Marketing Mistake: Pandora 40 Hour Limit Half Baked or Huge Opportunity?
In an earlier blog post I discussed the impact of Pandora being branded as free internet radio and promised to make suggestions for improvement. So here’s to keeping promises.
According to Wiktionary, Half Baked means “ill-conceived, unsound or badly thought out” and I think that accurately describes how the Pandora 40 Hour Limit service interruption currently works. Obviously it interrupts service as intended, but at what cost to Pandora and the listener? Much of it is a matter of the language used in the service interruption notice which I refer to as the 40 hour limit road block.
When you consider the cost of attracting new customers, you really can’t afford to run them off – even the free ones.
I see the 40 hour limit road block, to be a great marketing opportunity.
When your time runs out, you can…
How the 40 Hour Limit Road Block is Half Baked:
Well, this is what you see (graphic above, typed out below) when your service is interrupted at the 40 hour mark:
You’ve reached the monthly free listening limit. Pandora gives you (leader4hire@yahoo….) 40 hours of free listening each month. To continue listening, we ask you to do one of the following:
For just 99 cents, ontinue listening as much as you’d like for the rest of the month.
For $36, enjoy an entire year of unlimited listening, plus great features:
No visual or audio advertising
Very high audio quality (192 kilobits per second).
Learn about all the Pandora One features. To continue listening for free, simply come back on December 1. The 40 hour limit is reset every month.
I think this message was crafted by someone in the web app department because there isn’t an ounce of friendly, customer centric, marketing copy in this whole message. Nothing makes me say “Yes, I want to do this”. I think if the marketing department was involved, this would look more like an ad and less like a court summons.
Definitely seems half baked to put such an unfriendly message in front of the customer when they are at a critical decision point about your service.
A Closer Look
(hey moocher,) You’ve reached your monthly free listening limit.
Do you really need to make it so obvious that you attracted me to your free service, I used the free service, and now I’m being pointed at for using it? What if this was my first month of service and I didn’t know, I may have been in love with your service, but this doesn’t make me feel good. You’ve already started this critical conversation with a negative tone. And in my case, I’ve been a long time user and I still hate this message, yet I still love Pandora over it’s competition.
Pandora gives you (leader4hire@yahoo…) 40 hours of free listening each month (and you better be thankful).
Yep, definitely feeling like you are pointing a finger at me. I don’t like being singled out like this, even if no one else can see it, I don’t like how you present it.
To continue listening, we ask you do one of the following… (spend your money or else).
You must think you are the only guy in town and that I can’t find free music somewhere else. Customers shop with their dollars every day deciding where to spend or not spend their money. When you are online this is even more difficult if their are a lot of free alternatives. Tone has a lot to do with my perception and how I will spend my dollars.
Then the sterile report on price options and the rather valueless offer on the Pandora One service. In my mind, the other Pandora One benefits such as the skins, mini player, desktop application, and 5 hours before timeout are much more compelling then high quality and no ads.
Overall, the voice, tone, and “offer” to spend money just doesn’t make me feel special. I may really like the service, but when you boil it down to these terms, I’m just not interested. I think many of your listeners come to the same conclusion.
Resetting the Timer for Full Bake
What if this 40 hour roadblock was reconsidered from a marketing stand point. What if the point was to attract the listener and move them closer to your brand, not away from the brand? What would you do then?
Here is what I suggest as a better option… Sell me, don’t tell me .
Give me the rest of the month free!
Wild idea, I know, but see, I’m logged in and I’m valuable as a listener and important to advertisers. So, what if the first 40 hour limit road block notice said something like:
Suggested ad copy:
Hey Leader4hire@yahoo… You’ve been a busy listener and hit our 40 hour limit. Betcha didn’t know we were counting!
This is the first time for you and you may not know that most listeners use less than 40 hours in a month. You on the other hand are a true fan of music and the music legends are smiling down upon you. We would normally suggest you upgrade your account here, but Tim Westergren, the President of Pandora is going to cover you for this month. The next time you hit 40 hours in a month, we’ll ask you to consider upgrading your membership so you can keep listening. Okay? Click here for Tim to spot you for the rest of the month at no charge. Click here to go ahead and upgrade or Click here to wait until next month for another bank of 40 hours.
What to do with Tim’s Freebie Listeners?
From then on, I recommend your tech guys enhance the player to report my time for the rest of the month. Once I click to accept Tim’s free offer, my Pandora player would give me a counter showing me how many hours I’ve listened with a note that said “Tim sponsored you this month” and make it clickable to a blog post by Tim on this free month with user comments showing below. I bet it would have a ton of users saying thanks.
