Does 8tracks Provide a New Outlet for Savvy Marketers?

When planning a summer road trip, the first thoughts shuffling through your mind might consist of destinations, routes, and estimating how much your wallet will suffer in rising gas prices. Before too long, though, you inevitably wind up filling up the iPod or frantically burning and marking CDs – the relationship between road trips and music is one of those unbreakable bonds.

That connection led O’Reilly Auto Parts, a chain headquartered in Missouri with more than 4,000 stores across the U.S., to place their brand in relatively unexplored land.

The company launched their own ultimate road trip playlist on 8tracks, which so far has generated over 20,000 plays and about 500 “Likes.”

If you’re not familiar with 8tracks, it’s an Internet radio outlet that allows users to upload “mixes” of songs, which can be streamed online for free through a unique licensing agreement.

Remember that one friend from the 90’s who you’d ask to burn the latest Nelly single, and he’d turn it into an expression of art and spend countless hours creating the perfect mix? 8tracks is a site that draws all those people, as well as DJs and music producers, to one place. You get the added bonus of finding, and listening to, these playlists for free.

With that in mind, O’Reilly Auto Parts put together an 11-song mix, reaching from Will Smith’s “Summertime,” to The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” and of course Canada’s own Bryan Adams.

It’s a clever move to help make the link between the great American road trip and an auto parts store, and a bold move into new territory from a company with varying success on social media (they’ve struck a large following on Facebook with close to 440,000 “Likes”, but have just over 13,000 followers on Twitter). Surprisingly (to me, anyway), the social media scene for auto parts retailers in the U.S. seems to be pretty competitive. A couple of retailers, like AutoZone and Advance Auto Party, have exceeded over a million Facebook Likes. Obviously, new avenues, and new audiences, must be staked out in this ruthless fight to expand customer base.

While O’Reilly does sponsor what some might consider more traditional outlets for an auto parts store, like an annual NASCAR event and certain speedways, the WWE, and the studio that hosts the Jim Rome Show, the 8tracks connection shows the brand’s attempt to reach a younger demographic. 8tracks says their audience is made up mostly of 18-24 year-olds, and a quick visit to the site will show you the genres that dominate the front page. Apologies for generalizing, but I think it’s safe to say the 8tracks crowd and the NASCAR crowd aren’t one and the same.

It’s unclear what the partnership is between O’Reilly Auto Parts and 8tracks, but I would guess this isn’t an organic mix. The O’Reilly user has been certified “Official,” the sidebar on that specific mix features rotating ads, and the playlist was categorized under the “Featured” category, so some ad revenue was surely put towards this.

It’s not the first instance of this type of crossover marketing on 8tracks (unsurprisingly they have their own advertising department), and they boast past campaigns for Wes Anderson’s “Moonrise Kingdom,” Comedy Central, Foot Locker, and Rolling Stone. Currently, Keira Knightley and Mark Ruffalo’s upcoming film “Begin Again” is dominating the ad space on the site. Movies seem to be most happy to use the site, as they can upload portions (or the entirety) of the film’s soundtrack, in an effort to provide pre-film buzz but also to create lasting nostalgia.

But now that an auto parts store has also entered the fray, it will be interesting to see what other brands – and industries – follow.

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