How automobile brands are riding the music bandwagon caught up with experts who have successfully built music-led content IPs for brands. They spoke about how automobile brands can build music content IPs that break the clutter. They also suggested using both audio and visual platforms to reach consumers at every touchpoint

Akansha Srivastava
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What’s common between Hyundai, Skoda, Maruti and MG Motor’s content strategy? The answer is their marketers’ love for music-led content IPs. 

Be it Maruti’s ‘Nexa Music’, Skoda’s ‘Deccan Beats’ and ‘Skoda Sonic Roots’ with Amit Trivedi, Hyundai’s ‘Spotlight’ and MG’s ‘Taal’, all for long have relied heavily on music content IPs. Not just automobile brands are tapping to the tunes of Bollywood music forms, but also experimenting with classical, regional, indie, rap and much more.

Shailja Saraswati

Shailja Saraswati, Chief Content Officer, Omnicom Media Group, India, said, “Since time immemorial, music has been an integral part of Indian culture, and it continues to play a significant role in people's lives today. Brands across all categories have capitalised on this and have come to make music an important part of their content strategy. Automobile brands, in particular, are utilising this insight to incorporate music into their content strategy for several reasons. Music is a universal language, with the power to forge a deep emotional connection with audiences. Not only does music evoke strong emotional responses in listeners, thus helping brands connect with wider audiences on a deeper level, but it is also entrenched in our culture and intrinsically linked to our cultural identity. Thus, music helps create an immersive cultural experience, which can help brands build a stronger connection with their target audience and enhance the overall brand experience.” 

Preeti S Nayyar

According to Preeti S Nayyar, Senior Vice-President - New Business and Brand Partnerships, Universal Music Group - India and South Asia, music remains the number one passion point for youth and hence music is the most effective and authentic tool for any communication.

Nayyar added, “While traditionally automobile brands have been targeting consumers through TV and print ads, to target a digital-first audience who is young, ready to take his/her first step in the workforce or has just spent some time working, automobile brands are changing the way they create and market their message.”

Ten key ingredients that set apart automobile brands’ music-led content IPs

While almost every big automotive player is banking on music IPs, it’s important to bring in some differentiating factor to stand out in the clutter and not confuse the consumer for assuming brand A’s content IP with brand B’s. 

“Creating music properties in India can be a challenging task for automobile brands. In a country so vast, this requires thorough research and understanding of the audience and brand, so as not to be churning out replicas of already existing formats,” seconded Varghese.

She further commented, “To be noticed in a crowded space where endorsing musical cultural moments has become the norm for most brands, especially in the auto category, can be a challenging task. However, we do deploy certain strategies to get the desired result. When the brand has a unique positioning and a distinct, purpose-led communication strategy, the task becomes easier and more targeted.”

Music-brand fitment

According to a JioSaavn spokesperson, because every other brand wants to associate with music, one must first, evaluate if his/her brand needs to associate with music content and if yes, then how will it satisfy the overall brand objective by being differentiated.

Treat your music property as a product

Deliver a definitive benefit for the consumer - emotional or rational. “Your music property will always be greater than the genre and the artist - everything else will come and go,” said the JioSaavn spokesperson.

Choose music type judiciously

Because different segments consume different kinds of music, choosing what music type and genre the brand associates with will get it that specific type of audience. 

It's a long-term investment

No music property creation or association has yielded magical results in year 1 or 2 or easier. 

“We focus on building properties which are long-term and not tactical. IP creation is a long-term investment, and the first 2 years are about building consistency in order to gain loyalty and form a community,” said Varghese. 

Authenticity and consistency

As per Nayyar of Universal Music, a brand needs to be authentic to its promise to its consumer and ensure great experience all the way consistently.

“For example, Hyundai Spotlight started with the promise of enabling youth to create and put out their music to the world and after 1.5 years of successfully doing so, the brand is continuing its support for the cause.”

Try to bring in a fresh approach and innovate

Varghese said that one must focus on taking a fresh approach that is creative and unique so that the IP looks authentic and does not feel forced. Bringing novelty to the existing pool of choices for the audience is key. 

Research well

Varghese shared that at OMG, the agency follows certain guardrails before it sets out to create music IPs. 

“For starters, these include content audits of what’s happening in the music space and within the auto category, the alignment to the brand values and attributes, and the appeal and relevance to the target audience of the brand.”

