What Music Can Teach Content Marketers about the Power of a Shared Customer Experience

“Music is a universal language,” Joe Belliotti, head of global music marketing for Coca-Cola North America, explained in a press release. “Lyrics can explain how we feel and what we want to say when we can’t find the words ourselves. The art of sharing music to express feelings for someone special goes back to creating mix tapes as a kid, which later evolved to mix CDs and now playlists…that behavior hasn’t changed.”

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The poster child of audio branding: Interview with Joe Belliotti

Reese: Joe, thanks for taking the time for this interview. I’d like to talk to you about decision-making processes around music in brand communication.


Beliotti: Let me warn you ahead of time: I’m extremely passionate about this topic and I tend to go on and on. (Laughs). So to start off: Music, to me, is another way to tell a story. And there are two ways in which music enters our brand strategy at Coca-Cola: One to amplify and extend the reach of our campaigns. For example for the FIFA World Cup, the Olympic Games or Christmas, we traditionally create our own songs, or “anthems”, which we use throughout the life of the campaign, including multiple points of communication. When we are sourcing existing music for a creative ad, our agencies have a voice in picking the music that we use. It’s a very collaborative effort....


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With the projections of the music industry doubling by 2030, this bodes well for the music and brand partnership space.


Today, more and more brands are utilizing music as part of their marketing mix. And the music industry is actively seeking out these opportunities as a key piece of their artist marketing efforts. Last year the spend on music by brands reportedly topped $1billion and has grown double digit percentage points for the last few years.


With this kind of attention (and investment) those working to bring together music and brands have a new responsibility. The need to continue to show value in order to see this space grow.


It is no secret brand deals in sports can carry a huge price tag. And it seems every new movie release has brand partners promoting the property.


What can we learn from these models to help when music and brand intersect?


First, we can learn from sports how important it is to quantify the “R” in “ROI”. Marketers have a set of tools, measurements and results to help justify (or not) their marketing investments. This measurement isn’t always as clear or easily accessible in music. Ways to leverage music are so varied, with each activation being unique. Finding consistent measurement methodology is difficult, but not impossible.


Second, the movie industry has a shared value model based on clear objectives. Movie makers want as many people in the theaters opening weekend to see that film, and will many times look to brands to bring media and reach to promote. Brands can then tell their stories through the lens of those movies. A model that promotes equally as hard the movie and the brand.


In music, sync of the right music to the right tv commercial is both measurable and creates value across the board – music makers, labels, brand, fans, etc…


As we dig deeper, there are ways to create even more meaningful, impactful partnerships between music and brands – artist partnerships, tours, original content, streaming platforms, media partnerships, and the list goes on. This is where it gets more complex, but the return can be high for everyone.


Music and brands have to continue to collaborate and learn from each other. The collaboration keeps growing. Ten years ago there were very few bridges between the two worlds. That’s not the case today, which is great. There are relationships being built versus transactions being made.


Today the brand world needs to better understand how the music industry and music makers earn money. And the music world needs to understand how the brands they are talking to make money. This will allow both to create more meaningful value for each other. Value that can be measured. Value that can fuel continued collaborations.


When the convergence of music and brands works well everyone wins. More fans can discover and share more music. Artists cut through the clutter. And the music industry and brands share the value of stronger marketing.


One of the first trips I made since leaving my role as Head of Global Music with Coca-Cola on Dec 31 2017, was to visit the Berklee College of Music campus in Valencia, Spain. It is something I have been wanting to do for years and I was lucky to spend a week there with the students and facility holding panels and mentoring sessions, spending as much time with the students as possible.


There were two reasons this was important to me, one I graduated from Berklee in Boston and felt that mix of excitement and utter terror around finding my way into the music industry.


Secondly it was a great reset for me as I enter into this new phase and to be able to share the mutual excitement with the master degree students who are entering their first phase.


The knowledge and practical experience this group is entering the marketplace with far outweighs anything I had access to at that stage in my life. And this group is already working not just to develop a new crop of musical talent, but looking at the state of the industry with the intent to innovate and improve upon the current business models.


The students today are entering a world where the music industry has become the music ecosystem. There are so many more opportunities with media companies, tech platforms, communications and content companies, live events and brands across categories looking to connect with audiences through music.


I left the week excited for them, as they are soon to take their passion in music and make it their careers. I also left excited for the music makers and the business of music, this group will have a massive positive impact that will continue the innovation and growth in music.

NAME THAT BRAND…(audio signatures)

The power of sound is not only emotional, it is biological. Many studies have been done to show how sounds can trigger deeply hidden memories or change the emotional state of people. This why music is so infectious, so much a part of human nature. This why marketers look to music to help build the emotional connection between their brands and consumers.

For now let’s look at a simple, basic convergence of sound and brand. Audio Signatures, Sonic Logos, Sound Trademarks – there are many ways to refer to them but these are the little sounds that can instantly evoke a brand into the mind of a listener.

This is not new news to marketers. It is actually hard to find the first use of sound in this way. Many people are surprised to find out the classic, iconic MGM lion roar is actually a trademarked sound. We have a lion named Jackie to thank for that roar.

These sounds can stick with people and becomes part of pop culture. The sound of a brand can endure longer than most other pieces of marketing, this gives brands even more opportunities as consumer attention turns to new ways of engaging through technology.

And while most brands didn’t have  Amazon Echo or Google Home specifically in mind while creating their sounds, they surely will from now on.


I wanted to take a look at three specific areas of where the future of sound is headed. While this is by no means the only ways we will engage with sound, these are areas that are closer to becoming household norms than we may think.

Alexa, Siri, Bixby…

Seems the near future will have no keyboards, no remote controls, no need to do anything other than speak your wish into the magic lamp (or more accurately microphone). As someone who still types with two fingers I’m more than OK with this. The way we engage with our devices will become audio lead. The act of searching and its results will be audio. Brands will need to connect with the users of devices with an audio result. One that is useful, non-disruptive and on point.

 Google Home, Amazon Echo, HomePod…

Audio based controls will enable more audio based returns. Music. News. Weather. Podcasts. Humor. Sports Scores. Recipes. Event Listings. And More. All delivered with no friction to your ears. With the ears now at the forefront (figuratively of course) of how we connect with information, brands will need to crack this new opportunity. To deliver meaningful, useful brand messages and emotional cues to the ears.

Autonomous (Self Driving) Cars

The big winners here will be the entertainment industry (in all its facets). With technology comes convenience, with convenience comes time. And we fill that time with entertainment.  With the first phase of entertainment opportunities in self driving cars being audio lead (music, podcasting, streaming, etc…). The things we love during  our drive time will only become more relevant.