By: Chelsea Kerr 06302911 and Tom Qin 06096359


Shazam is a cutting-edge emerging communication tool available for smartphones and tablets that records the sound from a television commercial and identifies the advertisement via audio fingerprinting technology. Once the audio is recognized, users are connected to branded landing pages, transforming passive viewing into active brand engagement. The Shazam application leverages the growing second-screening trend, which is the consumption of television while using a smartphone or tablet. Shazam’s ability to promote a deep level of consumer interaction with brands, while accommodating the growing trends of second-screen and consumer empowerment, proves it is a truly valuable emerging communication tool. By integrating a brand’s broadcast strategy with its digital strategy, Shazam has generated success for brands such as Chevrolet, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Trident, Geico, Sony, Home Depot, and Microsoft.

What Is Shazam?

Launched in 2002, Shazam started as a UK-based mobile service that connected users to the music they heard but did not recognize. Originally named 2580, Shazam enabled users to capture audio and receive the song’s identification via text message by dialing 2580 on their mobile phones.(i) Although Shazam had initial success as an SMS service, the introduction of smartphones accelerated Shazam’s growth, resulting in the creation of the Shazam application. The Shazam app, which is free to download, uses a smartphone or tablet’s microphone to record the music that is playing and identify the song via an audio fingerprinting technology. The title and song information are then delivered back to the user within seconds, while also providing click-through opportunities to purchase the song from iTunes. Shazam is currently available on all smartphone and tablet systems, reaching usage rates of over 330 million identification tags per month.(ii) Shazam has audio-indexed more than 25 million tracks and amassed more than 275 million users from over 200 countries in 33 languages.(iii) Every week, two million new users download the Shazam application, which is a clear sign of its continuing popularity.(iv)

Along with technological and user growth, Shazam has expanded beyond music identification to leverage the newly emerging power of second-screening, which pertains to the usage of smartphones and tablets while individuals watch television. In 2012, Shazam launched a full-scale television interaction campaign, with over 160 participating channels in the United States.(v) The Shazam television process is the same as the Shazam music identification process. Users simply record the television audio and the information is delivered to their smartphones and tablets within seconds. A ‘call to action’ is often used, with a Shazam logo appearing in the bottom corner of the television screen to prompt user interaction. Viewers can use Shazam at any point during a television show to receive exclusive content and information. Shazam’s television interaction has also extended to television commercials, providing an emerging communication tool for brands to connect with users on a deeper, more effective level. After the television commercial is identified by the Shazam application, users are led to a branded landing page. From this landing page, consumers can discover more about the brand, including products and promotions, giveaways, social media pages, online communities, and more.

External Trends & Market Factors

Trend: Second-Screen

Shazam is on the cutting edge of the emerging second-screen trend, providing a platform for advertisers to interact with this growing market. In 2012, approximately 85% of smartphone and tablet owners used their devices while watching television, a 15% increase from 2011 and 45% increase from 2010.(vi) Not only has second-screen usage increased, but users are also interacting more frequently, with 40% of smartphone and tablet owners engaging in second-screen activity on a daily basis.(vii) This trend can be seen at events such as Super Bowl XLVII, which solicited 24.1 million real-time tweets, a 76% increase from Super Bowl XLVI.(viii) Second-screen users are also less likely to engage in ad-skipping, with 73% of viewers refraining from skipping television advertisements when using a second screen, compared to only 50% for single screen users.(ix) Second-screen viewers see commercial breaks as an opportunity to check emails, tweet about the television content, and interact with other viewers through communal consumption. Therefore, Shazam is providing a platform to connect brands with activities second-screen users are already engaging in during commercial breaks.

Trend: Consumer Empowerment

One of the major trends in consumer behaviour is the rise of consumer power. Consumers are increasingly voicing their opinions about brands, equipping themselves with greater market knowledge and promotional awareness. This increased knowledge has also led to a growing level of skepticism and cynicism towards advertisers. In today’s marketing environment, consumers desire greater brand interaction, but on their terms with the brands they choose to interact with. By giving consumers the power to determine which branded content they want to engage with, Shazam is accommodating this consumer empowerment trend. Originally, QR codes were used to empower consumers by providing access to more exclusive, brand-specific content through pictorial tags. Now, Shazam and its audio fingerprinting technology are used to connect digital with television and even radio marketing, successfully merging the possibilities of traditional and digital marketing.

Target Market

Shazam has a large potential audience and user base, which includes all individuals with tablets and smartphones who engage in second-screening. In 2012, 36% of 35 to 54 year olds and 44% of 55 to 64 year olds used their tablets while watching television.(x) The older age demographic, namely those 55+ have proven to be the most frequent web surfers and email checkers on tablets while watching television.(xi) The younger generation, those 18 to 24 years old, favour the use of their smartphones during television viewing.(xii) Therefore, both men and women in these age cohorts can be reached through Shazam, demonstrating that second-screening and the Shazam application are not limited to the younger generation.



Shazam has the ability to increase a brand’s return on advertising investment by transforming the impressions of a 30-second television commercial into minutes of active consumer engagement with the brand. Shazam users are genuinely interested in accessing more brand-specific content, resulting in meaningful engagements and interactions with other users through social media platforms. For example, official sponsors of Super Bowl XLVI extended the impressions of their $3.5 million per 30-second spot advertisements by amassing more than one million tags on Shazam.(xiii) These interactions provided additional value beyond the advertiser’s investment in the 30-second advertisement.

