Which essential marketing tool are you missing out on?

Too many companies are missing out on a key marketing device that engages customers, provokes an emotional response, creates buzz and drives conversions.

Taking into account industry data from the Content Marketing Institute, 93% of companies invest in social media content (other than blogs), 74% of companies allocate budget to video creation, 69% invest in in-person events, 42% produce mobile apps, but when it comes to music, it's noticeably absent as a tactic. As Mitch Paone of Adage.com points out, “music seems to be treated as an afterthought” in marketing.

Most marketing managers now consider content to be a major component of their annual budgets. Global content market revenue is growing and is forecast to be a $300 billion industry by 2019, according to Marketing Mag. With all this in mind, there's an opportunity to differentiate from the next marketer by incorporating music as a part of your content mix.

Why hasn't music been a bigger part of the content strategy?

Music's impact on our lives is widespread, whether we’re talking psychological and physical benefits, the effect on in-store purchasing behaviour, or its motivational power in the gym. When it comes to the business of engaging customers, most marketers don't consider music as an option beyond licensing a song for background music, which is often cost prohibitive.

Unfortunately, incorporating popular music into your strategy isn't as simple as writing a blog post or filtering a photo for instagram. There are myriad factors to consider -- from legal use, to delivery method, to choosing a genre that matches your company image. We can’t all be IP lawyers, sound engineers, or musicologists.

In fact, there’s a rich history of people facing serious issues in their attempt to use music, without doing the due diligence ahead of time. There have been plenty of legal and not-so-legal music sharing download sites following in its wake. Soundcloud - a very popular music sharing service -- was faced with litigation from Performing Rights Society (PRS) for Music in 2015 for not providing PRS members royalties.

US toy company Goldieblox also found itself in hot water in 2014, after creating a viral video based on a Beastie Boys song. Despite having good intentions, and recreating the music with a positive spin, Goldieblox did not have a license to use the musical composition and therefore infringed copyright laws. The company settled on an agreement with the band, paying 1% of the videos revenue (until that revenue reached $1 million) to a charitable organization.

Although this may not fill you with confidence, and certainly underlines the fact that you have to tread very carefully, there are also a number of companies using music in their marketing extremely well indeed.

The precedent for the (successful) use of music in marketing

Urban Outfitters aims to give their customers new, inventive ways to interact with the company -- and they've done a great job of incorporating music into that mix. The company’s proprietary shopping and lifestyle app allows consumers to listen to curated playlists while out shopping or on-the-go. The integration keeps the brand top of mind and, through push notifications, the company uses music to engage customers at strategic times, as well as generate social buzz.

What’s more, the brand also has its own SoundCloud channel, with approximately 5,600 followers. The social media impact of having thousands of fans sharing and associating their favorite tracks with the brand is invaluable.

Then we find Converse. The shoe and clothing company has come at music from an entirely different angle, diversifying its business in September 2011 to includeConverse Rubber tracks. Converse offers up and coming bands all over the globe the chance to record in a professional studio for free. What started as a single recording space in Brooklyn has now expanded to 12 iconic studios across the globe.

This is content marketing taken to the extreme - through tying music with their brand, and giving so many artists an unmissable moment they generated media coverage, buzz, and immeasurable goodwill.

Of course these examples focus on enterprises with lots of resources at their fingertips. Small to mid-sized businesses can, however, also start to use and test music as a regularly, as part of their content marketing drives.

Using music effectively and legally

So how should you go about adding music to your content marketing mix? First and foremost, you must develop a point of view. Working with your brand team, define the genres and artists that help personify what your company cares about. Music should be as important as Voice and Design guidelines when you think about your brand. You must also understand what your customers listen to. Behavioral analysis, surveys, face to face interviews and posting playlists can help ascertain what your client base enjoys listening to and truly understand your customer likes and dislikes.

Secondly, keep it legal. Ensure that you are using validated music sources or suppliers - so that you don’t find your company in hot water. Instead, consider working with a technology provider with licensing expertise (like Feed.fm) that fully indemnifies you of any potential liability.

Lastly, it's all about experimentation - look at other brands and innovate. Start out small and set up your own Soundcloud account. Then perhaps you can follow companies like Urban Outfitters in their use of mobile music, incorporate a (legal) music podcast in your blog, and why not investigate platforms to help you add streaming to your mobile app?

Music, if used properly, has the potential to generate conversation, conversions and customer loyalty. And, it's easier than ever to dive in and get the party started.