STREAMOFCONTEXT

As marketers, we throw the word context around a lot — like, a lot. Count the times we say it on this page if you’ve got some free time. That’s because we know getting context right — landing the right message, in the right setting, at the right time — is the holy grail for brands. So we set out to find out how brands can use context to truly be heard in the moment.

Let’s start by experiencing some of the contextual shifts people face within their day. Take a listen to Alex, who’s having a pretty nice Saturday.

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Pop on your headphones and take a listen
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Audio flexes to the moment - Image

Audio flexes to the moment

Multi-device users stream Spotify for 2.5 hours per day,1, which means we’re constantly learning about how people listen in real-time through our streaming intelligence — first-party, contextual data that reveals moods, mindsets, habits, and tastes in the moment.

On the other end of the headphones, the flexibility of streaming audio allows people to match the vibe of, or even shape, key moments throughout their day with a personalised soundtrack. In fact, 66% of UK Spotify listeners use audio differently depending on where they are, what they’re doing, and who they’re with.2

To be heard, respect listeners’ context

With more devices, more content, and more ads than ever before, brands need to find a way to cut through the noise to get their message heard. One way to get through to your audience: deliver messages that are relevant to the context they're listening in.

Megaphone

We asked users why and how they listen in order to more fully understand their streaming context. Listen up to learn how your brand can be heard in the moment that makes the most impact.

Chill

Workout

Cooking

Party

How to Connect

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Why are people listening?

Streaming serves a purpose beyond keeping a beat

In place of a personal trainer who follows you around everywhere you go, music has become one of the best motivators to get people to move. In fact, in our research we found that motivation is the number one reason people stream whilst doing exercise.3 The beat gets people to go that extra mile or struggle through the extra rep.

A fitness brand can offer some supportive messaging in this moment. But, motivation isn’t the only reason people listen to music during a gym session. They use music to escape too. In our study, British users also listed “to relax” and “to inspire me” among their top three reasons to tune in while exercising.4

A well-timed message can be a welcome distraction in this case. Audio piques the imagination and transports the mind just enough to shift the focus away from the “work” part of a workout.

Ella, 20, London, UK

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Lives in university housing
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Uses music to ease anxiety in social situations
Ella listens to a specific type of music at the gym that she wouldn’t in other contexts.

Where do brands fit in?

Think beyond fitness, be empowering

There’s a special part brands can play in the relationship between working out and audio streaming, and it’s not just for athleisure or sports drink brands. Gym rats, runners, and yogis alike want to be taken on a journey that transports them to another place, space, or time. Travel, tech, beauty, and retail all have as much a place in the workout moment as fitness brands.

It comes back to context and the desire for motivation, relaxation, and inspiration during this moment. After all, most people who work out are only doing so for a fraction of their day. They also travel, eat, and have to stop at the store on their way home from the gym to stock up on toilet paper. By delivering on a key need state, any type of brand can be relevant within the workout context.

One common thread for these need states is that the listeners are focused on themselves and some form of self-improvement while they’re working out. This is a great time to land an empowering message that creates a positive brand association.

Yoga Girl

How should brands connect?

Hey Google, remember that ad?

Brands who use the power of audio to tell a story have an advantage here. Wearable devices over-index in this moment by 500%, so think screenless and don’t ask your audience to interrupt the flow of their workout by clicking on a link.5 Include a call to action that can be easily remembered and repeated to their voice-activated device, or looked up online later.

Think about what they’ll be doing after the workout, or how the workout will benefit them at a later time.

Learn how one brand got runners thinking about happy hour after the race, and used contextual details to create value during the run itself.

The Campaign

Michelob Ultra Marathon

THE CONTEXT
Michelob Ultra took contextual messaging the extra mile. We built a custom experience that took into account recent listening history, the length and intensity of their run, and even the weather.

THE PAYOFF
Runners were rewarded with a personalised running playlist based on interest and context to keep them motivated. Once they finished, listeners were invited to log their run on the site and receive rewards that ranged from a spot in the 2019 Oxford Half Marathon to Michelob swag to, of course, free beer. After successful launches in the U.K. and Mexico, the brand plans to extent the program to additional international markets through end of 2020.



