Articles

Published September 2013

Audio Branding

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What benefit, if any, can be found in an audio brand?

Neuroscience research has found that a multi-sensory approach to imagery processing - or in plain language the way someone sees and responds to your brand - may improve the believability and memorability of your communication.

But just what is audio branding and how can it help? To learn more we connected with Colleen Fahey of Sixième Son, a company that specializes in audio branding.


What is audio branding and why should companies consider using it?

Just as visual branding defines a brand using color and shape, audio branding defines through sound and music. Imagine if your brand had a sound as powerful as your logo.

With a distinct audio identity, your brand becomes more memorable and recognizable. Well-designed audio clarifies what your brand stands for. Are you carefree, festive and mobile? Trustworthy, supportive and comfortable? Innovative, surprising and friendly? When music it used as a language, it not only creates a bond, it tells your story.

Audio branding goes well beyond an audio logo, it's about defining the brand's Audio DNA and then adapting that DNA to all your touchpoints-just as your visual brand is adapted to your apps, expos booths and web videos, your audio identity should fit the situation its in. Short and clear for an app, long and varied for on-hold music.

It's not the new shiny object. It's fundamental and long-term. One simple investment can pay huge dividends for the next decade.


What are the essential elements of a strong audio brand?

Brand clarity is the most essential element.

The essence of an audio brand is that it's a system that unites your brand's voice at key touchpoints. It benefits by having a guardian and a style guide

In the audio DNA will be short, precise repeating theme and a strong point of view. But the Audio DNA needs to provide flexibility to adapt. So it's always recognizable but not mindlessly repetitive.

Besides using the tools of rhythm, melody and harmony, an audio brand should have a distinctive sound texture. The Intel audio logo is a good example of this. It almost sounds like you'd imagine the inside of a chip. Sixième Son has designed audio brands in which 80% of people can recognize the brand in just two notes.


There has been a lot of buzz recently about creating sounds and music optimized to make us more productive. Can an audio brand augment this?

Audio Branding addresses productivity in a different way--in the sense that it can coalesce employees and partners into a stronger team. It clearly spells out what the company is about and what unites them. Some companies use brand anthems, which can have powerful effects for employee pride.

I highly recommend audio branding for any company that's merging two workforces or undergoing a brand transformation.


When crafting an audio brand, what do businesses need to keep in mind?

When crafting an audio brand, first take a step back.

The marketer will work with their audio branding agency to define exactly what they want to say about the brand.

Also, be aware that your visual brand and audio brand will appear together-usually in an end-frame. Would the audio message be more effective if it underscored exactly what the visual brand is saying? Would it deliver a richer message if it added further meaning.

Don't go straight to the application. Work on the DNA from which all the applications derive.

Keep the conversation away from "I like this I don't like that." Stay ruthlessly focused on "What is it communicating?"


Music seems to be strongly dependent on taste. What do companies need to be aware of when designing an audio brand that will appeal to different market segments, but in terms of demographics and geo-location?

The language of music is well understood across borders and age groups.

It's even better understood than the language of color in which red can mean "passion" in one part of the world and "luck" in another.

Movies have helped make music a universal language. And today, music is fluidly sharable. Psy's Gangnam Style has been seen over 1.5 billion times. You may or may not like it, but chances are, you've picked up its cheeky vibe.

Music has the advantage that people tend to feel connected to it the more they hear it. But you don't have to like it to understand it. For instance, music designed by Sixème Son for an ultra luxury brand of cognac conveys, "This is a complex and rare, not for everyone" through music that's dissonant and slightly disturbing--but it's successful in helping sell bottles that cost between $1,200 and $40,000 each.

Sixieme Son has also successfully used music to help brands appeal to younger target audiences without alienating the current audience. For a telephone company seeking a younger audience, the results were telling. With the implementation of a new audio brand, the under-35's affinity for the brand increased 13% while for the original audience the ratings increased, but as much.

And, by the way, the new on-hold music decreased callers' perception of their wait-time.


What is the most misunderstood thing about audio brands?

The most misunderstood thing about Audio Brands is that uninformed marketers think they're just for television and radio. That couldn't be farther from the truth.

At Sixieme Son 50% of our clients are B2B. A robotics firm, a nuclear energy provider, insurance for healthcare professionals, pharmaceutical companies all use our audio brands. Anyone who has a visual identity benefits from an audio identity, too.

You shouldn't be licensing different music for instructional videos, annual meetings, and video news releases. Your on-hold music should remind customers of what you stand for. Your app opening sound shouldn't be decided by your mobile agency but guided by someone who has stewardship over the brand.

Another common misconception about an audio brand is that you have to like it. It's far more important that it communicate clearly what you stand for.

Let's agree that a brand relationship creates sustainable loyalty and preference

Let's agree that an multi-sensory brand is stronger than a purely visual one.

The shortest distance between not having a multi-sensory but coherent brand and having one, is well-designed music. In these audio-enabled times, If you don't have a distinctive audio branding system, you've got one hand tied behind your back.

Now I have a question for you. Can your audience recognize your brand with its eyes closed?

Audio brand examples:


Two audio branding examples produced by Sixième Son. The first is for a french railway company, and the second is for a cheese company. See the full commercials at vimeo.com/58724952 and vimeo.com/23037278.

 

Resources

The Role of Individual Differences and Multiple Senses in Consumer Imagery Processing: Theoretical Perspectives

 


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