st century. And as the world-leaders in audio branding, it’s the research we need. The two trends that spoke to us the most – outlining why this vein of marketing is hugely effective when it comes to Gen Z and Millennials – were ‘All the Feels’ and ‘Surround Sound’.
All the Feels:
We’re currently in an era of self-care that’s transforming the way Gen Z and Millennials approach mental health, body image, and in turn, consumerism. Spotify’s Culture Next report identified that these two generations aren’t afraid of getting in touch with their emotional side – as Drake would say, they’re very much in their “feelings”. Forbes recognised this in 2018, noting “Brands know that Millennials will purchase based upon their “feelings” about a company, not on the hard-sell of a product”. That’s where audio branding comes in – harnessing the emotive power of music in marketing works to create these feelings that millennial consumers are bound to act on. This links directly to memory in two ways. There are fond memories evoked by certain songs, and then there’s the art of the earworm. ‘I Got No Strings’ from Disney’s Pinocchio animation is hardly on anyone’s Daily Mix, but Beats by Dre’s 2017 use of the song to promote their wireless headphones evoked feelings of nostalgia, and lodged itself in the consciousness of viewers. Simple yet effective, campaigns that make use of music instantly pack a greater emotional punch than their counterparts – piquing interest in a fool-proof way.
Along with the rise of the multi-screen phenomenon comes the need for an escape, but growing up alongside the internet means Gen Zs and Millennials crave constant entertainment, which sees them turn to ‘Surround Sound.’ The Culture Next report found that 50% of participants insisted that rather than just background noise, audio plays a huge role in their everyday lives. This is evident in the rise of podcasts – with 38% of millennials aged 18-34 regularly consuming this form of media. Listening to a podcast allows for the absorption of content without the relentless bombardment of visual advertising brought about by scrolling. Nonetheless, it’s important to consider that this is also a generation politically involved and hungry for change, and they expect the same attitude from their favourite brands. So where does this leave audio branding? A great example of a brand capitalising on the ‘Surround Sound’ trend is Marie Claire’s 30-second silence Spotify campaigns, aimed to increase awareness of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. The silence caused listeners to check their phones expecting to see a glitch, only to find a warning of the dangers of staying silent about violence – making the brand’s message unavoidable. And looking beyond this clever use of silence, it’s clear listeners will be more receptive to messages in a channel they often use as an escape.
Marketing in the Millennial age:
If you’re looking to grab the attention of Gen Zs and Millennials, it’s simple: they’re all ears. Think Coca-Cola’s iconic I’d like to Buy the World a Coke television advert of 1971 – a campaign that’s transcended generations. Now, consider the power of this same advert streamed today on Spotify… Snapchat… Facebook… LinkedIn… and Instagram. Similar ‘All the Feels’ adverts of late include the vodka brand, Absolut’s ‘Absolut Juice’ campaign featuring body positivity queen, Lizzo, and her chart-topping Juice track. The combination of the retro beat and lyrics like “I was born like this, don’t even gotta try” urges you to wave goodbye to your inhibitions with Absolut, and that’s before you even consider Lizzo’s strawberry-print bikini visuals. In terms of ‘Surround Sound’, now even restaurants are prioritising patrons’ aural experiences; take London’s Dans Le Noir, a dining-in-the-dark experience served by blind waiters that encourages individuals to reimagine the world around themselves according to what they can hear. So, it’s time to join us in dialling up the emotional and dialling down the visual.