Sales Promotions

Shazam also has the ability to connect users from television advertising to sales promotions by providing users with exclusive access to contests and rebates. This synergy has proven beneficial for automobile companies. During last year’s Super Bowl, Toyota aired Camry Effect, an intimate commercial that focused on the emotional story of real-life Camry owners. Shazam gave viewers the opportunity to enter their personal Camry stories into an exclusive contest for a brand new 2012 Camry. Honda also used Shazam to connect viewers who saw its Summer Clearance Event commercial to local rebate and price discount information.  

Direct Marketing

Shazam can further connect users to a brand’s direct marketing efforts. Once the advertising tag is received, viewers who are more passive and want the advertiser to spend the effort and deliver exclusive content can sign up to receive updates via email or text message. Toyota’s Camry Effect on Shazam allowed users to engage with the content other users posted. It also allowed users to sign up and receive relevant content, such as local price discounts and exclusive event invites delivered by Toyota.

The above video is the Shazam-enabled Toyota advertisement called Camry Effect.

Below are screen captures of Toyota's branded landing page on Shazam for the Camry Effect.

Risks & Barriers of Adoption

Requirement of Smartphone or Tablet

In order to use Shazam, consumers must own a smartphone or tablet with the downloaded Shazam app. Those consumers without physical smartphone capabilities will not be able to engage with Shazam. In order to encourage adoption, the Shazam app is available on every major smartphone platform and can be downloaded from the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Amazon App Store, AT&T AppCenter, Verizon VCast App Store, Nokia Store, Windows Phone Marketplace, BlackBerry App World, and GetJar.(xiv) In addition, the Shazam app now comes fully downloaded on all Android phones.

Time Frame Restrictions of Second-Screen Viewing

In order for people to engage with Shazam-enabled commercials, they will not only need to own smartphones, but also need to actively use their smartphones while watching television. If individuals do not have their phones turned on and ready to use, they will not be able to Shazam during the short time frame of television commercials.  

Audio Recognition Performance

Since Shazam is based on audio recognition, if the audio is unclear or muffled the application will not be able to perform properly. This could require individuals to move from where they are watching television to reach clearer sound, which would be perceived as an inconvenience, thus discouraging use. However, Shazam’s fingerprinting technology is continuously being updated to more effectively block out ambient noise.

Disengaged Commercial Viewing

With the increased clutter in the advertising environment, some individuals no longer pay attention to television commercials. To combat this disengagement, many Shazam-enabled advertisements offer exclusive giveaways and information that cannot be obtained elsewhere, encouraging consumer interaction. In addition, Shazam’s target audience of second-screen users are less likely to skip commercials compared to single-screen viewers.

Perceived Complexity of Use

Individuals may be apprehensive of their ability to use and navigate the application correctly. Potential users may also question the application’s ability to recognize and deliver information about the content desired. Shazam’s instant information feedback can seem too good to be true for those individuals who have never used the application before. However, since Shazam is free to download, users are able to test the applications capabilities without incurring any costs, mitigating users’ perceived risk of adoption.


Trident’s See What Unfolds campaign is a nationally run campaign in the United States, which utilizes Shazam to promote interaction between the brand and consumers. Specifically, the campaign targets the adventurous spirit of consumers, playing upon their desires to escape everyday life. The television advertisement starts off with an individual chewing Trident gum; suddenly the world is at the consumer’s fingertips, inspiring adventurism and endless possibilities. See What Unfolds is prominent during the television show The Amazing Race, with Shazam connecting interested viewers to exclusive contests for the chance to win adventurous vacations. To illustrate the effect, picture a consumer watching The Amazing Race, with the exotic locations depicted on the show elevating their desires to travel the world and escape. See What Unfolds comes on during a commercial break and the campaign prompts viewers to use Shazam to access exclusive Trident content, including contests for foreign adventures. They are also linked to Trident’s social media pages, where they interact with other consumers over personal stories of adventure. Undoubtedly, the connection felt by consumers with this unified marketing campaign is much more personal and engaging than viewing a traditional television commercial.

This video was recorded with Tom's smartphone to illustrate the Trident example discussed above.


The Shazam application is the next stage of integrated digital marketing. Shazam’s ability to promote further consumer interaction with brands, while accommodating the growing trends of second-screen and consumer empowerment, proves it is a truly a valuable emerging communications tool. The future capability of Shazam in integrated marketing communications is limitless, as long as marketing platforms have an audio digital component. In the future, Shazam can move beyond television commercials to be used in all forms of marketing with audio elements. These possibilities, combined with Shazam’s continuing growth, will cement the applications importance in the communication mix.


i Medeiros, Joao. Wired Magazine. 30 August 2011. 8 February 2013.  

ii Fisher, Andrew. TechCity Insider. 7 December 2012. 8 February 2013.

iii Shazam. Shazam Company Information. 2013. 8 February 2013.

iv (Shazam, 2013)

v Shazam Exceeds a Quarter of a Billion Users Worldwide and Expands Shazam for TV in the U.S. 17.

vi TechCrunch. Nielsen: 85 Percent Of Tablet And Smartphone Owners Use Devices As “Second Screen” Monthly, 40 Percent Do So Daily. 5 December 2012. 7 February 2013.

vii (TechCrunch, 2013)

viii Ortutay, Barbara. Super Bowl Generated Record Number of Tweets . 4 February 2013. 8 February 2013.

ix Time. A Simple Way to Get TV Viewers to Stop Skipping the Ads. 14 November 2012. 8 February 2013.

x (TechCrunch, 2013)

xi (TechCrunch, 2013)

xii (TechCrunch, 2013)

xiii (Ortutay, 2013).

xiv (Shazam, 2013)

Note: Tackk automatically deleted hyperlinks. Please consult the emailed version for full bibliography.

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