Sonos CMO Joy Howard on the Importance of Music

Brand Teams Up With Apple Music and a Neuroscientist

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Stevie Wonder once sang: "Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand." Earlier this year, Sonos teamed up with Apple Music and neuroscientist Daniel Levitin to find out just how important music is in people's lives. Hint: It has a major impact.

Joy Howard
Joy Howard Credit: Sonos

The project included a survey of 30,000 music listeners, along with an experiment involving 30 families across eight countries, who agreed to listen to no music for seven days and then permitted their reactions to be recorded when they listened to music the following week. Experiment findings and survey results like this one -- parents who listen to music are 186% more likely to have a dance party compared to those who don't -- are available on, as is a mini-documentary on the project.

Ad Age recently caught up with Sonos Chief Marketing Officer Joy Howard as the company heads into phase two of the effort, which includes support from agency partners Weber Shandwick, 72andSunny, Tool of North America and Beast.

The conversation has been condensed and lightly edited.

Ad Age: What were some of the most fun or exciting results from the survey?

Ms. Howard: The most surprising thing was the really tangible effect music had on people's relationships. People on average spend three more hours together at home listening to music out loud versus people who don't. With time at home being so scarce, that's a really phenomenal finding. We also found that things that were drudgery before became fun, like chores became more pleasurable, and kids helped out more often when music was playing.

Ad Age: Tell me about the paid and earned elements of the effort.

Ms. Howard: To announce the findings, we led with PR. We invited select global press to participate in the study, gave them access to our data and the families who participated in the experiment. The results were incredible. We saw more than 200 global stories after Day One, and our study was trending as No. 4 in the Science/Tech results on Google News on Feb. 10.

After the initial launch, we began to amplify our PR efforts with an integrated paid campaign that activated assets from our Tumblr hub across a variety of digital platforms. We capped the week with the debut of our new advertising campaign, featuring St. Vincent, Killer Mike and Matt Berninger of The National. The spot debuted during NBA All Star Weekend and in a feature placement during the Grammys.

Ad Age: What's the next phase?

Ms. Howard: We are now headed into a phase focused on creators - people who live, breathe and contribute to culture through their work. In this phase, we will have the same assets for the local creators as we have for the global artists -- a 60-second and 15-second videos, images, gifs, an article. This will be pushed out by Protein, our partner who also produced the films, as well as via paid social. Apple will push all the content via Apple Music Connect pages. They will then push these in local social posts, linking back to the videos on their own platform. Once we get through the initial phase with creators, we are doing a campaign with Resident Advisor where we will set up events in the homes of our creators, record them and then promote those stories together with RA and Apple Music. Our creators include Berlin-based Frederik Fede, Freunde von Freunden; Mista Jam DJ from London; Yarol Poupaud, a French artist; and Niels Shoe Meulmann visual artist from Amsterdam.

Ad Age: What are some marketing challenges the company faces right now?

Ms. Howard: Our biggest challenge is the same that faces any disruptive technology -- helping people understand what Sonos is and how very simple it is to use. Sonos isn't merely a set of speakers; it's an audio system that uses Wi-Fi to play music from anywhere on earth to any room in your house. All you have to do is plug it in and download the app, but because it's such a new experience to many, the most vital way we can overcome the challenge is with a good old-fashioned demo, which is why we're opening our first store in Soho in July.

Ad Age: What are your goals for the rest of 2016?

Ms. Howard: There has never been a better time to listen to music at home, so for the rest of 2016, we're focused on seizing this moment to redefine the music listening experience and fill as many homes as possible with music -- especially as the boom in paid streaming facilitates more access to and discovery of music than ever before. Our work on the "Music Makes it Home" campaign taught us a lot about the effects that stress, overscheduled lives and technology has on how we connect with the people we live with at home. We believe -- and are proving -- that music can play a powerful role in changing the dynamics of those relationships and how we spend time at home.

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