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Senior Reporter at The Drum

Spotify head of marketing on why it needs to stay agile, creative and genuine in India

Spotify believes that the future of audio is limitless.

Almost a year since its launch in India, Spotify believes its report card so far represents both success and learning as it prepared well from a product, content, and brand perspective.

Neha Ahuja, head of marketing for India at Spotify says this shows in the feedback the platform has heard for its user experience, playlists, and the quirky marketing campaigns it created to ensure relatability to its users.

“Great validation of this is the fact that we won the Users Choice App award for 2019, on India’s Google Play Store. Specifically, on marketing, we’ve been focused on localising Spotify’s storytelling to ensure we align with the country’s cultural nuances and moments,” she explains to The Drum.

“Whether it’s the festive season, IPL or moments such as weddings, traffic jams, and workouts, we’ve done many things differently in India - from hyper-localising our outdoor campaigns, to leveraging data to tell the high moments that made up 2019 here.”

She adds: “We are in India for the long term and want to continue learning so we can grow the market and appetite for audio streaming.”

Without naming the likes of popular local players like JioSaavn and Gaana, Ahuja says Spotify’s launch in India was backed by a symphony of deep market insights, innovation, and intent, coming together to provide a platform that truly elevates the audio streaming experience for Indian users.

She claims Spotify today is among the top few music streaming apps in the market in terms of consumption, pointing to how Spotify has outperformed its growth forecast for India by 30% as reflected recently in the Q3 results (ending Sep 30, 2019).

“Spotify puts the user at the center of its experience, and as we strengthen that, we are certain about being even more loved here,” she adds.

As a marketer in the second-most populous country in the world, Ahuja says her challenge is to remember India’s vast audience base demands brands to be agile, creative and genuine in their outreach, in order to appeal to the varied cultural nuances.

That is why Spotify considers India more of a continent than a country.

The other challenge, she continues, is that because India has a cluttered environment, and it is always critical to stand out and be noticed and liked. That means overcoming this challenge is really about creating awareness, bringing a user to the platform, and building stickiness based on the experience that the brand provides.

For example, she says consumers will be asking themselves if brands offer what they want intuitively.

“Is it a cool enough brand for you to recommend? Is it innovating and thinking about what you want, as a user? We are always evaluating these kinds of questions to remain relevant for users, and ahead of the industry,” she explains.

Spotify’s approach to dealing with these challenges is to design its media mix according to the business task at hand. It is often a strategic mix of owned, earned, and paid media to reach its Indian audiences through campaigns that tap into the local, social, cultural nuances. The platform has also engaged with artists and influencers to engage its user base and drive users to the app.

For its launch campaign, called There’s a Playlist for That, it employed a mix of out-of-home and digital where the outdoor ads used quirky and witty one-liners specific to the local area, while the digital ad films spoke to the newer, tech-savvy generations that love shareability.

Meanwhile, for its first national TV led marketing campaign, Sunte Ja, was focused on reaching its target audiences through dominant genres of GEC, Movies, and English Cluster, as well as regional channels.

The campaign was also supported by digital and OOH activations including cities such as Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore and Guwahati. Most recently, it brought alive the globally anticipated Spotify Wrapped marketing campaign to India with a local twist, ‘Well Played, India’ that encapsulates a few of the most popular streaming trends India created on Spotify in 2019.

“Our mix for campaign design and deployment is based on the two dimensions of effective execution and feedback,” explains Ahuja.

“While the former enables to maximize our outreach to relevant audiences, and build resonance, the real success is determined when users act as advocates of the campaign by engaging with and sharing our content.”

She continues: “All our partners are integral to our success and an extension to what Spotify is as a brand. India as a market is in a league of its own and we’ve worked towards creating a strong network of partners that are great to collaborate with, driven through innovation, creativity, and agility in servicing an ever-evolving industry and diverse consumer market.”

In 2020 and for the next decade at least, Ahuja says Spotify believes that the future of audio is limitless. Going forward, the platform’s focus is to progressively build its platform through its ‘audio first’ approach, based on purposeful innovation inspired by its users.

“As we progress in our journey here, we believe success will be driven through our three pioneering pillars of experiences being - personalization, discoverability, and depth in localization,” she explains.

Spotify was recently named one of the 'most innovative' brands for using Twitter in APAC for its campaigns in Thailand and Indonesia.

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