Google has just acquired the music search engine Songza. But this move is about so much more than just music. It is about data and offers a tantalising glimpse of Google’s vision for the future.
Songza is a music-streaming service curated by 50 “music experts”, crafted not only to match people up with the music genres and artists they enjoy, but to complement their moods and activities. Google has said that it is looking to incorporate Songza features into its Google Play and YouTube platforms, while leaving the original Songza service intact for existing subscribers.
So, while this acquisition might not mean much to us in the UK and Europe - nearly 98 per cent of the 40 million visits to the Songza website in the past six months have come from the US and Canada, according to Similar Web - the immediate benefits for Google are clear. But this is only a fraction of the opportunity Google will have seen in Songza.
Things just got emotional
Google has very effectively shown that insight into people’s digital activity and real world behaviour, interests and intentions can be translated into marketing success. It can help brands better understand and respond to the needs of their potential and existing customers. So, it’s easy to imagine the possibilities of deepening these relationships by adding a layer of emotional intelligence from Songza to the targeting brands already do - allowing them to tailor their communications based on how their audience is feeling at any given time.
It seems unlikely that Google will want to go so far as to manipulate the mood of users, as Facebook data scientists were recently accused of doing in a 2013 study. But the value to brands of being able to identify very specific moments that can be used to build stronger relationships with their customers cannot be denied.
How might a dating service company target someone listening to a “messy break-up” playlist? It is useful for a sports equipment brand to know when someone is at the gym – but how might they speak to people who are feeling “motivated” rather than “lazy”? Or “apathetic”? Or “determined”? This kind of intelligence gives brands the ability truly to understand the motivations and desires of their audience and to use the right message for the right moment.
The power of real-world behavioural data
Now, it’s no secret that data capture is a core part of Google’s acquisition and development strategy. This was made clear in January with the purchase of Nest Labs, a so-called “home automation company” bought for a reported $3.2 billion. Its products include a Wi-Fi enabled, self-learning thermostat. This presents Google with an opportunity to gather yet more data about people’s behaviour in the real world.
But household temperature is just the beginning for Google and Nest: no doubt they will look to grow by applying the Nest philosophy to other products, putting control of an entire home into our palms by way of our smartphones.
How brands can use this kind of real-world, behavioural data and the emotional intelligence collected from Songza for advertising will certainly be at the front of Google’s mind.
These acquisitions, as well as demonstrating Google’s appetite for data and advertising, also shine a light on the changing role of data analysts in today’s world. More and more, analysts need to be the glue that holds a brand’s communications together. It is about working with marketers from different disciplines (creative, planning and strategy) to understand the overwhelming amount of audience data and to tailor the messages accordingly. And it’s about working with the ad buyers to ensure that the message fits the media channel.
What’s more, given the potential for programmatic, automated advertising, it is clear that we are edging ever closer to a world where brands can produce highly-relevant, personalised marketing messages, but on a vast scale. And the opportunities here are infinite.