From Netflix’s “Ba-Dummm!” to the “ba-da-DA-Dum” of Intel, or even the three roars of the MGM lion we associate certain sounds with brands in the same way that we do their visual logos. These “audio-logos” are so recognizable that you probably heard them in your head based on the relatively simple way I tried to describe them above.
Audio branding isn’t new. NBC received the first audio trademark for the iconic 4-note chimes long before TV’s were used, as a way to audibly let radio listeners know the next show was about to start. Now, those chimes are just as much part of the brand identity for NBC as the Peacock.
In fact, advertising has used “jingles” as a way to make you remember the product being promoted for decades. So while branding experts and advertisers embraced the use of sound a long time ago, marketers too have embraced using audio cues to help influence the “buy” decision. The silence of ads that we used to enjoy has been replaced by the audio-enabled world of podcasts, mobile videos, apps, YouTube, and digital signage. And now, the Internet of Things, connecting the cloud to everything from refrigerators to projectors to vehicles to industrial products … it’s really noisy out there with all the music, voices, and bings, bongs, and boings of notifications.
If you’re not creating an audio identity (and managing it) with the same care you do your visual identity, you’re dangerously late to the game. Audio Branding is a discipline that has been used in multilingual Europe for more than 20 years.
A Brand’s Most Important Asset Is Its Reputation
The best way to build a good reputation is to be trusted. And the best way to earn trust is to behave consistently.
In the same way that a brand has graphics guidelines and a logo to help differentiate from its competitors, it must also develop a sound identity. And it must manage that identity with the same balance of rigor and flexibility that goes into managing a visual brand.
This 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 training videos, to YouTube videos.
What’s more, music is a globally understood language that can define what you stand for and underscore what differentiates you from competitors. If your corporate videos and your ringtones speak in different vocabularies, everyone will know.
Designing Your Brand’s Earprint
So how do you go about bringing meaning to the audio dimension of your brand?
Before anything, you work with audio design specialists (not your ad agency, though they are vital partners in the process) who will examine your brand’s values, aspirations, positioning, and desired tone of voice. You may also explore the historical audio cues your company has used and contrast your sound landscape with those of competitors. Together with your branding experts, you’ll work to find the unique and differentiating dimensions your audio identity must express. In short, you’ll build the brief for an audio brand strategy.
As an example, the La Roche-Posay audio brand captures the purity and sensitivity of the products, while the Atlanta Convention & Tourism bureau audio brand conveys the sound of dynamism, warmth, and eclecticism.
A Precisely Defined Process
After you and your team determine the brand’s core values, music strategists will explore and curate different musical approaches to communicate those traits. These will be translated to musical “mood boards.” These selections are brought to a workshop that includes the marketing team, your most trusted creative agency (or agencies) and the audio branding experts where they’re OK’d, rejected, discussed until a general agreement has emerged.
Once the musical ingredients have been defined in the mood board exercise, it’s time to create the music. Sound designers will compose a unique and tailored audio DNA that becomes woven into your brand’s many touchpoints. Is there a sound when a mobile coupon is redeemed? What ringtones might your sales force use? What will get people’s blood coursing as you rise to the podium at the global meeting? What will make people feel welcome at an expo booth?
This isn’t about senseless repetition.
Each point of contact presents an opportunity to deepen the brand relationship. Customer experience needs to be considered, and the sound needs to be adjusted according to the touchpoint (commercials, telephone on-hold messages, retail spaces, Internet, events). Think of it as an audio media plan.
The time is now for brands to harness the power of audio. This will help you, and your brand, lead in the age of the Internet of Things…and help you prepare for its more abstract cousin, the Internet of Everything.