By | Blog

Could Live Streamed Content Be Your Most Effective Employee Engagement Tool?


Music makes the world go around. There are few places in today’s High Street, from stores and salons and restaurants and pubs, where it does not add to the overall experience. Even banks, building societies and many an office are aware of the positive benefits of music.

Yet even today, and particularly at this time of year, businesses can get the music mix so wrong: constant Christmas tunes played on an endless loop – potentially irritating for customers and workers alike.

It needn’t be so, and often isn’t. Forget the generic CDs on repeat, savvy retailers, restauranteurs and other businesses realise that, rather than background music, in-store streaming is all about the “now”.

Live services allow people to interact and businesses to tailor their communications on the fly: providing news, entertainment and promotions to boost consumer mood and more. You’re providing an experience, creating an atmosphere. It’s real time, it’s immediate and it fosters a sense of community.

Our clients, including JD Sports, HSBC and Subway understand the power of music, delivered in-house, on brand and, increasingly, away from the business premises through Smartphone apps that also deliver supporting content such as promotions, forums and location services.

And it is not only customers who benefit from these brand-based stations: it also boosts the morale of employees; impacts their productivity and allows them to feel part of a bigger whole.

Could in-store “radio” actually be your most effective employee engagement tool?

There’s nothing more fundamental to having loyal, engaged and productive employees than good communication.

It absolutely makes sense for today’s brands to become media owners, curating experiences that reach their audiences. And one of a brand’s audiences, its potential biggest advocates, is its employees themselves.

Take HSBC, whom we first started working with in 2005, trialling the HSBC Live station that was later rolled out to its network of 1,100 branches. Its brief was to create a more consistent retail environment, providing a mix of news, music and sport as well as promotions for the bank’s range of financial services. It became apparent early on that customers appreciated the service – but so too did HSBC’s body of 45,000 staff in the UK.

Unsurprising: as a broadcaster I know how music especially is woven into our identity as human beings and influences our mood and energy levels. If it works for a consumer in a shop just how much more powerful is it for that till worker, that bank cashier, hairdresser or waiter in that environment for a shift of some six hours or more?

There’s growing evidence to support this claim. In one study a University of Illinois researcher gave MP3 players to 75 out of 256 retail staff to wear at work for four weeks. At the end of the test, the music listeners showed a 10% jump in productivity and were described as being “less nervous, less fatigued, more enthusiastic and more relaxed at work than the people in the control group”.

And research conducted by the Institute of Leadership & Management has argued that managers could cut absence from sickness by seven million days a year simply by switching on the radio.

Take that a step further: with a bespoke service, businesses can use audio as a channel to reinforce the corporate brand, bring together disconnected employees and communicate key messages through a shared experience. Think of shout-outs to colleagues, or slots before and after opening and closing hours to rally the workforce or deliver pertinent information.

I think that’s particularly powerful when it comes to Britain’s increasingly fragmented workforce. As we increasingly move to more flexible working solutions, such as working from home, on the road or as the use of contractors, subcontractors and occasional workers grows, it is vital businesses are able to communicate simply, easily and in a human way.

Where the workforce is remote and opportunities to collaborate are challenging, sound is – perhaps – our biggest asset.

Openreach is one such example. We’ve worked with the BT-owned infrastructure provider to bring its employees (most of whom are on the road) a 24/7 real time digital audio channel via their phones. Such an App can, of course, also support employee initiatives such as documents, interactive video, messaging and more – all contained within a single, staff-focused hub.

Such streams or stations allow workers to feel part of a bigger community whether they’re front of house, in head office or on the road. It also gives employers an immediate feed-back loop. Who’s listening when, what and how? What are they saying? The data from such services, increasingly, will feed into the business and allow functions such as HR greater insight into the minds of their staff.

Since launching in 2000 as in-store radio providers we’ve seen a rapid evolution of the brand audio landscape – and in a mobile-first, digital and increasingly fragmented world I can only see this continuing.

It’s good for business, good for our customers and good for the productivity, health and wellbeing of our staff – who are our biggest brand advocates for better or for worse.

