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Case study: the Guardian's Six Songs of Me campaign

In this case study, glue Isobar planning director Nimi Raja explains the strategy behind the Guardian's 'Six Songs of Me' campaign, created and developed by glue Isobar.

Earlier this year, the Guardian launched its new brand campaign – The Whole Picture – with an aim to redefine itself as a global digital-first news organisation inspired by a philosophy of ‘open journalism’.This philosophy is driven by the belief that news today is not just led or told by journalists; it should be participative and dynamic, open to discussion and dispute, and it has to recognise that publishing can be the start of the journalistic process rather than the end. A philosophy that means readers of the Guardian will have a more rounded view of news as it evolves;the whole picture.In an age where the newspaper industry is in decline, where print revenues are falling and where its future is in question like never before – the philosophy means the Guardian is able to prove itself to be a pioneering organisation, one that will shape and define the way news should be covered in the 21st century.Clearly a growing and more engaged audience base is a more commercially viable one, so glue Isobar's task was to get more people spending more time with the Guardian through a lens of ‘the whole picture’.But what does all that mean in practice for existing readers of the Guardian? And how could the agency motivate new people to come and spend time with the paper? The approach needed to demonstrate where the Guardian could actually add value. So, the approach started with people, what they were already interested in and defining where the campaign could play a role. It started by looking at three things:
  • The target audience and their interests (by size)
  • What the Guardian currently covers in its vertical
  • The cultural calendar for the year
Based on those three parameters, music was the most pertinent interest.The Guardian is already seen as an authority in this area with thousands of articles, videos and a passionate fan base. The idea had to leverage existing content and mobilise existing users in a way that would engage new readers.Finding the ideaMany of the online music fans initially said they were usually motivated by the discovery of the ‘new’. But this brief was for a universal audience, and as such, it couldn’t only be about niche bands or cutting edge, hipster tunes.So the focus shifted to looking at the role music plays in all of our lives. The creative thinking behind the campaign covered two key questions. Firstly, why can a song bring back a memory within the first two seconds of listening to it? And secondly, why do we all - regardless of age - have such an emotional response to music?As part of the research for the project, glue Isobar spoke to Professor Eric Clark of Oxford University, whose research and teaching covers a number of areas within the psychology of music.He talked about the autobiographical role music plays in our lives and the importance of context. Context – when and where we listen, who we listen with – turns something universal into something personal.As Terry McBride, co-founder and CEO Nettwerk Music Group and YYoga says, “Songs are an emotion. A blend of imagination, content and context. Creating bookmarks in our lives.”The next question was how could the campaign galvanise people around this emotive subject? How could it get people talking about the music that matters and use that conversation as a springboard into the the Guardian’s music content?The Solution: the Six Songs of Me projectThe solution was to launch a social music project that invites people to answer six questions that will reveal six songs that have shaped their lives – Six Songs of Me. It's a vehicle to invite people to spend time with the Guardian and its content in a relevant and engaging way, with the aim of starting an ongoing relationship.Professor Clark launched the project at the beginning of August with an article and his six songs. The campaign has also had celebrity influencers sharing their Six Songs on a weekly basis. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/series/six-songs-of-me)In the first week, Six Songs of Me had over 20,000 playlists created and 60,000 unique visitors to the site itself. Dwell time exceeded industry standard at an average of 4:41 minutes (According to comScore for June 2012, the average time spent per visit for the top 2000 sites in the UK was 3.3 minutes = 3 mins 20 seconds).Supported with advertising developed by BBH, the experience allows users to create a personal playlist featuring the six most significant songs from their life so far through an HTML web app, conceived and designed by glue Isobar and built in-house by the Guardian. It gives individuals the chance to find out more about the music they love, and discover which tracks mean most on a national and global level. Hosted on www.guardian.co.uk/sixsongs, the app is accessible via web, mobile and tablet.The six songs come as a response to six questions, relevant for everyone, young or old, from London or Lagos. The autobiographical questions tap into key points in all of our lives, conjuring songs linked to memories of certain people and places, which people feel compelled to share.The campaign also needed to look at ways of integrating social functionality and Guardian content. So when people need inspiration, the campaign provides relevant Guardian articles to jog their memory. When people want to share, they are able to tag friends who are part of that song and that memory.Ultimately, this will help the Guardian give the whole picture on the music that matters most – which works on a number of levels:
  • The answers to the Six Songs reveal quite a bit about that person, be they a friend or celebrity.
  • Secondly, in their aim to be ‘at the forefront of music coverage, the Guardian's Music editorial team will also be using the findings to help shape their ongoing coverage of music to ensure it is as diverse and eclectic as its readers.
  • The whole aim is to understand the role music plays in our lives and why the music that means so much to us does. So, glue Isobar will be analysing all the data with Professor Clark to pull out trends, similarities and stories from people who engage.

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