The other day I was talking to a friend who is the founder of a high-end fashion brand. The business is growing nicely, he’s got a great story, a great product, a well thought-out distribution strategy, a nice logo and a really well-crafted brand image. He called me because he was in the process of shooting an ad and had no idea what kind of music he was supposed to use. We ended up having a near philosophical discussion about what it means to be memorable in a society where the average attention span for humans is about 8 seconds. I still haven’t fully figured out the answer to that question. But I guess this conversation opened his eyes on the value of audio for a brand and a few days later, we sat down and took the time to draft what would become his brand’s Audio Branding playbook. A manual on how to use music and audio at every point of contact with his clients and potential clients. Let’s see how Audio Branding can help your business stand out in a noisy world.
What is Audio Branding anyway?
When it comes to giving identity to a brand, the first thing that comes to mind is the logo and corporate colors. These are the basic elements that give meaning to a brand and highlight its main values. Once these elements are in place, there are other ways to reinforce the brand’s identity. For example you could have a tagline that quickly describes what the brand is about or you could define the vocabulary that will be used in all your marketing content. Audio branding is about translating all these elements sonically so that every time someone interacts with your brand, whether via a TV ad or while waiting for the phone support to answer, there will be memorable sonic elements that reminds what your brand is about and what it stands for. It usually starts with an audiologo that defines the main message. From that audiologo, we will be able to define an effective guidebook and how, when and where to use sound when presenting your brand. If you want a more thorough definition of Audio Branding check out this page.
Create your own sonic universe
The great thing about sonic branding is that you have a chance to create your own language and your own voice. Let’s imagine that your brand has shops in Paris, New York and London. You will probably make sure that every shop has the same visual identity so that your most loyal customers feel instantly at home. But what if the music in the London shop is playing lo-fi chill beats and the one in New York is playing 70’s rock. Which type of music do you think best represents your brand? Maybe neither? Maybe you should actually be playing a mix of moody pop and chill jazz because it fits more with your brand’s identity. Add to that the fact that the type of music and its pace has been proven to strongly influence sales and you may have just missed an opportunity to present your brand in its best light. The music you choose is only one of the main elements that need to be taken into account when presenting your brand. Think of the type of music you use in your social media videos, the sounds used when your customers use your app or even how the sound of shutting a car door influences our perception of the car’s build quality. Having this global approach to sonic identity is the best way to optimize every point of contact with your clients or potential customers. That said, it is also important not to overdo it, as Harvard Professor Michael Porter said : “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do.”
What do you think is more memorable? A 120 character sentence or a catchy pop chorus? Music creates long-lasting emotional connection with the listener and you need to use this as your advantage. We all have a song that reminds us of a certain moment of our life, every time we hear it, we see images that bring us right back to that special moment. Imagine how much you can transmit about your brand with the right choice of music for your ad or the right audiologo. Just like a logo, the possibilities are endless, and there is definitely a sound, a melody, a voice or a rhythm that will send the right message about your brand. Just take this study from PHMG (world leaders in audio branding): out of those who gave a definitive answer, 74 % of young adults believe that they develop a better understanding of a company’s personality through music. From podcasts to radio ads and music streaming, the consumption of audio medias has never been this high and it’s time that brand understand the value of sound if they don’t want to be left out of this huge growing market.
You can close your eyes but not your ears
There is something particularly powerful about sound. Not only is it able to transmit powerful emotions but it is also in many ways unavoidable. Our brain and ears have adapted for the last hundreds of thousands of years to be able to perceive sound, analyze it and make decisions based on it. Every nuance of sound can be recognized almost instantly, from the tone of a familiar person’s voice to the sound of a piano. These familiar sounds are part of our culture and they can be a powerful way of reaching out to your audience.
Our auditory cortex, the part in the brain that processes sounds is also in big part responsible for processing language. This is why we rely a lot more on sound to understand the world around us, perhaps more than on visuals. Neuroscientist and Brown University Professor Seth Horowitz argues that hearing is the most fundamental sense in part because our brain can process a lot more sonic information in a much shorter time frame than visual information. The flip side of that is that humans can be easily bothered by unwanted sounds and noises so you will want to be considerate and responsible when pushing your audio branding strategy.
Supercharge your content
I think we can all agree that a good music track on a TV ad makes it more impactful but did you know that good audio and music can actually dramatically increase your content’s power? Oxford University Researcher Charles Spence proved that congruent sound and video enhance the emotional impact of visual communication by 1207%. Moreover according to a study by neuro insight, when a soundtrack and a video are closely linked, the content delivered, on average, 14% higher memory encoding at end branding than more passive soundtracks. Investing in audio branding not only influences the way people perceive your brand or product but it also has the power to increase the impact that your content has on your audience. Next time you create a piece of content, don’t underestimate the choice of the soundtrack because it could be the difference between an average campaign and a super successful one.
Your responsibility as a communication or marketing professional is to make sure that everyone can clearly receive your message. That includes those among us who are not able to fully use our 5 senses. Of course audio branding can really speak to those who are visually impaired and some brands and organizations have made great use of audio to improve the life of visually impaired people. Take a look at this amazing campaign by Tennis Australia where sound is used to allow blind people to experience a tennis match like never before. You would think that audio branding would not be relevant for people suffering with hearing loss but let’s not forget that sound is vibration and that vibration can be perceived through our body even if our ears cannot perceive it.
Any brand can benefit from audio branding and there are tons of ways to speak to your audience with sound. From tailoring the soundtrack of your ad, crafting an audio logo or studying the sound your product makes, the more attention you put into how your brand or product sounds, the more you will master their identity. You don’t have to be a big corporation or have a huge budget to have a voice of your own. At Sound Object, we have created audio strategies for small and big brands and we always make sure that our clients understand their new strategy and that they have all the tools to apply it at every point of contact with their audience.