What is your sonic branding definition?
Does your brand strategy include the sonic characteristics of its audio DNA?
Do your brand’s unique sounds stand out from the non-stop noise and sounds people regularly hear?
Even if you answered yes to these questions, you still need to examine your sonic brand.
With increased ownership and use of voice-enabled devices, the audio elements of your brand must be consistently identifiable.
Also, this includes the lack of accompanying visual and/or contextual signals due to increased screen-free use cases.
Improve your brand identity and alignment with your organization’s higher level purpose. So you can increase the value of your business in terms your CFO understands.
Because brand equity directly builds the worth of your balance sheet.
As a result, your sonic branding:
- Creates marketing that demonstrates outcomes in financial terms unlike 2/3 of CMOs! (2019 CMO Survey)
- Includes the elements of its audio DNA.
- Transforms otherwise non-marketing voice and audio actions into branded actions.
Table of Contents
- Let Me Just Hear About Audio Branding
- What Is The Science Behind The Power Of Audio Branding?
- Why Do You Need Sonic Branding?
- Sonic Branding Definition: What Is Audio Branding?
- Why You Need To Document Your Sonic Branding Definition?
- Sonic Brand Definitions: How Experts Define Audio Branding
- How To Create Your Brand’s Unique Audio DNA
- Sonic Branding Definition Conclusion
Let Me Just Hear About Audio Branding
Don’t have time to read the sonic branding definition?
Then listen to audio branding experts Andrew Stafford and Steve Milton explain how to transform sound into sonic branding magic. (Via Wired Magazine November 2016)
What Is The Science Behind The Power Of Audio Branding?
(aka: Why Should You Worry About A Few Sounds?)
Since human auditory neural pathways are less complex than visual ones, people react to sound and categorize it 10 to 100 times faster than sight. (Fortune 2019)
While your brain takes at least 0.25 seconds to process visual recognition it recognizes a sound in 0.05 seconds. Further, you can sense changes in sound that occur in less than a millionth of a second according to Seth Horowitz, author of The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind.
“When people hear any voice they automatically and unconsciously assign a personality to it.” — Clifford Nass and Scott Brave in Wired For Speech
Humans decode sounds while in their mother’s womb. During this stage of life, people can hear and interpret their mother’s heartbeat. This early biological exposure makes people more aware of sounds and their meanings.
So take a scientific approach to audio branding. And define your sonic brand by dissecting melody, rhythm and psychology to increase audience appeal.
Why Do You Need Sonic Branding? Listen To The Audio Research
2 out of 5 customers rate sound as a key element of brand communication.
Consistent sound and video enhance the emotional impact of visual communication by 1207%
By closely linking their sound and visuals, ads delivered 14% higher memory encoding of branding on average.
Align music with your brand identity to be about 100% more memorable than brands with ‘unfit’ music or no music. (Source: Leicester University 2008)
Music and its pace influences customer behavior. At a US supermarket chain, slower music increased sales almost 40%.
Audio ads lift purchase and information intent more than twice as much as display ads. Podcasts generate up to 4.4X better brand recall than display ads on other digital media. Further, NPR found that ads read by show hosts performed significantly better than independent ads.
The University of Leicester studied the impact of sound on sales. On days when French music played, 77% of the wine sold was French and, on days when German music played, 73% of the wine sold was German.
Yet most shoppers never made the connection between the music and their purchase. A mere 2% of customers mentioned the music when asked about their selection. (Source: Fortune 2019; The other Sonic data is from Audiodraft.)
Sonic Branding Definition: What Is Audio Branding?
Sonic Branding Definition:
The development of the strategy and use of an aural sound experience associated with your brand.
So you translate the core concepts of your brand identity, attributes and messages into a unique, distinctive set of audible components.
Lasting at most a few seconds, your signature set of sounds automatically associated with your brand. So your audience connects emotionally with your brand’s abstract elements while enjoying memorable experiences.
Aligned with your brand narrative, your audio identity delivers consistent interactions without visual cues and regardless of physical context.
The resulting sound experience:
- Improves brand recognition and affinity,
- Differentiates your offering, and
- Adds emotional connection customers crave.
For example, listen to HBO’s sonic brand.
3 Core Types of Sound
Sonic brands contain at least one of 3 core types of sound according to Daniel Jackson, author of Sonic Branding.
- Voice refers to any sound produced by a person and can include words like your name and/or tagline.
- Ambiance refers to non-human sounds produced by the environment.
- Music consists of vocal and/or instrumental sounds. Take care when using music. It may have pre-existing associations. Also, it’s like renting your brand for fast recognition.
Map musical sounds to your audio brand to create your desired emotional response.
- Lower tones represent sadness, shame and despair,
- Mid-range tones while more sonically pleasing are associated with happiness, hopefulness and love, and
- Higher-end tones have more intense and sharp pitches representing anxiety, hate and anger.
BUT, do your homework to ensure your sonic brand doesn’t sound like or imitate that of another brand and/or business.
What Is A Sonic Logo?
To reach screen-free and/or audio-only audiences, use a sonic logo. An audio logo consists of one or more musical notes to capture the essence of your brand, business and/or product.
When your audience may not see your visual brand symbols, use a sonic logo to build your auditory brand.
A sonic logo represents your brand strategy through the use of an audio cue. It consists of a short sequence of sounds designed to leave your audience with an instantly recognizable sound.
As a tool of sound branding, an audio logo makes your sonic brand more memorable. Most often, it’s placed at either the beginning or end of a piece of audio.