Interested in creating something similar for your brand? Get in touch.

Michelob Ultra
Cooking
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Why are people listening?

Audio as sous chef

Whether you’re a seasoned chef or more of a cereal-for-dinner type, everyone’s gotta eat. But preparing a meal for yourself, your family, or friends is more than just a practical ritual. For many people, cooking is a way to wind down at the end of a long week — in fact, listening while prepping food actually peaks on Fridays.6 Our research also shows that 65% of UK listeners stream solo while they cook.7 For these folks, audio isn’t just background noise — it’s a genuine culinary companion, there to enhance the moment.

Cooking is also an opportunity to learn and try new things, and this tendency extends to streaming behaviour too. Whether it’s a new album, artist, or podcast, listeners are open to hearing new content while they slice and dice: 57% say their number one motivation for streaming a specific piece of content during the cooking moment is having received a recommendation.8

Saif, 24, London, UK

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You can find him skateboarding
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Listens to Tame Impala during the day, Travis Scott at night
Saif doesn’t think he’s a great cook. He puts on music to make the task more enjoyable.

Where do brands fit in?

Be a helpful companion

Because streamers are so open to discovery in these moments, it’s a welcome opportunity for brands to connect.

Remember, audio is a companion in this moment. Position your brand well by making your content helpful and relevant. We heard from listeners that they find it particularly valuable when they receive information they can put into practice immediately — like a suggestion on how to make your meal more instagrammable.

And don’t fall prey to outdated stereotypes: turns out UK men are slightly more likely to stream audio while cooking than women.9

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How should brands connect?

Serve up content that piques interest

When you’re thinking about where to reach your audience while cooking, remember these moments are often hands-free. It may come as no surprise that people are slightly more open to audio ads than video in this moment — they’re busy preparing a meal after all.10 Similarly, it makes sense that they’d be more likely to use connected devices like smart speakers and TVs, so consider including those in your outreach.11

Brands should also consider appealing to the heightened sense of curiosity streamers experience while working in the kitchen. Podcasts are a natural companion in that space, and offer a great opportunity for brands to connect through content that listeners seek out based on their interests.

Or take a cue from Kingsford and try piquing listeners’ curiosity by exposing them to something new. Learn more below.

The Campaign

Kingsford

THE CONTEXT
When Kingsford wanted to increase purchase consideration for Match Light Charcoal, they knew they could find their core audience — male millennials interested in casual grilling — on Spotify. What goes together better than music and grilling, after all?

THE PAYOFF
Kingsford worked with the band Dispatch to create a summer message around grilling, and created playlists made specifically for the moment. A custom audio series drove listeners to the page where they could dive into the summer’s biggest and most beloved tunes. The campaign paid off — over half of listeners said the ads they saw and heard positively increased their interest in Kingsford Match Light, a whopping 2.1x higher than the household supplies benchmark.12



Interested in creating something similar for your brand? Get in touch.

Kingsford
Party
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Why are people listening?

Streaming music makes the party

Whether it’s a house party, BBQ, or Girls’ Night pre-game, music helps people set the mood for themselves, and for the folks they’re entertaining. In fact, 43% say that their primary motivation for listening in these moments is to entertain themselves or others.13

We know people turn to Spotify for personalised discovery, to find new music and audio content they love. But this moment goes beyond personalised discovery — it’s more about connecting with others through music. Listeners told us that when they host parties, music often sparks conversation or shared memories around a favourite song or artist.

Ireti, 28, Berlin, DE

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Listens through her connected speaker system when at home
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Prefers to listen to podcasts in the morning and audio books at night
Ireti often has friends over and when she does, music fuels their connection.

Where do brands fit in?

Be a good guest

Party hosts invite audio in as a way to lift and enhance the mood. So brands, take note. Keep your message lively and upbeat to ensure you’re being a good party guest.