By the way, you would go ahead and give me this ‘free’ month because by giving me something I am more likely to give you something in return. In psychology its classified as the rule of reciprocation in which we feel a strong obligation to repay debts. Now, this is difficult online, but it’s still effective if you work it properly. In this case, you’ve created value in something I thought was free, interrupted me and told me in a nice way that builds value in our relationship and as a listener that it normally cost money, but not this time. So, in return I’ll feel special (or more special) and make a mental note that this could have cost me something, but you did me a favor. Will people keep listening and still not upgrade next month – yes, but its worth the cost.
Remind them of the favor.
Now the payoff comes from taking advantage of the favor from that point forward. Every time I log in the rest of that month, remind me that Tim hooked me up, tell me how many hours I’ve listend too so far and tell me you are glad I’m still listening and hungry for more. Then, as I get closer to the end of the month encourage me to go ahead and upgrade and get something free (a hat, a shirt, a poster, a free download etc – all cheap stuff). I’ll be spending a lot of time thinking about the free ride im taking, valuing my service, and rationalizing my future expense. Then when the new month hits, tell me I get to start over at 40 hours but remind me Ive already got my free pass from Tim and that you would love to have me as a Pandora One member. Follow me for the following 40 hours of my new month reminding me and smartly nudging me forward to the upgrade. Then at the end of 40 hours, give me a very friendly service interruption. Perhaps tell me that I seem to really like Pearl Jam, Tool, and Nine Inch Nails (my top 3 stations) and that Pandora has cataloged over 400 (correct number here) songs by those artists and you’d hate to see me lose touch with my favorite bands. Encourage me to upgrade and get more of what I like with no restrictions.
Nice try Justin, show me another way.
Ok, what if you just took the current road block and rewrote it with a more friendly tone like this:
Suggested Ad Copy:
Leader4hire just rocked out 40 hours of free streaming radio and it’s only Thursday October 16th. You still have 15 days until the hours reset on November 1.
We bet you love Pandora.com and we want you to keep listening, don’t wait 15 days to come back.
Like your local pool hall or diner’s jukebox, drop 4 quarters (99 cents actually) and we’ll rock your socks off for the rest of the month – promise!
Or even better, show your support of the Music Genome Project and become a Pandora One member for only $3 a month ($36 a year). You’ll get a free Pandora One badge for your site, all access to the Pandora One members-only club and members only downloads. As an added bonus, we’ll stop those ads from showing in your Pandora player or playing commercials interrupting your playlist and we’ll give you a cool desktop Pandora player, a longer window to listen before we check to see if your still there, and high quality music.
See what we are doing here? We are talking about what I like and how I like it. This makes me sound like you really don’t want to cut me off and you are trying to work with me and you understand me.
If you really wanted to get clever and include an advertiser, here is the perfect hook:
Add a note in the more friendly version that says:
If none of these work for you, you can fill out this long form and we will see if we can get an advertiser to sponsor your listening, but you’ll need to fill it out completely and yes, we’ll be sharing your information with the advertiser so they can try to do business with you in exchange for giving you a free Pandora One subscription. It’s the best we can do to keep Pandora from costing you money even when it costs us. We’d rather see you be a Pandora One member though.
Still not sure what to do? Okay, just come back on November 1 and you’ll have a fresh 40 hours to work with.
One last idea, Pandora should get my friend to buy:
Why not give me a way to share my service interruption with friends to see if they can buy my month or my Pandora One membership for me? This would act as both a soliciting tool for the listener and a recruiting tool for new listeners. In the months around Christmas and the listeners birthday, this might be an easy (very easy?) sale if the listener was prompted to share. The trick here is to make it very easy, no complicated forms, now date of birth, city or state – just friends name and email with an optional message.
The 40 hour road block is not a notice to stop listening, it’s an invitation to keep listening (provided the listener acknowledges the value of Pandora’s service). So, instead of throwing up a stop sign and pushing them in or out, try replacing the stop sign with a friendly greeter who sounds nice and interested in me as a listener. Really wow me by giving me a free pass with a reminder that next time it’ll cost me. Then work with me and remind me. The sum of all those tiny touches will lead to me to take a more favorable view of Pandora and ultimately increase my willingness to open my wallet. May sound far fetched, but it happens all the time from free samples at the grocery store to lunch and learn seminars to test drives at car dealerships and free mail list services like mailchimp.com.