The Sound Of Brand Differentiation

Colleen FaheyMay 24, 20174 min

Visually, you can only see what’s in front of your eyes, but auditory sensations can come from above, below, behind and all sides. Today, with multiple screens competing for the focus of their audience’s eyes, brand marketers need new ways to stand out.

And that’s good news for alert marketers. Because you have a chance to enter the fray from the flank. You can influence the powerful sense of hearing while your competitors aren’t looking. The process is neither difficult nor expensive. Welcome to audio branding.

Why The Battlefield Has Changed

As audio touchpoints proliferate, once-silent magazines, newspapers and brochures wouldn’t be caught dead without music and video. Even sales reps’ flipcharts have become multimedia-enabled apps. But few US marketers have rolled out a strategic approach to sound and music.

This creates an opportunity to take the high ground with a coherent, multi-touchpoint musical brand that’s recognizable at every customer interaction.

Think of this. The French National Railroad, SNCF, which has carefully managed its audio brand for a decade, boasts 88% recognition of their sound after only two notes. You can hear them here.

Would a result like that be helpful to your brand? I think so. Here’s why.

Reason 1: We Live In Distractible Times

Your customers may be texting, surfing or playing Pókeman Sun and Moon while they’re “watching” your commercial or video. Often, the eyes are averted in these days of “Continuous Partial Attention.”

How can your brand say, “Here I am,” when your customer’s eyes are distracted by another screen. The sense of hearing can come to the rescue.

Reason 2: Music Supports Memory

Brand marketers must turn their attention away from choosing licensed music for their commercials and videos, and turn them toward to the creation of an audio vocabulary that communicates their brand values and becomes woven into people’s memories.

Neuroscientists have located the part of the brain that links music to memory. It’s in the pre-frontal cortex, a part of the brain that’s exceedingly interconnected with the rest of the brain. “What seems to happen is that a piece of familiar music serves as a soundtrack for a mental movie that starts playing in our head.” said Petr Janata, a cognitive neuroscientist at University of California, Davis.

If a brand is rigorously managing visual communication but leaving their sound identity up to their various agencies and production studios, it’s sacrificing a huge opportunity to build brand equity. Brands must find a distinctive audio universe that crystalizes their brand essence and that sets them apart from the competition. And they must infuse it into all their audio touch points.

This requires a new type of strategic agency that brings a balance of branding expertise and sound and music design experience. Creating an audio brand is a deep and deeply collaborative process. An Audio Branding agency is not a traditional music house but focuses exclusively on the strategy and development of sound for brands.

Reason 3: While Audio Standards Powerfully Convey Your Brand, They Also Simplify Your Life

Today’s committed brand marketer should require an Audio Style Guide. This will simplify decisions and save time for, not just the marketer, but the product design team, the digital agency, the event agency, the ad agency, the PR agency, the call center and the HR team when they have to choose the sounds for their products, YouTube videos, sampling demos, commercials, on-hold music and training films.

To get started, you must create your Audio DNA, which captures your brand values, and your Audio Logo, which conveys your meaning in companionship with your visual logo.

Consider the financial services giant AXA which operates in 57 countries around the world. Their product mixes differ country by country. And yet, globally, their powerful leadership role is captured in this audio DNA.

AXA has simplified the job of their marketing departments by commissioning a mix-and-match library of branded music based on this DNA. It’s composed just for them and punctuated by a powerful Audio Logo. This has allowed their marketing agencies from Latin America to Asia to create commercials with widely differing story lines but a family feel and a strong branded sound.

Audio branding, like visual branding, exerts powerful brand influence, influence that strengthens and deepens over the long term. Today, it’s vital that a brand’s customers apprehend your meaning when their wandering eyes are fleetingly focused elsewhere.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by Colleen Fahey, Sixième Son

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