After all, we’re better, connected.



By | Blog

For many brands, Gen Z are the new focus of attention as this youngest of generations rise through school and university, and increasingly enter the workforce.


Forget digital natives, these guys – born between 1995 and 2010 – are the first really truly mobile generation.

It’s exciting and scary for advertisers in equal measure: exciting because they really ‘do’ get (and help shape) all these new channels of communication; scary because of the many myths that surround this population.

This audience is concerned with experience above all else – however that is delivered. They want to work for their success, not be discovered, according to a report by Barkley and FutureCast; they believe that equality is non-negotiable; they want brands to be ‘real’ so they can be ‘unique’ and they have their own social media system of rules and etiquette.

In short, this generation is all about presenting their curated identity in a way that is authentic to them – and they expect brands to help them in this purpose.

How can we as marketers capitalise on this, and build brands that are based not on simply selling but that become a bigger and more relevant part of our customers’ lives?

As Gen Z increasingly enters the workplace, they matter more than what they offer in spending power. They matter because what comes instinctively to them today will become increasingly natural to many of us tomorrow.

Let’s take a look at how we can learn from and capitalise on the very particular habits of today’s under-23s.

Gen Z spends significant amounts of time on social media and video platforms. According to research by Adobe, in the UK, the average Gen Z spends a huge 10.6 hours engaging with online content every single day (compared to 8.9 hours for millennials and an overall average of 6.9 hours). They’re mobile-first and use their phone more than any other device. They’ll also use multiple devices at any one time.

This shift in behaviour means that marketers can reach this group whenever, and wherever they are; they can devise strategies that effectively link their retail presence with online ecommerce and deliver experiences – be they digital or physical -through the bridge of the smartphone. Clicks and bricks have never been closer. And nor has the customer.

Take our partnership with JD Sports, for example. This summer we launched JD X, a music service that includes a live channel that’s broadcast both in stores and through its transactional mobile app.

We know our audience is into exclusives, they want to find the best new music, want to search out new experiences and to be part of a community. The live station plays mostly urban music – grime, hip-hop and R&B alongside interviews with athletes such as boxing’s Anthony Joshua (a brand ambassador) and musicians. Customers are encouraged to interact via the app by submitting shout-outs or to catch up on shows they’ve missed. There are also a number of other, complementary content streams that are tweaked and changed on an ongoing basis.

And unlike on other platforms all the data is immediately available to the brand, allowing it to iterate on the go, and to help inform its plans around events, retail environments and so on. Crucially, could JD X be the added extra that makes a customer buy a pair of Adidas from JD Sports rather than any one of the thousands of other outlets?

The audience buys in to the JD universe. Sales are up and the service is being rolled out across Europe and beyond. This is a brand that understands who its audience is – something that is sometimes forgotten in the rush for short term sales at the expense of long-term brand patronage.

Advertising guru John Hegarty said recently: “My obsession has always been, when I’m creating a piece of work, the audience I’m talking to.”

He continues: “If you’re in marketing your job is to ensure your potential audience; everything else is a side issue. If you can inspire them to come to your brand you will have a brilliant brand that will have fantastic value and create great results.”

I couldn’t agree more. By tapping directly into your target audience you’re creating more than communications: you’re creating a community; a club; a hub. Done well and with honesty and integrity you’re also bringing a deeper layer of brand trust, creating interest and excitement, compelling curiosity and inviting surprise through carefully curated content.

For Generation Z, this is expected. They have a collaborative relationship with the brands they endorse and know the value exchange – often preferring it to traditional ‘advertising’, which they see as staid, forgettable and overwhelming in number – too easy to tune out. They want to be partners in much that they do and have a much more mindful attitude to everything from careers and experiences through to health and wellness.

Brands that understand and respect this have a head start. They understand the particular nuances of these younger generations but also consider how these changing behaviours will siphon through to the Gen Xers, the Baby Boomers et al. And, in time, how will Generation Alpha – those born after 2010, reset our expectations?

By Bruno Brooks, founder and CEO of Immedia