Tap the Millennial Market by Using Music as Your Medium

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By Lanna Apisukh

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They're hip and obscure. They're quixotic in the eyes of marketers and have a penchant for the latest Apple products. They were born into the digital fold of the early '90s and have evolved with it. They consume music at the speed of light. Their purchasing power amounts to $1.3 billion, they make up more than a quarter of the population and they have loose loyalties when it comes to brands.

Related: Marketing to Millennials? Make It Personal and Customized.

We're talking, of course, about millennials, ages 18 to 34.

Millennials are one of the most studied, yet perplexing generations. Today's youth are growing up with ubiquitous access to technologies, education and opportunities previously unavailable to young people. And now that this generation is maturing and developing its own collective view, millennials are coming into full view.

No wonder companies -- large and small -- want to engage with this key demographic.

So, how can marketers tap into this influential group? Millennials are both picky and promiscuous with their shopping habits, and it's difficult to influence them via traditional advertising, as they largely seek word-of-mouth influence in their purchasing decisions. The key to tapping this demographic, however, is a medium deeply connected to the millennial condition: music.

Incorporating music into marketing and advertising strategies is hardly new. Jingles have always existed. What's key here is to take a creative, indirect approach incorporating music without forcing it. Look at one rising popular event with millennials: music festivals. Music is an abstract people use as a touch point to ground their experiences -- and festivals are just one avenue opening doors for brands to integrate with that experience -- on an emotive level.

It's become something of a summer pilgrimage for the nation's youth to annually trek hundreds of miles across the country to these festivals. There, they enjoy back-to-back musical acts, accentuated by a sea of fans, band merchandise and local cuisine. If these millennials are open to the travel expenses, the $300-plus ticket for access and cash to splurge on beer and snacks, they're also open to what your brand has to offer.

Recent research by the Event Marketing Institute indicates that 94 percent of music festival attendees are willing to move forward with a product purchase as a result of a good festival experience -- the experience just has to be provided. Brands can make a presence at music festivals in multiple ways, and, thanks to mobile devices, these experiences can be easily facilitated.

From setting up sponsored check-in stations across stages to coordinating sweepstakes or giveaways through the mobile platform, brands can create clear-cut connections to the event, the bands and fellow fans. Create that coveted Lollapalooza or Bonnaroo experience, and your brand will have made itself a forever fan.

Festivals are one avenue to access the millennial market. But other methods for tapping nto the demographic involve associating a brand with music on the mobile platform. Because millennials are the largest group of smartphone owners and because they tend to stream music nearly constantly, the mobile platform is the perfect channel to integrate your brand with this daily music consumption. Using music as a guide, brands can look to current trends to gauge what millennials want.

Related: 7 Clues So Millennials Will Spread Your Marketing Like Wildfire

For example, T-Mobile recently announced new additions to its Music Freedom list, an initiative by the carrier that designates multiple data-agnostic streaming programs. With millennials today streaming music as their preferred source, T-Mobile is playing into that desire by not penalizing activities, but liberating them.

The carrier offers an edgy appeal, an eccentric CEO and a pro-music platform, making it an attractive brand for millennials entering the market for a new smartphone plan.

Overall, companies are starting to make their branded presence -- and products -- known to today's 18-to-34-year-olds through music, and the ROI is the writing on the wall. If millennials are a core target of your company's marketing strategies, your brand needs to consider leveraging music as a connection medium. Otherwise, you may find yourself left behind.

Related: Why Marketing to College Millennials Pays Off

Lanna Apisukh

Senior Marketing Manager, RealNetworks

Lanna joined RealNetworks in 2014 and supports global marketing efforts for the company’s Mobile Entertainment division, which delivers ringback tones, apps and mobile entertainment services to carriers and device manufacturers worldwide. In 2013, RealNetworks launched LISTEN, the first direct-to-consumer smartphone app that allows consumers to easily customize their callers’ experiences with music and special messages.

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