Pandora: How to Get Personal

At WWD's Digital Forum, Heidi Browning stressed the importance of social, local and mobile approaches to reaching users.

Pandora’s senior vice president, strategic solutions Heidi Browning introduced her session with the following quote from Pharrell Williams: “Your entire life is defined by experiences with music. It’s not about selling records. It’s about connecting with human beings, giving people what they want. Make good music and brands, artists and fans will find a way.”

This story first appeared in the October 20, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

That is the mantra of sorts of the 11-year-old online radio Web site, which boasts a staggering 1.9 billion user-created stations (95 percent of these collections played in July of this year) and loyal fans that listen to music on Pandora.com 17 hours a month.

“How can we give consumers a choice in the music they want to listen to?” Browning asked, adding that personalization has become pervasive and Pandora seeks to promote customization. “We’re on a mission to redefine radio in this connected world.”

In addition to detailing the five “Ps” the company follows within its new marketing platform — Product, Personalization, Passion, Platform and Performance — she stressed the importance of social, local and mobile approaches to reaching users.

Pandora has created social tools that give listeners a choice of how they want to share their music — including Facebook and Twitter — and with respect to advertising, she said the Web site targets users with personalized ads by location and even through the daily deal space (there is only one ad every 20 minutes for the free, primary business model).

“Digital [ads] aren’t just banners,” Browning said. “We bring TV quality sight, sound and motion to advertising.” She cited a partnership with Nordstrom that not only reached consumers on a local level, but also sought to drive in-store traffic.

But it’s mobile that Browning calls the “fuel behind [Pandora’s] flame,” pointing to this as the biggest trend for the company, as 70 percent of listening happens on a mobile device.

“Mobile devices are ubiquitous and are amongst the most personal items we own. They are part of our everyday life and so is music. Millions of people have a deep personal connection with Pandora, because the service is truly tailored to each listener’s taste. No one station created on Pandora is the same. Our goal at Pandora is to redefine radio — making it personalized and easily accessible by anyone, on any device, anywhere in a connected world, Browning said. She added that beginning with the introduction of Apple’s app store in 2008, Pandora instantly became one of the most popular iPhone apps. According to Nielsen, Pandora is currently one of the top five most downloaded apps across all smartphone platforms.