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  • Writer's pictureGladwyn Lewis

How centerstage should your Sonic Branding be?

Updated: May 19, 2023

We're talking about Sonic Identity here, not Sonic the Hedgehog
We're talking about Sonic Identity here, not Sonic the Hedgehog

Now obviously when I am talking about Sonic Branding, I don't mean this Sonic. Although it is quite often confused with Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic Branding is the audio component of everything associated with your brand, hence Sonic or Audio Branding. And we have written a couple of pieces on Sonic Branding earlier, that I feel you should read, especially if the linguistics surrounding Sonic Branding is yet a bit vague to you, and not clearly articulated.

Are you an ambitious brand?

Here's a challenge, the most notable brands that have dabbled in Sonic Branding, and successfully I might add, are Brands that have Ambition in my opinion. Brands that are willing to push the boundaries in their interactions/perspectives with their audiences. It doesn't have to be B2B or B2C, there are notable sonic implementations across both sectors that have done it remarkably well. For example, Mastercard, Shell and Apple have been consistent in retaining top place in the audio brand index.

Sonic also has been used very well by Aircall, a company that provides cloud-based phone systems and contact centre solutions. In fact they went a number of steps further, in developing a sonic branding that showcased its technical solutions, as well as energy, creativity and people. To us Sonic Branding is a great team building exercise, getting into music and sound textures that inspire people, and asking the deeper questions like why and how. It's a great insight into having both the client side and the agency side working together, playing around with multiple layers to express your company's identity in the both basic and fundamental of all senses, hearing. But does Sonic Branding help your bottomline? Well Best Audio Brands report debuted in 2019 and it quantifies a brand’s audio performance against criteria including customer trust, recognition, efficiency, and engagement. When it comes to recognition, the report showed industry sectors to score the highest for audio branding are luxury goods, automotive and energy. In contrast, those sectors scoring highest for trust are energy, travel and restaurants. Remarkable, so there is data that fundamentally supports our hypothesis, Sonic Branding is a great tool in a brand's marketing arsenal.

The Meteoric Rise of Sonic Branding

While Sonic Branding has seen a meteoric rise in the last couple of years, it is yet not ubiquitous, and this presents a challenge to agencies like us, especially in educating prospects and our existing clients on the fundamentals of Sonic Identity and its usage in today's brand landscape. To me, and to a certain extent to us at the Unmarketing Agency, it's all about fleshing out your brand’s DNA, values, history and purpose. What makes you different from it's competitors, and what does your brand truly stand for? Then we take this insights and word cloud, and dig into the outcome. Transposing this research, benchmarks, discussions into a tangible asset, looking for the right sounds that fit into it, and creating a series of sonic templates that communicate the emotions clearly.

But why is sound so important? In the race to capture eyeballs, attention has taken a backseat, although, hopefully for not too long. People react to a new sound up to 10 times faster – about 30 milliseconds – than they respond to a visual stimulus. The way our brains process sound is also more linked into subliminal processes than conscious thought. And then there is again research that actually supports this. Man Made Studios showed subconscious reaction to sound is responsible for 86 per cent of our decision to engage (or avoid) an associated experience. Even an Ipsos study into distinctive brand assets, showed that across more than 2000 video advertising pieces of creative, sonic brand cues were 8.53 times more powerful than visual brand assets tested in terms of performance.

Audio is already ubiquitous in our lives

An interpretation of colours as sound waves
An interpretation of colours as sound waves

While audio is not ubiquitous in brands, it is prevalent across our modern lives. Over 60% of US consumers listen to podcasts, and it's usage in our daily lives has doubled in the last couple of years. Top of it over 80% of internet savvy folk, are aware of podcasts today, and in some geographies like Australia, over 91% are aware of podcasts.

In the old hey day of the advertising days, we knew that a good music score could significantly elevate an ad. The combination of music and voice was always found to make an ad more memorable and emotional. Let's put it this way, with our collective shorter attention spans, and multiple media platforms clamouring for our attention, any brand that embraces sonic at its very core, will always be in a distinct advantage over the rest of the crowd. Sonic Branding is not about how loud your brand is, but about how consistent your brand is, to its consumers across all its touchpoints. Add as many senses that you can affect in all the touchpoints, you've got yourself a winning formula there.

Sonic branding is where you take the characteristics and find something very unique when they’re blended. It’s like a custom pair of shoes – it’s not going to sound like anyone else

Understanding a brand's sonic identity is way more complex that just a sonic logo, or a jingle. Its the emotional response and the connection that is made with the consumer because of the added 'hearing' sense layer.

One classic example of a brand that did this successfully is Mastercards' Sonic Identity at Checkout. While it sounds so simple, it's execution was an all encompassing, comprehensive, global project. The melody was developed in partnership with musicians, artists and agencies globally, including Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, and adapted to harness operatic, cinematic, playful and regional styles. The core 8-bar melody has been extended across a range of assets including musical scores, advertisements, sound logos, ringtones, hold music and point-of-sale sounds.

Let's face it Sonic is already centerstage, the challenge is how to leverage it best for your brand. From mobile apps, to mobile devices, diabetic devices, and your home, with your Smart TV, there are elements of Sonic Branding at play all around you.

Our open challenge, time to elevate your brand

And yet only 20 of the Fortune 500 companies have a sonic logo in place, and probably less than 10 have a serious sonic strategy. Maybe its time to change the tables, and really make sonic identity a bit more mainstream than it actually is. If you consider yourself to be a part of an ambitious brand, and are looking for your own unique Sonic Branding, get in touch with our team, and let's work together.

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