Why Sound is the New Logo

While it’s no longer a secret to brands like Honda and Netflix, Audio Branding is certainly an underutilized ace in the hole for enhancing customer loyalty. As marketers, if there’s anything we’ve learned from 2017, it’s that the need for audio-based content is evermore present. With podcasts booming, voice experience (VX) escalating, Spotify dominating the “airwaves”, and smart devices appearing to rain from the sky, brands have an expanding universe of opportunities to communicate with their audience. These new audio platforms are certainly enticing, but it’s important to apply the right strategy so that your brand’s voice is heard above the noise and hits home with your user. Given that we have entered what Adweek has called “The New Golden Age of Audio”, Audio Branding can be your secret weapon; the arrow in your quiver that elevates you above your competition.


Audio Branding 101

For those of you new to the field, Audio Branding (sometimes referred to as Sonic Branding) is the strategic alignment of sound and music to strengthen brand awareness and enrich user experience. When first getting acquainted, it’s important understand the traditional aspects as well as the modern strategy. Altogether, proper Audio Branding should have two main goals: consistency in the messaging and emotional relevance to the brand.

In traditional Audio Branding, there are two main deliverables designed to lay the foundation for consistency. An overarching musical backbone is instrumental in establishing an Audio Identity: enter the Brand Theme. Sometimes called a Brand Anthem, this carefully crafted musical representation of a brand’s values can act as the cornerstone of advertising or live as a special-use theme for brand pieces or internal communications. While it’s possible that this asset may never actually be public-facing, it functions as a treasure trove of audio DNA created with a strong connection to brand adjectives and personality. Sound design, melodies and instruments are ripe for the picking to deploy across other touchpoints.

The most iconic touchpoint is the condensed fingerprint of the fully-realized audio ID: enter the Audio Logo. Another cornerstone of the Audio Branding playbook, the Audio Logo, sometimes referred to as a Sonic Logo or Mnemonic, will often be composed with sound design elements and melodies present within the Brand Theme. Typically a 3 to 5 note melody, this asset functions as a short, but memorable, tag aimed to become an earworm and to ensure an emotional connection to the brand. You may already know the Audio Logo from brands like NBC, Intel, and T-Mobile.

While Audio Branding has been a marketing tool since jingle-writing emerged in the 20’s, the brands that succeed today adapt to the evolving user base and think the beyond the mastery of the Brand Theme and Audio Logo. When marketers consider the way in which their audience experiences audio within the context of their brand as opposed to retrofitting an Audio Branding asset to a campaign, we not only create a better functioning sound ecosystem, we generate personal engagement.


Audio Branding Today: Visa

The modern approach must not only consider a brand’s values and maintain consistency, but should place special focus on how users interact with the sounds daily. The challenge is to meet the user where they’re open to hearing from you and to make sure the communication is natural. Visa has recently implemented a modern and effective Audio Branding concept worth mentioning. For years Visa has utilized voice branding by casting Morgan Freeman, and now they’re finally taking their strategy a step further. Visa has spent a year developing an signature sound for their NFC Payment technology, and is now deploying it consistently in their advertising. This is a perfect example of how to put sound where it matters most to the user. Every time users pay with Visa, they hear a thoughtfully crafted consistent, intentionally-designed sound that is brief yet functional. It’s empowering to put the sound of Visa in the user’s hands. All the while, Morgan Freeman is still delivering the classic tagline “Everywhere you want to be”.


Audio Branding Horizons: VX & IoT

The future is upon us. This year between machine learning and AI, CES may as well have been a breeding ground for voice assistants, but how will brands sound unique in a world narrated by the likes of Alexa? The key lies in creating signature sounds. AdAge says, “Brands and agencies are looking to create identities for when consumers can’t see the products, such as…developing a unique ‘voice’ or audio signature that makes their brands instantly recognizable.” The internet of things (IoT) has empowered us to transform our houses into Smart Homes. Home OS, or the conscious technology unifying all the devices in one’s home, opens up a new way for brands to, quite literally, speak to their users. If brands want to make an impact with VX, they should think about how to be empowering rather than intrusive. When users trust speaking with your brand in their intimate space, brand loyalty becomes more than just a conversation.


A Better Sounding Tomorrow

What voice and audio really represent is the freedom from being locked to a screen with your thumbs tied together. Audio is liberating for users. It encourages active experiences rather than passive ones. Users can be become a participant rather than a spectator, and it’s these kinds of experiences that users come to expect and prefer each day. If brands take the time now to focus on how their brand voice is actually heard , then they won’t have to regret missing all the upcoming opportunities for a voice-activated future. The secret’s out. It’s time we start making a better sounding tomorrow, today.

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