Insights to Help Shape Your Brand’s 2021 Digital Audio Strategy

The ‘new normal’ has changed the way in which Gen Zs and Millennials interact with, consume and share information - and this relationship looks set for continued development as their engagement within communities, causes and content deepens.

The same can not be said about the marketing designed to capture the attention of these audiences. Today’s consumer dollars are increasingly drawn from young (or, in the case of millenials, young-ish) spenders who are curious, hyper-aware - and natural-born sceptics.

Gen Zs (73%) and Millennials (63%) stream music every day.1

Despite cumulative shifts in goalposts and expectations, old habits die hard. Music is still an important escape route for young listeners, and digital audio is the perfect way to deliver a message when ads are blocked and screens are locked.

Around The World In 80 Tracks (Band of Others)

Yung Raja, Rapper, Singapore

“Music is a tool I use to share my culture and story to the world.”

Yung Raja, Rapper, Singapore

Few genres demonstrate the globalisation of music better than K-Pop. Don’t believe us? Peep K-Pop's streaming stats: 500m2 monthly streams in SEA alone, 1,800%3 increase in share of listening on Spotify since 2014. Korea’s very own BTS are the undisputed kings of the genre, holding (at time of publishing) our record for highest highest number of first-day streams globally on Spotify in 20204. As Ariana Grande would say, ‘thank you, next’.

This fluid, borderless approach to creativity and storytelling is reflected in the attitudinal statements of our SEA listeners, over half of whom think 'local' has become more about what surrounds them digitally. Physical border restrictions may have tightened in 2020, but digital communities continue to stand firm and embrace change.

What does this mean for brands?

Keep reading to gain more insights and see how brands can engage with their audience through more meaningful and impactful content.

• Love local

Local brands can leverage listeners' love of homegrown artists and the blossoming local music scene to amplify their brand promise. For instance, brands in PH can sponsor playlists like Tatak Pinoy or OPM Favourites to better align themselves with local communities.

• Get down with the kids

The younger generation, particularly Gen Zs, unabashedly adore pop music, which opens up doors for brands looking to attract a younger breed of consumer. For instance, a FinServe brand could build an audio strategy around the genre, fuelled by data and streaming intelligence. By aligning with the music taste of Gen Zs and Millennials, these brands could begin to shed their "establishment" image.

• Leverage the genre

Rather than just targeting age and gender, brands can explore passion points. For instance, leverage the global phenomenon of K-Pop as a theme for campaigns targeted at teens. Another example, a QSR brand could ride the K-wave to drive its promotions with Korean-inspired flavors, backed by K-pop themed ads.

• Come together

Gen Zs have their collective finger on the pulse of music. Brands can tap this insight by providing the platform for a shared listening experience - through collaborative playlists, activations and more.

• Your playlist is a postcard

Holiday plans might be postponed, but you don’t need a postcard to share a message with your customers. Reach your audience with a digital experience housed in an acrostic playlist, and let their imaginations do the rest.

Jasmine Sokko, Singer-songwriter, Singapore

“Some days I’m just amazed by how well my personal algorithm knows my taste, and continues feeding me with new content that I absolutely love. On other days, I wonder if I’m plateauing with my taste and my personal growth..”

Jasmine Sokko, Singer-songwriter, Singapore

Being plugged into the Matrix at all times has its disadvantages. Infinite scrolls and never-ending push notifications can make tracking screen time difficult, and cause the lines between original and found content to blur.

The sights and sounds associated with young people’s digital footprints can have a profound effect on their perception of the world IRL. 59% say they are drawn to people, places and things in the real world that resemble the aesthetics of their social media1 and, thanks to co-signs from international artists like Billie Eilish, niche categories like ASMR are starting to influence the way in which musicians and brands use sound to tell their stories.

What does this mean for brands?

Here are 4 ways on how you can get ‘real’ with your audience, and keep them hooked on a journey of unique and memorable experiences.

• Real recognise real

Without visuals to distract, inauthenticity stands out in audio. Whatever your message, be transparent with your ask, and reward your audience for their participation and contribution.

• Dynamic digital shopping experience

Dish up a dynamic shopping experience for your consumers, and use real-time triggers to keep things extra relevant. If apparel is your game, match the mood by sharing outfits according to the time of day and even the weather.

• Let’s get quizzical

Tap our audience intelligence to fuel your creativity, and tailor your messaging to specific audience segments. The more user journeys you create, the better chance you have of striking streaming gold.

• Paint a picture with your playlists

Brands looking to engage consumers could gamify their audio experience by creating soundscapes in 3D Audio to fire up imaginations and invite their listeners to guess the place/destination/scenario.

AlexTBH, Singer-songwriter, Malaysia

“Today’s generation is driven on making societal and political changes to address many inequality issues, whether it affects them or not. Societies are more conscious than ever.”

