Streaming Music is the Message for Marketers

Volkswagen, Heineken and American Express are a few of the major marketers using streaming music and music promotions on their sites to enhance their brands.

Volkswagen formed a separate music site,, which has racked up about 190,000 visits since its launch in May and an average listening time of 19 minutes per user.

RadioVW primarily features songs from VW commercials on two separate channels that are on three-hour loops. The songs also include those that almost made the cut for VW commercials as well as other songs that are “cool to drive to or listen to and are in line with the VW brand,” said Tesa Argones, e-business leader at VW, Auburn Hills, MI.

American Express is targeting music lovers in cross promotions of its Blue credit card with Virgin Megastores, and at its site, and Heineken USA have teamed to sponsor a live concert tour. The 48-city tour, featuring primarily alternative rock artists, runs from June 16 through Aug. 18.

In March the two companies launched a joint site,, which offers several interactive options. Music fans can listen to streaming music on the site, sign up for a Heineken Music Messenger, check the Heineken Song of the Week and e-mail Heineken greeting cards to friends.

Thousands of visitors have opted in to MP3's e-mail list to receive updates on the tour, said Steve Sheiner, executive vice president of sales and marketing at

“One of the best ways for any brand to interact with their customers and build dialogue is music. Music is personal,” Sheiner said.

Kahlua is promoting its summer tour of popular disc jockeys in several cities and is selling the disc jockeys' dance CD on A corresponding E! and Kahlua sweepstakes offers four entrants a trip to Ibaza, Spain.

Several other marketers also are using music to build customer relationships online.

“It's another brand mechanism that evokes emotion and gets into the user's mind. It's getting to another sensory method for customers to experience your brand,” said Michele Pelino, director of the Internet marketing strategies team at Yankee Group, Boston.

The increased use of streaming audio as well as streaming video by major brands is “where online advertising needs to go,” Pelino said.

“What it shows is that companies that are using different types of content, [instead of] static text or content, are trying to establish a brand online,” she said. Traditionally, brands simply supplanted their traditional direct marketing campaigns with online marketing efforts; now, more companies are developing a separate online brand identity.

With RadioVW, Volkswagen is targeting a certain psychographic rather than a demographic.

“We've identified a group of people who seem to gravitate toward our type of product,” said Steve Keyes, director of corporate communications at VW. “They're not so much young, but young at heart. You could have an 18-year-old or 80-year-old VW driver [and] psychographically, they are very similar.”

VW drivers have requested information on songs featured in the commercials, which spurred the formation of “People attracted to the brand also have an affinity to music in a number of different genres,” Keyes said.

Argones added, “We have an opportunity to make more of an emotional connection to consumers when they are on the site.”

In addition, RadioVW's partnership with CDNow is providing a profitable e-commerce element to the site. About 10 percent of site visitors have clicked to purchase CDs that feature songs played on the site. “We wanted to make it easy for consumers so that they could find [a song] and get it within a few clicks,” Argones said.

Visitors also can purchase a compilation CD of songs from VW commercials at or from a catalog on VW's primary site,

Ads in Spin, Wired, Fast Company and Entertainment Weekly resulted in a 22 percent increase in visits to in June.

VW is tracking how many RadioVW listeners have opted in for VW and RadioVW e-mail lists but has not released numbers yet.

American Express' Blue for Music Radio site streams music from five mainstream and up-and-coming artists a month, and the site offers music videos and interviews with artists. Cardholders also can receive a 30 percent discount on certain CDs at Virgin Megastores, a free CD when they buy tickets for American Express' Summer Concerts in Blue from and 10 free MP3 files.

American Express touts the Blue card as offering more flexibility and independence by allowing users to pay for purchases in full or over time. It also includes a Smart Chip, giving users extra security online.

The tech-savvy customer interested in this type of card would also be interested in listening to music online, according to American Express. “The people who we attract to Blue are young-minded, forward-thinking and interested in technology,” said Kathy Marryat, vice president of Blue marketing at American Express.

In addition, since music is important to Blue cardholders, they match Virgin's “loyal customer base,” Marryat said.

American Express' BlueLoot online rewards program offers cardholders a BlueLoot point for every dollar charged on the Blue card. Points can be redeemed for national brand-name products, including gift certificates, travel gear and electronics.

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