Customer loyalty is important to any brand—after all, it’s cheaper to keep an existing customer than attract a new one. But for subscription-based companies that depend on recurring revenue, retention is even more critical.
That’s why streaming platform TIDAL has made identity marketing a cornerstone of its strategy. By offering exclusive discounts based on a customer’s life stage or profession—and digitally verifying their eligibility for the offer—TIDAL is able to reach new audiences while forging deeper connections with its listeners.
This approach gives TIDAL zero-party data that TIDAL uses to deliver more personalized experiences, achieve sustainable organic growth, and significantly improve retention—in other words, build an audience of loyal customers.
On a tactical level, TIDAL makes identity marketing happen by partnering with SheerID and leveraging our secure digital verification program. Strategically speaking, TIDAL uses identity marketing to enhance its data collection, audience targeting, campaign creative, user experience, and much more.
And it pays off. TIDAL runs an identity marketing program for students, and the churn rate for those subscribers is several points lower than TIDAL’s customer base.
To uncover the roots of TIDAL’s success, our own CEO Jake Weatherly sat down with Angelo Sasso, SVP of Customer Engagement at TIDAL for a rich discussion on the benefits of identity marketing.
Watch the whole interview, or read on for a few key tips and takeaways from their conversation.
4 Customer Loyalty Takeaways from TIDAL
1. Zero-Party Data Is Essential
Angelo’s philosophy on marketing starts with understanding his customers—he believes that knowing who your customers are is the foundation of an effective marketing strategy.
Through identity marketing, TIDAL can access zero-party data—information that customers offer up willingly in order to redeem a discount or special offer. Students, the military, and first responders can all sign up for a TIDAL subscription at 40 to 50% off the regular rate (that is, once they’ve securely verified their eligibility with SheerID’s Verification Platform).
To Angelo, this zero-party data is valuable because he doesn’t have to make any inferences about the customer. When TIDAL verifies a customer is a student, Angelo and his team can apply what they’ve learned about their student audience, understand what sets that customer apart from the rest of their user base, and focus on creating great experiences for that customer based on that factual knowledge. There’s no uncertainty or risk of misattribution.
2. Provide Personalized Experiences, Then Test and Scale Them
With this zero-party data, Angelo and his team can reach these communities with more highly personalized marketing that celebrates their milestones.
For example, TIDAL commemorates back-to-school season with targeted campaigns for new and returning students. “I think back-to-school is a very classic example,” Angelo says, ”but it also shows the power of zero-party data to drive effective campaigns that you can’t really do without this type of data in an elegant way.”
Angelo describes these occasions as “tentpole moments”, and believes they’re the ideal opportunities to start learning about your audience by testing out different campaigns to understand what messaging resonates and which features are important.
Communities around the world that share similar identities also share similar experiences. This means Angelo and his team can leverage creative concepts that are relevant to all students, using iconography and visuals—like the image of a lined composition notebook—that resonate globally but scale locally.
TIDAL’s back-to-school ads for Polish users, for example, use the same creative concepts but feature locally relevant artists. Angelo notes that this is possible because the community affiliation of a freshman student is strong enough that these messages can transcend borders.
For existing users, TIDAL even created and promoted back-to-school-themed 101 Playlists, introducing listeners to new genres while continuing the creative direction of the overall campaign.
TIDAL integrates its campaign creative with the personalized experiences it offers students once they subscribe, and then scales its approach for global markets.
3. Identity Marketing Reduces Friction
Angelo credits identity marketing with streamlining customer acquisition and retention in a few key ways.
Special Offers Drive Subscriptions
TIDAL’s student offer makes the brand stand out and lowers the hurdle that new subscribers face. According to Angelo, by offering a better value and a lower price to these new users, conversion rates go up.
Verification Increases an Offer’s Appeal
When students have to get verified to redeem an offer, it underscores the offer’s exclusivity, which makes it more attractive because they know it’s truly just for them.
Angelo hypothesizes that although the verification step is frictionless, it’s still an extra step that funnels out some low-intent users—and for those that do complete verification, the experience becomes more valuable.
“It’s almost like a reward,” Angelo said. “‘I’m a student, I’m excited to be going to college, and I’m getting to now verify and kind of pound my chest a little bit that I was able to get a special deal or discount for a pretty cool product.’”
Angelo also believes verification gives TIDAL customers a chance to celebrate their status and feel recognized for the hard work they do. Going to college or getting a new job is a milestone in a customer’s life, and TIDAL gets to be part of that moment.
Rewarding Customers Keeps Them Coming Back
Giving customers an exclusive offer makes them feel special, which sets a brand apart and triggers greater loyalty.
This loyalty can translate to higher retention rates. “Our specialty plans, all of these students, military, first responders—they have higher retention rates than our standard plans,” said Angelo. “Several points higher.”
As a subscription business, reducing churn is incredibly important to TIDAL. And while these new users may sign up at a lower price point, retaining them makes it worthwhile. “That increase in retention does offset the lower price in many instances for us,” said Angelo.
4. Identity Marketing Drives Word-of-Mouth and Earned Media
TIDAL relies on organic growth, and Angelo has found that news about the company’s identity marketing program for students travels fast.
“By us using zero-party data and targeting these communities, you’re creating word-of-mouth within these communities, which is a really important way for us to grow,” said Angelo. He describes that while the marketing team may use paid ads at the beginning of an identity marketing campaign, their focus is to kick off that flywheel of word of mouth.
And the media is just as eager to spread the word about TIDAL’s student offer. Launching a discount isn’t newsworthy in and of itself, but offering something special to a specific consumer group does create extra buzz within that community.
“Since you are targeting specific communities with these promos, it’s pretty easy to pick up earned media within those publications or websites or blogs that are relevant to those audiences,” Angelo said.
TIDAL’s Tips for Identity Marketing Success
Angelo has the following advice for marketers who want to launch an identity marketing program.
Aligning Your Programs with Your Brand
Make your identity marketing initiative serve your key personas. Does your brand already resonate within a unique community? Do you have an authentic reason to engage with them? Can you create an offer that makes the recipient feel special?
Respond to the Competitive Landscape
Design your programs strategically. What are competitors offering that you need to match? What aren’t they offering that gives you an opening?
For example, competitor data led TIDAL to expand its student plan to high schoolers, making the brand one of the few platforms to offer a special discount to this valuable, hard-to-reach audience
Use Zero-Party Data to Deepen the Brand Relationship
Zero-party data is one of the greatest benefits of identity marketing—if you leverage it.
“How am I now using that data point that I have about this person to provide them with a personalized experience?” Angelo asks. He advises marketers to use the data they have to their advantage, cutting out the guesswork and delivering more personalized experiences.
This can look like celebrating milestones and holidays along with your communities, tailoring campaigns with relevant messaging, and customizing product experiences to increase engagement and satisfaction.