Remember: these moments are about connection, too. In contrast to often solo moments like chill or cooking, people usually experience the party moment with others — 67% say they are listening with family, and 46% with friends, when partying.14 Consider messaging that inspires discussion or nostalgia. In fact, 60% of listeners are more likely to engage with an ad when it reminds them of the past.15 A funny or quirky tone is a great fit in this context.

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How should brands connect?

Keep things feeling fresh

There are many ways to connect with an audience while they’re partying, as long as you keep the mood upbeat and the crowd entertained. People stream music on multiple devices, but connected TVs are particularly popular — they over-index in this moment by 50%.16 In other words, it’s a good time for video ads: 47% of party-streamers (get it?) say they prefer this format.17

One more tip: You know how people get annoyed when the DJ accidentally plays the same song twice? They feel the same way when ads repeat. Our respondents told us this was a major party foul. Instead use sequential messaging to tell an engaging and entertaining brand story that unfolds as the night progresses. This way your advertising adds to the scene.

Check out how Malibu got contextual in the party moment for Halloween.

The Campaign

Malibu

THE CONTEXT
Malibu (or, as they cheekily rebranded for this campaign, Maliboo) created a momentum-building campaign from October 11th through the 31st prompting partiers to get ready for Halloween. They teamed up with Spotify to build an interactive microsite that let listeners select a virtual costume, before generating a personalised playlist and Halloween-themed cocktail recommendations. They deployed a 3D audio campaign featuring familiar spooky sounds to get listeners into the spirit and onto the microsite.

THE PAYOFF
Because their key audience was people in the party spirit, Malibu targeted playlist keywords like “getting ready” and “girls night out,” and genres like dance, house, electronica, and hip-hop/rap. The campaign drove major results including 200% ad recall with Spotify listeners, and 48% in purchase intent among users exposed to audio, video, and display ads.18



Interested in creating something similar for your brand? Get in touch.

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Chill
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Why are people listening?

Audio gives a moment of pause

It probably comes as no surprise that people turn to tunes to chill out. In fact, over a third of all respondents to our recent survey say the primary reason they listen to music is to relax or de-stress.19

Here at Spotify, we see that behaviour reflected in the popularity of not only meditation playlists but music meant to help us rest. Believe it or not, “sleep” is one of the five most searched-for categories of music on Spotify.20

But what’s even more interesting is that in moments where people are seeking chill, they don’t just experience audio in isolation. Instead, they listen to enhance their experience of other highly personal activities consistent with looking to disconnect, like taking a walk outside or sharing a meal with their partner after a day at work — 40% of our listeners say the top reason they tune into music in the chill moment is to set a certain mood or atmosphere.21

Jorge, 36, Mexico City, MX

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Feels less alone when he listens to music
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Watches movies then listens to the soundtrack afterwards
While Jorge is relaxing, he listens to music to set the atmosphere and the mood.

Where do brands fit in?

Respect the chill

Audio offers a unique chance to stay engaged with an audience in moments when other media is being tuned out. As wireless headphones, smart speakers, wearable tech, and connected cars become more and more ubiquitous, brands have a rare opportunity to show up in these quieter moments without disrupting the experience.

But that also means your creative has to match the tone of the moment — ads with loud effects and energetic beats can really kill the mood. Instead, take inspiration from the audio these listeners already love. For example, soothing nature sounds and ambient tracks can help you create an ad that also gives your audience some in-ear peace.

Wellness brands have an obvious place in this content genre, but anyone using these tips — with the right tone and creative — can support, and even create, a moment of chill.

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How should brands connect?

Frankie says Relax

Connected speakers are the perfect channel to reach your audience in this moment — Spotify listeners are 79% more likely to use them while relaxing, compared to other moments.22

But you don’t have to completely ditch the display when trying to reach people who are taking it easy. There’s also room for serving up video ads, like a Sponsored Session, or a Video Takeover: 41% of listeners say they are open to this format while relaxing.23

Sponsoring a podcast host read is also a great way to connect with your audience while they de-stress through audio.

Learn how one brand got creative with their ad within the right relaxing context.

