Spotifying an advert revolution

Spotify's deal with Coca-Cola highlights the ways emerging companies are partnering with brands rather than traditional media to reach customers.

Coca Cola’s recent deal to feature music streaming Spotify on cans of the product in the United Kingdom demonstrates that the definition of what is and what isn’t ‘media’ is becoming increasingly difficult to outline.

Coke and Spotify have been strategic partners since the beginning of 2012, where the two companies publicly declared their mutual admiration for each other at the Midem music and entertainment conference.

At Midem, Coke explained that it wanted to get closer to the action in and around music and be an active participant in the space rather than a passive advertiser. A tie-in with Spotify, as well as music services company Music Dealers, demonstrates that companies like Coke are re-defining both how they communicate with their audiences and also how they partner with other companies.

With the UK initiative, Coke and Spotify have teamed up to build an app around a concept called ‘Placelists’. In Coke’s own words: “Placelists let teens tag the world with music by browsing Spotify’s genre-spanning library of more than 20 million licensed tracks, then linking the perfect songs to the perfect places or events – around the corner or around the world.”

In Australia Coke and Spotify partnered on a music-led initiative last summer around ‘Share a Song’. This was an extension of the widely applauded and awarded ‘Share a Coke with ...’ campaign that came the summer prior.

What is most interesting about the Spotify and Coke tie-up isn’t necessarily the campaign, but moreso the power a platform like Coca Cola offers a business like Spotify. Coke, a global product with a footprint stronger than any traditional media or advertising company, brings to Spotify a chance to expose its service to hundreds of millions of people the world over. In Australia alone it was estimated that the Share a Song promotion saw Spotify featured on over 100 million cans and bottles.

That sort of exposure and distribution is not only valuable for a product like Spotify, but for other entertainment or lifestyle focused brands such as record labels, fashion brands and movie distributors. Tie ups like this not only expose the product of the company to a large audience, but align Coke with culturally relevant labels, icons and stars that appeal to their teen target audience.

For a brand like Spotify, Coke is a savvy strategic partner that offers an evolution on the typical concept of buying media or advertising to raise product awareness. It’s a similar concept to Jay-Z partnering with Samsung to market his new album. Locally, Telstra’s initiative around the upcoming Bon Jovi tour is a similar play - not only a smart customer loyalty and retention strategy to reward loyalty, but also a very effective way for the Bon Jovi tour promoters to reach a large scale audience in a personal way without using traditional media channels.

And many of these brands are better regarded and trusted than their ‘traditional’ media counterparts by consumers, with a more loyal audience. For many of them, a partnership with a complimentary partner can move beyond a tactical commercial relationship to a longer term, investment-led equity one. For an emerging digital brand targeting consumers, brands like Coca Cola and even local retailers like Coles or David Jones make sense as a strategic partner.

Just as a band, DJ or celebrity can now be a media channel in their own right due to large social media followings, sponsorship deals and appearances, it seems brands too can be media channels … if the partner is right. If the role of media is to provide a credible connection with an audience at scale, the old concepts of what is and what isn’t media are redundant.

Ben Shepherd is a media and technology consultant. He can be found on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

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