New Normals

How Inter Milan became pioneers in social audio

17 March 2020

By Andrea Togliani

This year will go down in history as the year of social distancing, where we finally experienced first-hand the importance of staying connected. In this new normal where touching is limited, we started to rely on another sense: hearing. We learnt to live our lives with headphones on, whether speaking to friends about our lonely Fridays nights or learning about the latest project update from a work colleague. We relied on people’s voices and conversations to stay sane. Clubhouse, the brand new audio-based social media platform, currently limited to iPhone users, was born out of these uniquely isolating circumstances.

It provided a profound sense of connection and solidarity that can only be found when surrounded by people sharing a common passion

In a pioneering move, Football Club Inter Milan made their debut on Clubhouse the evening before the important Derby della Madonnina game on 21 February this year.

The club is already known for their original activity across social content platforms – we have stumbled upon their original content formats when browsing through YouTube or scrolling a TikTok feed. Now, the fully-fledged audio event was dedicated to the conversation among fans, capturing the flavour of being on the stands or sitting at the bar with a lager.

It captured the irony and concern among those who didn’t know what to expect from the upcoming game, while at the same time it provided a profound sense of connection and solidarity that can only be found when surrounded by people sharing a common passion. You could feel the presence of the fandom, as Radio Deejay and Radio 24 hosts moderated the discussion among the audience, including general listeners as well as special guests like Marco Santin (Gialappa’s Band)

Headphones On, Brands Are Speaking

The sense of hearing is something we develop much earlier than the others: a baby can hear as early as in the fourth month of pregnancy. “Our goal was to build a social experience that felt more human—where instead of posting, you could gather with other people and talk,” Clubhouse founders Rohan Seth and Paul Davison clearly know what they are doing.

While Clubhouse did capitalise on this growing need to talk, they are also riding on a growing trend of audio branding. Over the last two to three years we have witnessed the rapid growth of podcasting among wider audiences and its adoption among brands. The voice of brands, in particular, is becoming a hot topic. We saw, or rather, heard this, through voice assistants, as well as music playlists curated by brands.

While they reach a relatively smaller group, the activation leaves a much deeper mark

Alongside Inter Milan, other bold brands are also taking the opportunity to capture the ears of the audience. For example, IKEA made their debut on Clubhouse with three thematic rooms (living room, kitchen, bedroom) in which influencers and journalists contributed to a discussion on how to make the most of home life, with the support of psychologist Luca Mazzuchelli.

Of course, the free and open scenario that Clubhouse proposes where anyone can drop in and say what they think live is not risk-free: haters could be around the corner. However, the potential of the audio experience is undoubtedly fascinating.

If traditional campaigns are effective to raise brand awareness on a large scale, then more targeted activities such as those of Inter Milan and IKEA will reach niche and extremely vertical audiences, where those who take part are more receptive, attentive and easier to convert into brand ambassadors. In this respect, it is similar to traditional experiential activations that reward people with in-person shared experiences and live vividly in the memory of those who were there. While they reach a relatively smaller group, the activation leaves a much deeper mark.

The opportunities are there. Now, brands, it’s up to you: will you be brave enough to come out of the locker room and follow Inter into the playing field? Are Brand and Marketing Managers willing to get more hands-on and reach brand fans and consumers directly without intermediaries? The true game is yet to be played, emotions are just around the corner.

New Normals is a content series focused on the rapid evolution of the experience economy in response to the global pandemic. TRO, the brand experience agency, in collaboration with the global network of Omnicom Experiential Group, will share weekly stories and insights from around the world.