Yahoo Part Of Dodge Ram's Digital Country
Yahoo Music this week launched its latest concert series on its first-ever branded music channel, Ram Country on Yahoo Music. The quarterly series of four concerts backed by Chrysler Group’s Ram truck brand kicked off with an invite-only, eight-song set on Feb. 29 at the Sound Kitchen in Franklin, Tenn. The artist was Kellie Pickler, a charismatic singer/songwriter who toured as a finalist on “American Idol” and has become a marquee name in the genre.
Yahoo, which handled just about every aspect of the production and its filming for the March 14 digital launch on its Ram Country channel, has gotten a lot of miles on the odometer in recent years by putting brand-supported content on its multifarious verticals: Yahoo Music launched Nissan Live Sets in 2006 with a concert by Incubus and Christina Aguilera; the channel also hosted “Pepsi Smash”; and Yahoo News launched a “Weekend Edition” channel for Buick in 2010.
“Nissan Live Sets sort of established our reputation and gave us the experience and relationship with artists to pull this kind of program off,” says Anna Robertson, who heads Yahoo Studios. “Artists love working with us; they build up that trust, and they know we have the background and experience.”
What’s different about Ram Country is that it’s Yahoo First genre vertical “owned” by a brand. Robertson tells Marketing Daily that it serves both the automaker, which needed to reach a core truck constituency in country music fans, and Yahoo because “we realized we weren't reaching them the way we wanted to.”
Ram Country isn't a competitor with, say, Pandora or Spotify because it isn't so much a music channel as a digital version of a country music lifestyle magazine, she says. “We have lots of musical performances like Pickler, so you can watch and listen to music, but it's more a lifestyle experience, and wrapping music into that larger experience,” says Robertson.
Robertson says Yahoo chooses the artists for (obviously) their talent, and also for the serendipitous alignment between "anchor events" in their careers and the open dates on Ram Country's calendar. In Pickler's case, putting her in the first slot made sense, given that it aligned with the release of her album, "100 Proof."
“We think this model is a great way to meet audience needs and help advertisers align with their demographic,” says Robertson, who adds that Ram Country, which launched in October 2010, has garnered some 500 million impressions. “It's year by year, and we will be adding more to it every time we renew. We are constantly thinking about ways to make it better and bigger, such as adding these quarterly events in 2012.”
Randy Ortiz, who heads up media, social media and CRM marketing at Ram Truck division, says the Yahoo Program is part of a broad attempt by Ram to cultivate social media clout. “Social and digital programs are the future partly because of their potential to reach people in real time with fresh content,” he says. “What we pride ourselves on at Ram trucks and all Chrysler Group brands is providing fans and followers exclusive content they can share with their friends and followers. Social media is one of the most important forms of communication for that.”
Ortiz tells Marketing Daily that the brand more than doubled its fan base on Facebook from December, when it had about 108,000 fans, to 275,000 by late February. The brand's growth in fan base on Twitter went from 6,000 followers in December to over 22,000 by the end of last month.
“It's a great place for owners to be advocates for us on their behalf. If we post a story on Facebook, we notice a lot of our current Ram owners will come and make positive comments about what we are doing. For us that's priceless advertising because they are telling the world how great Ram trucks are.”
Last year, Ram ran a social-based sweepstakes wherein the automaker gave away about 5,000 prizes, mostly inexpensive items tied to truck-friendly lifestyles (including things like Mossy Oak outdoorsman products, Skil tool gift and gasoline cards, and Ram-branded accessories.) Ortiz says that the focus on offering a lot of prizes instead a handful of big ones helped build the brand's fan numbers. “In the month of December alone, we gained almost 50,000 new fans,” he says.
Ortiz says that because truck drivers are avid smartphone users, mobile advertising will be a big part of what Ram does going forward. “We will do media buys that involve mobile ads, because truck owners use their trucks as mobile offices, and rely on smartphones when they are on the job.”