Has Pandora Become The Kleenex Of Internet Radio?

Over vacation I spent a fair amount of time visiting with friends and family. Inevitably, the conversation comes around to work. “Internet radio? Oh, you mean like Pandora? Yeah, I listen to that.”

The height of successful marketing is when a brand is so well positioned that its name comes to represent the entire product category. Like Kleenex for facial tissues. Google for Internet searches. Brands that are so entrenched at the top of their product category that their names have replaced the generic word for their product. This concept is well described and documented in the book Marketing Warfare by Ries and Trout.

Another book by the same pair states that owning a word in the prospect’s mind is the most powerful thing there is in marketing. It’s better to be first in your category than best, and if you can’t be first (because someone else is) then set up a new category and be first in that.

Pandora has diligently pursued the first-in-category prize for Internet radio. They’ve done a great job at positioning their brand to mean personalized Internet radio. So much so, that when I went to see the movie Avatar last weekend and heard that the planet was called Pandora, I immediately thought instead of the radio station.

Pandora has become the brand that people think of first when they think of Internet radio by managing their image and cultivating strong relationships with their audience and the press.

  • They carefully cultivated a relationship with listeners – selling the personalizability of the listening experience.
  • They have diligently pursued mobile, automotive and wireless platforms to make Pandora ubiquitous.
  • They created an ad platform that provides unique advertiser opportunities and limits the number of ads that listeners see or hear.
  • Most importantly, Pandora does a great job telling listeners about the station – listeners feel like part of the family. It’s the same personalized approach that they take with the music, and it’s very appealing to the audience.

Pandora communicates well with the media as well, and certainly this has helped them build their brand and reputation. They’ve built a strong position for their brand, one that many companies never achieve. In fact, Pandora’s success benefits all of Internet radio as more and more listeners are exposed to streaming. It’s a model for success, hats off for a job well done – can’t wait to see what’s next…

2 responses

  1. It’s important to remember what came before Pandora’s well executed marketing and platform distribution efforts: a darn good product. All of the marketing glitz in the playbook won’t sell mud as premium mocha.

    They may not have attained this level of top-of-mind brand association without a strong message. But all bets would have been off at the gate had Pandora been just another internet radio stream spitting out a lackadaisical playlist generated by scheduling software. (Sound familiar, over-the-air radio?)

    This is a prototypical case of the medium being the message. And there’s no denying young demos have heard it loud and clear.

    Joe Cassara
    Operations Manager

  2. Joe – I 100% disagree with you. PANDORA is only good to the new user of internet radio. The “old school” internet radio listeners do not like pandora at all. Believe it or not.. Pandora is internet radio for rookie listeners. The majority of listeners on Pandora find themselves wanting more variety as well as QUALITY Programmed music – not just a huge collection uploaded to a server that loops on demand.

    If the average pure play internet station had the funds and resources that Pandora has had.. the average listener would be far more in love with that service.

    A perfect example – XM and Sirius listeners absolutely hate Pandora, Slacker, etc because there is no programming whatsoever involved. People still LOVE that FM sound without the tight playlists and commercials that FM has turned into today.

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