We have written in this column about marketing to Millennials, the role of artist content in savvy brands’ marketing efforts, the new world order of music distribution and the underlying technology that drives all of the above. In short, we are smack-dab in the crosshairs of a historic convergence of music, marketing and technology. But what we in the marketing and advertising world are experiencing is not exclusive to Madison Avenue. Western culture as a whole is transforming, and no surprise, Apple is a big part of that.
I started thinking about this recently after reading a couple of articles in, of all places, Autoweek. Columnist Wes Raynal’s take on technology and the possible entry of Apple into car manufacturing gave me pause. Sure, Tesla made a splash and Google has its “car,” but neither compete in mainstream markets. Apple likes Millennials, and Millennials may be wowed by Tesla’s feel-good energy saving promise and Google’s big-brotherism, but do Millennials really care about buying high-tech cars? Most of them certainly can’t afford a Tesla, and the Google “car” isn’t past the prototype stage.
In fact, Millennials are known as being somewhat indifferent about driving (kids no longer flock to the DMV on the morning of their 16th birthday), but you wouldn’t believe it if you follow the car companies. Automakers and their armies of product planners and marketers see Millennials as a viable target. Case in point: entertainment (music) technology is front and center in today’s cars. Literally. The in-car entertainment interface has become the hub of the car driving experience, and it is aimed squarely at Millennials. This is where Apple enters the picture with CarPlay.
As in-car music interfaces have been bobbled and cobbled together by companies that can’t even carry a tune, auto industry outsiders have crept in with the intent to become “off-the-shelf” solutions for the car makers. Microsoft and Sony have dabbled, but the most aggressive move into our cars comes from Apple’s CarPlay. While we were sleeping, Apple not only developed CarPlay, but has worked its way into most manufacturers’ plans for in-car entertainment. Every manufacturer you can think of, including Ford, BMW, Honda, Fiat-Chrysler, General Motors, Toyota and Volkswagen are already surrendering their in-car entertainment souls to Apple. Clearly these manufacturing behemoths see Apple’s tech as crucial to their market appeal, and that appeal is aimed, again, at Millennials — the consumer force that we as marketing professionals (and Apple) covet every day.
Ever since the launch of iTunes back in 2001, Apple has been a changer of the norm. Go forward a few years to 2007 and the release of the first iPhone, and suddenly we couldn’t breathe without Cupertino. As a car culture, is it a stretch to think Apple could make similar inroads (pun intended) on our daily commutes and errands? I don’t think so. After all, according to Autoweek, “Apple has $178 billion cash in the bank — enough to buy both Ford and General Motors outright.” The magazine further points out that Apple is rumored to be interested in buying Tesla. While Apple’s leap into the car manufacturing biz is only a rumor, its influence on in-car entertainment is already here in a big way with CarPlay.
What does all this car talk and tech speak mean to marketing and music? Mainly it is just a heads-up that Apple is working behind the scenes to wield even more influence in our lives. Consider that the music industry was changed almost single-handedly by Apple. The mobile phone industry evolved into a smartphone culture because of Apple. While other players have had an effect, these sea changes can be almost entirely credited to Apple. As marketers, our approaches have evolved and changed dramatically as our society has adopted Apple’s many toys. Looking ahead, Beats is now owned by Apple, and we know how Beats created an entire subculture of headphone-wearing Millennials. Apple is also expected to begin leveraging its Beats Music service, which will likely influence the future finances of streaming music. If Apple controls the entertainment interfaces in all cars, and certainly if Apple enters the car manufacturing business with a fully fleshed-out entertainment interface it was paid to develop for its then-competitors, it will have an effect on not only the car industry, but also on the music and marketing industries. (Just imagine if we get to the point of having self-driving cars and the freedom it would give passengers to interact with even larger screens and media.) With both the music and marketing industries being so Millennial-driven, this could be a really big deal.
Basically, whenever Apple gets involved in something, society as a whole will have to deal with it. Like the music industry and music culture, the car business and car culture are huge. The impacts on both could be far reaching, and astute marketers should be aware of what might be coming.