Build strategic partnerships

All this hard work in building music-led content IPs is futile if agencies and brands don’t invest in strategic partnerships with music labels, talent, and platforms for executional excellence and impactful amplification, shared Varghese.

Utilise music IPs beyond brand building

Varghese emphasised that agencies should also help the brand understand the possibility of monetisation, which comes with owning an IP. 

“This is quite unlike investing in sponsorships, which are time-bound and tactical. Owning an IP can provide long-term benefits for an automobile brand that go beyond advertising and promotional benefits,” she said. 

Create sonic identity first

Rajeev Raja

For Rajeev Raja, Founder and Soundsmith, BrandMusiq (sonic branding company), “It is not enough for brands to use music as a content strategy, but they should create a sonic identity first and then integrate their music content strategy as part of it. This can give them a far greater impact than a random music content strategy alone.”

Therefore, it's important for brands to hire a proven and established sonic branding company to create their sonic identity which reflects their brand persona and values. “BrandMusiq has successfully created sonic identities for MG Motors and Toyota. Both brands are deriving significant benefits from this,” shared Raja. 

Growth of audio-only music content IPs among automobile brands

Not just video music content IPs but auto brands have also upped their ante on audio-led music content IPs as well. 

Stating the insight that has led to the rise of brands opting for audio-only content associations for the same, a JioSaavn spokesperson said, “As per industry reports, 79% of audio consumption takes place during activities where visual media cannot reach them. Amidst these activities like studying, working, working out, cooking - driving and travelling are key audio consumption occasions. This means listeners uncontestably view audio and driving/travelling as inextricably linked, which makes it the right moment for automobile brands to tap into.”

The spokesperson further said, “On JioSaavn, several auto brands, like Ford, Maruti, BMW, MG Motor and others have successfully leveraged the platform to reach their audiences of interest.”

The advantages of associating with music OTT apps are:

1. Take it to the right audiences

People come on an audio app to stream music. You present your content to them when they are open to listening. 

2. Over index on reaching certain types of listeners

Based on streaming insights, certain cohorts consume more or less certain kinds of music and genres. Music apps allow you to specifically reach out to audience cohorts based on what they consume. 

3. As an OEM partner

Being present across all platforms including Android Auto, music OTT apps can reach your audience in their most involved, audio-first moments when they are driving or travelling.

While brands have started experimenting with audio-only properties, in Varghese’s opinion, audio-visual properties have a stronger impact and are more popular in India. 

“Considering the smartphone penetration and digital growth in the country, I do think that audio-visual properties will have a greater impact and be more successful in reaching a wider audience compared to audio-only properties,” commented Varghese.

Although, she added, it is possible for an audio-only property to perform well if it is executed efficiently and resonates with the target audience. In fact, there are successful examples of audio-only properties in India that have been created by automobile brands.” 

It’s not audio vs video; deploy hybrid models

When it comes to automobile brands, it’s also imperative to show the product to create better association and brand love. Therefore, one must follow a hybrid model, which is audio–visual.

Sharing an example, Varghese said, “As part of our recent Skoda Deccan Beats Season 1, the tracks that we released on Spotify have been well received by audiences though they have corresponding video tracks.” 

Give the playlist a listen here:

Soon, Skoda will also be releasing Deccan Beats – Garage Series on Spotify, which is a series celebrating Carnatic music by providing a platform for established and upcoming singers to collaborate and perform together. It will see artists like Zubain Nautiyal (Kannada), Neeti Mohan (Tamil), Amit Trivedi (Telugu), and Kanika Kapoor (Malayalam) perform with talented up-and-comers. 

“It is a fantastic opportunity for aspiring singers to showcase their talents alongside A-listers in the industry, and for audiences to be part of an exciting cultural experience. This goes to show that, while audio-visual properties may have a more significant impact, audio-only properties also have the potential to captivate listeners and make a mark,” said Varghese. 

Nayyar seconded and said in the case of branded content, it is all about the music lovers' journey of content consumption. Audio and video both contribute to the audience's journey. “If I take the example of ‘Hyundai Spotlight’, the journey of the platform has been amazing, with almost 200k subscribers that also go on audio streaming platforms for repeat listening experience.”

branded content Hyundai MG Motor Nexa Universal Music JioSaavn Skoda OMG music music-led content IP music content IP Shailja Varghese BrandMusiq Rajeev Raja Preeti S Nayyar Maruti