One topic you’ll be hearing more about in the coming year will be the importance of audio branding. Audio and streaming have been popular for some time, but the growing adoption of voice is accelerating the need to take audio branding seriously. Nitish Sharma defines audio branding as, “[how] brands use signature sounds or music to express their brand identity. And there’s more to it than iconic jingles and ad music. Audio branding can refer to the memorable Skype connection sound or the grand 20th Century Fox music that plays before the start of certain movies. The main idea is to create a sound or musical signature that consumers can easily associate with your brand.”
As more and more people begin to interact with voice-first technologies, subtle differentiation using audio will get more critical. In a recent thought piece, Gary Vanyerchuck advises, “If you do not start the process right now of branding your respective ‘Chips Ahoy’ over ‘cookies,’ what’s going to happen is we’re just going to say ‘Alexa, send me some chocolate chip cookies,’ and the battle becomes which cookies are then sent – whether that’s Amazon’s private label, a Mondelez product, a Nabisco product, etc.”
Most brands haven’t given much thought to how their business sounds. Sure, many brands have guidelines around voice and tone, but voice and tone are different from sound. And the reason sound is so important is simple: Speed. And one of the best examples of effective, speedy sonic branding is Intel. (For an interesting explanation on the psychology behind some of the world’s most recognizable sounds, check out this video published by Wired.)
Think of the impact that consistent audio branding can have across the range of brand experience.
Here are five benefits your brand can realize through audio branding:
1. Create A Distinctive And Memorable Brand Identity. I agree with Gary Vaynerchuk when he says, “sonic branding is the audio equivalent of a brand’s username. If a company plays their tag alongside advertisements or content that match their brand’s positioning, eventually that audio tag by itself will conjure up the intended feelings around that brand.” The right audio tag will carry strong brand associations across other media.
2. Create Another Way To Amplify Your Brand Values. In a previously on Branding Strategy Insider, Colleen Fahey shared that, “[Audio branding] requires a system of sounds based on a proprietary audio DNA that expresses your brand’s values and personality–and it becomes an identifier across all your touchpoints. It requires a consistent feel, from your advertising, to call-waiting messages, to showrooms, to websites’ training videos, to YouTube to products.”
3. Impact Your Customer’s Mood. The right background music can have a calming effect on customers, easing their stress and leading to larger purchases. Roger Dooley shared what he found in one case study, “Playing gentle and ambient music designed to reduce stress was able to increase retail sales by 10%. The report highlighted how slow-tempo music induces positive responses and enhances people’s waiting experience in low crowd density.” Here’s an interesting chart by The Vibe Experiment on musical tones and how they incite certain emotions.
4. Impact Your Customer’s Willingness To Pay. A study conducted by Vijaykumar Krishnan showed that the number of tones that make up an audio logo can have an impact on people’s willingness to pay. The study found that six notes performed better than either three or nine. Researchers attributed the difference to processing fluency.
5. Increase Trust In Your Brand. A brand’s most important asset is trust and the best way to earn trust is to behave in a consistent manner. Colleen Fahey notes that in music, “that requires a well-designed audio DNA that centers the brand’s sound and infuses the execution of music at the brand’s touchpoints. A focused approach to your own sound can bring congruity to brand experiences and that supports trust-building–more so than does the use of licensed music. Though licensed songs can add impact or aid memory, they can also detract from the brand, especial if they don’t express its values. And impact without meaning adds to confusion and clutter.”
It’s clear that voice-first technologies bring with them a new requirement for brand leadership — an audio brand strategy.
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Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education