Audio logos create an emotional attachment to help your audience:
- Recall your brand,
- Develop a preference for your offering,
- Improve your customer experience, and
- Sway them to purchase.
Where Do You Use Your Audio Brand?
With today’s ever-expanding user base of audio and voice-enabled products:
Astute marketers insert their audio brands, sonic logos, sound design motifs, playlists and other branded audio to connect with their audience on a deeper emotional level.
At a minimum, add your audio branding to:
- Startup sounds, errors, low power, other alerts and other product-related sounds,
- On-hold music and other corporate audio messaging,
- Websites, landing pages, video, games, webinars and other recorded content (including audio books),
- Emails, text messaging, IVRs and chatbots,
- Video content including social media options like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and others.
- Podcasts, radio shows and voice assistant content such as Alexa skills,
- Apps and other software options,
- Retail entry and other out-of-home locations, and
- Digital, radio and television commercials including advertising jingles.
In addition, apply the principles of content curation to develop musical playlists. These brand-identified mood-perfect soundtracks create experiences, atmospheres and cultures that audiences crave.
By fitting music to a brand’s identity, marketers tap into emotions, lifestyles and/or environments their audience actively seeks.
To create successful branded playlists requires a combination of:
- Science-backed research,
- Market and brand research,
- Employee and customer interviews,
- Lifestyle and music trend knowledge, and
- Knowing how the curated music will sound in a given context.
For example, Pixar employs playlists to market their movies and related merchandise. Despite her brief appearance in Monsters University, Ms. Squibbles has her own playlist because she was seen head-banging to metal.
Why You Need To Document Your Sonic Branding Definition
Only 17% of brands have audio guidelines compared with 86% of brands who have visual ones. (WARC 2018)
To keep your branding guidelines and related documentation up-to-date:
- Add your sonic branding definition to your overall branding guidelines. Then document how, when and where your audio brand should be used across devices, channels, formats and platforms.
- Distribute your sonic branding guidelines to everyone in your organization, not just Marketing. Also deliver them to your agencies, freelancers, influencers, suppliers and distributors, where appropriate
Sonic Brand Definitions: How Experts Define Audio Branding
The AAAA (or the 4As)’s audio branding definition is:
“Sonic branding uses audio cues to reinforce brand identity. More commonly known as audio logos, sonic branding is an aural mnemonic device.”
AudioBrain’s Audrey Arbeeny
Pandora’s Steve Keller
At Voice Summit 2019, Pandora’s Sonic Strategy Director Steve Keller defined sonic branding as “ sound in a branded experience, identity, communication and innovation.”
NPR’s Meg Goldthwaite
Meg Goldthwaite Since sound is an integral part of NPR’s storytelling and brand identity, CMO Meg Goldthwaite defined audio branding in these terms:
The play on sound is what we want to do as marketers because we’re trying to elicit emotions affiliated with the brand.
As NPR’s content gets disaggregated, listeners don’t hear “This is NPR” associated with every bit of audio. So Goldthwaite must find new ways to brand NPR’s audio to ensure that listeners know that it’s the NPR created content they’ve loved and trusted for over 50 years.
Author Nick Westergaard
In the opinion of Nick Westergaard, author of Brand Now, modern branding has to engage all 5 senses. Although marketers often only focus on a brand’s visual and verbal identity.
You must include the other aspects of your brand’s sensory profile—including the sounds associated with your brand. Therefore, use the entire host of sounds associated with your brand to connect with your audience on a deeper level.
Siegel + Gale’s Victoria Kurzweg
Siegel + Gale’s Strategy Analyst Victoria Kurzweg keeps her definition of sonic branding simple:
Branding with sound or using sound to create or reinforce associations with your company. Branding is about defining and shaping the brand experience.
There are different elements of that experience, including how we identify a brand—like a logo—and how we interact with a brand—including entering a store, calling customer service or visiting the website. Sound is one type of tool in the branding toolbox.
How To Create Your Brand’s Unique Audio DNA
Since people hear, identify and react to sound faster than other forms of communication, audio is a critical component of your brand identity and marketing strategy.
Because the various forms of sound make your brand memorable.
Also sound gives your brand power due to conscious and unconscious associations your audience makes with them.
To stand out in screen-free device interactions and/or when using voice-only devices, establish your unique and authentic audio brand.
Make sure your sonic identity breaks through the non-stop clutter of noise to attract and hold your target audience’s attention long enough to be identified and acted upon.
Then your audio brand identity creates and deepens an emotional connection with your audience through the use of voice, music and other sounds.
In the process each element of your audio brand shapes your customer experience (or CX) based on your organization’s brand DNA. Over time, consistent use of your sonic brand builds audience trust and deepens your relationships with them. As a result, prospects grant you permission-to-contact them and ultimately purchase from your business.(AMP visual representation).
Sonic Branding Definition Conclusion
Let’s face reality:
Our environment is loaded with unnecessary sound.
Further, increased use and availability of audio and/or voice-enabled devices increases ambient noise. In addition to interrupting our attention, these sounds distract us from more important sensory input.
As a result, you marketing challenge is:
To ensure your sonic branding definition stands out in this audio filled landscape.
To aid listeners:
Make your audio brand elements quickly identifiable.
At the same time sonic branding creates a positive emotional attachment to your brand to enhance your customer experience (aka: CX).
BUT—Don’t rush to reuse an inexpensive piece of audio since you may be building on rented branding.
Instead, invest time and budget to analyze your competitors and related audio environments. And, then, develop memorable sonic branding DNA. This investment will yield measurable results that enhance your business value over time.
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