AlexTBH, Singer-songwriter, Malaysia

In times of crisis that create cultural shifts, younger generations go all in for businesses that take a stance. 65% like it when brands tell the world exactly where they stand and the causes they support1 - and that’s because discourse around social and political problems has truly found its way into everyday conversation.

41% of Southeast Asia’s Gen Zs and Millennials agree that politics has never been as influential in pop culture as it is today1, and, if SEA’s latest crop of artists and songwriters are anything to go by, complacency around the big issues looks set to be a thing of the past.

What does this mean for brands?

To be game changers in the name of social causes and sustainability efforts. Join hands with your audience to tackle these sustainable development goals through music and impact.

• Change for the climate

Gen Z has been mobilised to act through necessity. Join them in making a stand or, better still, offer a way for their voices to be amplified. For instance, create a digital experience with their brand mission, coupled with educational content on sustainability, accompanied by curated playlists complementing these themes.

• Activate local

Brands can use audio to raise awareness. Where there's an awareness to support local artists and homegrown talent, brands can tap this sentiment to rally consumers to also support local brands and small businesses. This could be executed via a digital experience with resources on local brands, and can be done in collaboration with local artists as ambassadors.

• Allyship matters

Dove amplified their belief that beauty should be a source of confidence and not anxiety, pushing women to break beauty standards in the Philippines with the anthem "My Hair, My Say", by local artist KZ Tandingan.

In Their Feelings (All The Feels)

Gen Zs & Millennials understand that it’s ok to not be ok. The rules that govern this state of mind are complex, but music is (and has always been) an important part of the healing process - 60% of them still turn to music when feeling down or stressed1.

The only difference between then and now is the amount of musical artists actively creating content to address mental health. And, with burnout and anxiety on the rise across SEA, the region’s crop of emotionally aware artists can’t write songs sooner.

What does this mean for brands?

Touch the souls of your audience, and resonate with them in ways where they can find peace, instill happiness, and build memories in their daily lives.

• Own the sleep moment

Brands can help their consumers find their way to a restful night's sleep during stressful times with the power of a calming playlist.

• Tap into nostalgia

In times of uncertainty, listeners turn to what’s familiar… enter nostalgia! Brands can pay homage to happier days with a digital experience in the style of the childhood favourite, "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories. The journey puts the power in the hands (and ears) of the user but ultimately leads to the brand payoff, accompanied by a personalised playlist of retro hits from when they were growing up.

• Escapism, 30 seconds at a time

An audio ad doesn’t have to be ad-like. Brands can turn the ad break into a break from work/study in Focus/Study Moments. Or, they can serve up a moment of calm and meditation.

Audio Killed The Video Star (Surround Sound)

With listeners in Southeast Asia spending 2+ hours daily on Spotify4, audio is primed to take centre stage for advertisers looking to insert themselves into the narrative.

We are entering a golden age for audio, and a whole new frontier for the audio advertising medium. Old habits may die hard, but lockdown has created new rituals - and new moments in the day (and night) where advertisers have the opportunity to capture audience attention. This means less morning commutes and road trips, more interactions with gaming consoles and smart speakers (shipments of which increased 60% YoY across Asia-Pacific in Q1 20205).

What does this mean for brands?

Create new ways to keep engaging your audience by targeting key moments in their lives and being ever-present.

• Work that workout moment

Introduce audio annotations to kick things off, keep things going and bring your audience’s workout to a halt.

• Focus on productivity

Turn your 30-second ad into a middle of the day pep talk. Or, take things to the next level with a hyper-personalised ad informed by Day, Time, Location, gender, and weather for audio .

• Ready, steady, cook

Soundtrack date nights at home with a romantic playlist for two, or host a microsite with content that's useful to your target audience, whether it's about nutrition and healthy eating or recipes for easy dinners to prepare on a weekday.

• Join them there

If your consumers are immersed in music and enjoying a particular state of mind, join them in their experience. If they're listening to pop, let that genre inspire the music bed of your spot. If they are chilling out to lo-fi, respect the space. Aim to disrupt instead of interrupt and avoid a listening experience that could be jarring.

Meet the generations working to reshape culture

Want to find out more about what drives the youth of today? Dive deep into our full market reports packed with Southeast Asia specific statistics and insights here.

Contact us

Looking to put the final touches to your audio strategy? Contact us and we’ll get the band together to help you maximise your audio footprint.


1 Spotify Trends Survey among 3,000 respondents, 18-37 (SG, MY, ID, TH, TW - May 2020), 15-37 (PH - February 2019)

2 Spotify First Party Data, Global, June 2020

3 Spotify, "From BTS to BLACKPINK, the Power of K-Pop Has No Bounds," 24 February 2020

4 Canalys, "APAC smart personal audio device shipments Q1 2020," 15 July 2020

5 Channel News Asia, "The Big (Channel News Asia 2019, #)Read: With youths more open about mental health, it’s time others learn to listen," 14 October 2019

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