The Campaign

RXBAR

THE CONTEXT
RXBARs aren’t just for health nuts. They’re great for people on the go, or as an option for those at work or at school. To drive awareness among a broader audience, RXBAR partnered with rapper Ice-T and Spotify to create a series of self-aware ads. The brand then used Spotify’s full suite of video, display, and audio ad experiences to reach people in key moments throughout their day — including work, chill, and focus.

THE PAYOFF
In the end, contextual targeting paid off: chill and focus moments accounted for 60% of engagements. Overall the brand saw a 42% lift in awareness, and a 243% lift in ad recall.24



Interested in creating something similar for your brand? Get in touch.

RXBAR

Consider Context in your Creative

Interest

Keep your messages relevant

Consider content interests that align with your brand message. Through podcast listener targeting, you can now reach comedy buffs, culture lovers, and more.

For example, if you’re looking to drive awareness of a new comedy series or want to reach people who are into sports, you can find listeners of podcasts with similar topics and target them with a relevant message.

Moment

Get the beat of your ad right

Playlist keywords give us clues to the listeners’ context within the moment they’re listening: their setting, their current genre preference, and even their preferred BPM. So much so, that campaigns that include playlist targeting drive 2.1x higher intent than campaigns that don’t.25

Know what your audience is listening to and match your creative to the vibe. There are over 3 billion playlists on Spotify — both Spotify-curated and personal. Whether it’s workout (Beast Mode, Workout Twerkout), cooking (Kitchen Swagger, Eats & Beats), chill (Lo-Fi Beats, Peaceful Piano), or party (Dance Party, Girls’ Night), there’s endless opportunity to get creative with how you reach your audience in context.

Format

Use context to find the right canvas

Spotify’s streaming intelligence can identify when the screen is in view, or when audio is the star of the show. Audio and video advertising both have their moments of context — find the right way to deliver your message.

A video with a direct call to action is a great fit for when the screen is in view. For on-the-go moments, use the power of audio to tell a story and create a memorable impression for the listener.

Be heard in the moment

Get in touch.

In 2019, Spotify partnered with research company Crowd DNA to survey 4,800 music listeners and interview 16 participants 18-44 across Australia (survey only), Brazil (survey only), Germany, Mexico, UK, and US Participants were asked a series of questions to better understand the moments during which they engaged with audio. We began our consumer fieldwork with a remote stage designed to capture details about the context of audio moments over a period of three days. During each day, we asked participants to reflect on the day’s listening, as well as share a series of images representing their moods during each listening occasion with us for analysis. We were then able to map audio listening across a series of moments — charting listeners' moods, motivations for listening, what they were listening to, where they were, and more — giving us a complete contextual picture of their listening. In addition to gathering the listening diaries, Spotify led a series of ethnographic immersion sessions, during which we followed three participants in each market, allowing us to observe, explore, and analysed each listening moment in detail. Understanding the context of the current moment is of utmost importance to reaching consumers in the most receptive and open state. Thanks to this research and our streaming intelligence, Spotify not only understands the power of context, but is uniquely placed to take advantage of it.

1 Spotify First Party Data, global, based on daily content hours / daily active users, free users multiplatform, May 2019
2 Culture Next Report, Spotify trend survey among 500 US Spotify Users 15-37, February 2019
3, 8, 13, 17, 19, 21 Crowd DNA & Spotify, Seize The Moments survey among 4,800 Spotify users 18-44 in AU, BR, DE, MX, UK, US, April 2019
4, 7, 10, 14, 23 Crowd DNA & Spotify, Seize The Moments survey among 800 US Spotify users 18-44, April 2019
5, 6, 9, 11, 20, 22 Spotify First Party Data, global, 2019
12 LeanLab, US, 2017
15 Spotify & Audience Theory survey among 2078 Spotify users 18-44 in BR, PH, UK, US, March 2018
16 Spotify First Party Data, Free Users, July 2019
18 Nielsen Brand Effect, UK, October 2018
24 Nielsen Brand Effect, U.S., August - December 2018
25 Nielsen Brand Effect, global, Sep 2017-Dec 2018