Macy?s mstyleradio points to Internet radio opportunities beyond mobile ads
Brands have long had a symbiotic relationship with music, but as radio streaming via mobile devices continues to gain, some are finding opportunities beyond simple advertising as they look to cement relationships with millennials.
Macy?s last week launched its own radio station, mstyleradio that will be available via the iHeartRadio mobile application and is intended to help the brand stay in touch with younger consumers throughout their day. The challenge Macy?s will face is providing the kind of meaningful content that will make consumers want to listen in.
?Macy?s has a huge national presence and a long-standing relationship with Clear Channel that we could leverage to really give our millennial customers a new way to interact with us,? said Orlando Veras, media relations director at Macy?s, New York. ?Music is a big component of the lifestyle of millennials and they are doing it on the go.
?Radio is an important aspect of our overall media mix, especially with millennials,? he said. ?They are really connected to music and pop culture and a lot of that is coming through mobile outlets.
?The fact that we could leverage the radio experience to really hone in on our own messages is an important part of the mix for us.?
Streaming radio from a mobile device is an increasingly popular way that consumers, especially younger ones, listen to music thanks to the popularity of services such as Pandora, Spotify and iHeartRadio that make it easy for listeners to customize channels to meet their musical interests.
The popularity of these platforms has not escaped the notice of mainstream advertisers wanting to deliver their messages to mobile users.
Mobile companies such as Apple and Google are also looking to gain a foothold in the growing mobile radio streaming market with their own offerings, iTunes Radio and Google Play Music.
Macy?s strategy builds on what other marketers are doing in this space, including numerous branded stations on Pandora and Urban Outfitters enabling customers to listen to the brand?s own radio station via its mobile app, by helping craft a radio station it hopes millennial customers will want to listen to while gaining exclusive access to messaging listeners.
?With digital and mobile, people need an incentive to tune in,? said Harley Block, senior vice president of brand development and marketing at Rokkan, New York. ?This puts an increased emphasis on creating compelling content, which seems obvious, but the goal should be to give people something on this channel they can't get on the myriad of options out there like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio, and a host of others.
?Several factors that will determine its success will be things like: Will there be specific features or benefits users can enjoy if they access the channel through mobile, instead of desktop,? he said. ?Are there planned partnerships with artists to potentially break content exclusively via this new channel?"
Music, fashion fusion
The Macy?s radio station is a mix of top hits and fashion tips, the station will attempt to reflect music and fashion are fused together in youth culture. It is being launched with Clear Channel, and is part of that company?s iHeartRadio digital radio service.
The station is accessible on iHeartRadio.com and via the digital radio service?s mobile app.
Via the partnership, the mstyleradio station will also be broadcast live in more than 700 Macy?s Mstylelab Juniors? and Young Men?s departments.
The radio station is intended to be a destination for millennials where they can listen to popular music and learn about the latest fashion and pop culture trends. At the same time, it will enable Macy?s to engage with this audience on a regular basis, not just when they are inside its stores.
Macy?s will be the exclusive advertiser on the radio station. Because Macy?s owns 100 percent of the advertising time on the channel, it will feature limited commercials, approximately two minutes per hour.
"Digital radio applications like iHeartRadio, Spotify, Pandora and others are becoming a preferred way to consume and share music on the go, and to make music social,? said Leslie Poston, senior social media strategist at Flightpath, New York. ? This has inherent benefits for word of mouth marketing and brand recognition.
?It's absolutely worthwhile for brands to find a way to have a presence in this new space,? she said.
During its commercial air-time, Macy?s will promote nationwide sales and specials as well as offer special experiences and contests targeted at millennials.
For example, at launch listeners can enter to win a trip to the Y100 Jingle Ball by visiting iheartradio.com/macys.
The station can be embedded on social media sites via a widget. Macy?s plans to leverage this functionality to increase station awareness, availability and listenership.
Macy?s and Clear Channel will also advertise the station on various digital, social and print platforms at launch and throughout the year.
Additionally, Macy?s will be delivering content created for this audience that leverages its entertainment and fashion knowledge.
At launch, the station will feature live Clear Channel DJ?s seven days a week. After that, three DJ?s will rotate shifts to provide 15 hours of live coverage per day.
?The data trail that we leave behind [on mobile radio] is invaluable for marketers from a targeting perspective, and this opens up a huge opportunity to find valuable ways to connect with listeners,? Rokkan's Mr. Block said. ?I don't think we've even scratched the surface in that regard.
?Interstitial ads are a necessary evil whose value I would argue is extremely low,? he said. ?Rather, brands should be focusing on ways to make listeners' lives better, without interrupting the listening experience.?
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York