Because creating a company’s audio brand requires a different approach than creating the score for a commercial or video, here are a few guidelines to help put your teams in the right mindset to launch an audio branding initiative.
1. Don’t leave audio strategy until the last minute. Just as you create your visual brand’s foundational strategy and elements, plan your music and sound at the outset.
2. Don’t confuse Audio Branding with entertainment. It has a strategic, trust-building job to do. Your goal is to completely define the audio universe for your brand, just as your graphic standards define your brand’s complete visual universe, so that no matter where your audience encounters your product, service, or communications, they’ll recognize your audio brand and know what it stands for.
3. Don’t forget that impact without meaning can be distracting and counter-productive. Your audio footprint must convey the brand’s essence, promise, and values. Even if your colleagues love nostalgic music, don’t be tempted to use it if your brand stands for forward-thinking innovation.
4. Don’t choose a piece of music just because you like it. Ask instead, “What does it say?” Music is a universal language. Your audience can tell if it’s warm and friendly, if it’s optimistic, if it’s powerful, if its’ caring and approachable. Be deliberate in the way you select music for your tactical marketing. (Once you’ve established your Audio DNA and Audio Logo, this becomes easy.)
5. Don’t repeat the same music mindlessly. Adapt it to the context. Telephone hold music should have lots of variety and surprises to keep the caller interested and reduce hang-ups, music in parking lots should be calming as the audience is often in an anxious state, music in cavernous areas should avoid low tones, which will get lost amid the reverberations, music for meetings should start calmly and then build a sense of anticipation, music for videos should support the storyline, not toddle merrily along on its own path.
6. Don’t confuse music production houses with audio branding experts, even if they claim to be able to create audio logos. Branding experts are focused on finding a way to make your brand distinctive in the category and precise in its communication of brand essence, promise, and values. They will analyze the competitors, take you through a defined process, and offer an Audio Style Guide and other tools to help ensure buy-in and branding controls and consistency. They are also music experts but, specifically, they use music to create brand influence rather than using audio for soundtracks to movies or TV shows or for the writing of commercial songs.
7. Articulate what your brand ideally represents before addressing what the audio brand must do. Because your audio identity’s role is to express the core of your brand essence, the first task is to fully define it. Only then can you design the music that expresses it.
8. Think of your audio brand as a system of distinctive sounds and music, not as a jingle or even a stand-alone audio logo at the end of TV and pre-roll commercials.
9. Investigate the audio approaches your direct and indirect competitors are using, so you can stand out – just like you would for your visual brand.
10. Enumerate your key audio touch points, including your branded content, your on-hold music, your trade show booth, your radio and TV spots, your app-opening sounds, your events, your parking lots, and corridors, and more.
11. In different situations the audience has different needs. Make sure you use the right music to support those needs in various circumstances. Your identity system for your audio brand will be designed to be coherent within the overall brand but must be adaptable to fit each setting.
12. Whenever your visual logo animates onto the screen, plan to play your audio logo at the same time. The most powerful branding tool in your kit will be your multisensory endframe.
Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by Colleen Fahey, Sixième Son
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