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Sweet sound of success: Optimizing audio in your branding efforts

by | Sep 8, 2017 | Analysis, Public Relations

As marketers and communicators become more exposed to different forms of media—paid, owned, earned and shared are the ones we all know—there is still one common denominator: No matter what you do to promote yourself, your brand becomes more and more recognizable as people see its familiar colors, typefaces, shapes, logos, and other imagery—used consistently, repeatedly, and frequently every time they encounter it.

Here are some points to consider:

  • A graphic style lays out a system and a point of view.
  • Your logo may be expressed a bit differently on a giant billboard than on a tiny business card, but it will conform to the same standards.
  • The logo at the end of a sales video should match the one in commercials, on websites and on packaging. Colors and fonts should remain the same too.

Why then do some companies still use sounds from completely different universes for their meetings, retail environments, on-hold music, apps, videos, and other touch points? Why are they conscientious about branding their graphics, but sloppy with branding their music?

And why do they think that advertising is the only medium that requires serious attention to musical selection?

More and more, we’re finding that marketers need to become smarter about systemically creating an entire audio language for a brand based on its essence, vision, values, promise, and personality—a language that gets expressed across every point at which a brand interacts with key constituents, from the web and apps to trade shows and business meetings to TV to the retail environment and even the product itself.

“But we already have a jingle…”

We hear this from marketers way too frequently—it’s a common response from those who don’t understand how to properly integrate audio into marketing efforts. While jingles technically are a component of audio branding, by and large, jingles offer a very limited view of the discipline’s opportunities and benefits.

The music in an old-school jingle was typically composed to support the words rather than to build the brand. Hence, the music doesn’t create much brand equity and has limited applications beyond media advertising. What’s more, lyrics are often merely a name and phone number or a feature of the product or service, so they too have limited ability to convey the brand character and extend the brand influence.

Because creating a company’s audio brand requires a different approach than creating the score for a commercial or video, let’s write our own score, shall we? Here is an audiophile’s approach—albeit a brief one—to integrate sound with marketing efforts.

B-Sharp

Sharply distinctive in position and sound.  Investigate audio approaches your competitors are using so you can stand out. Your audio identity’s role is to express your brand’s core values in a differentiating way. Only after you define those can you design the music that expresses them.

Become a brand maestro

Think of your audio brand as a coordinated system of distinctive sounds and music, not as a jingle or even a stand-alone audio logo at the end of marketing and branding vehicles.

Sustain a rhythm with your brand

Address all of your key audio touch points, including branded content, on-hold music, a trade show booth, web sites, your app-opening sounds, your events, your parking lots, and corridors, and other points along the path to purchase.

Create surround sound, but no monotony

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.

Understand your brand’s key signature

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.

We communicators and marketers have a lot of things on our plates. But being able to deliver a one-two punch on behalf of clients requires us to use our ears in addition to our eyes.

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Colleen Fahey and Larry Minsky
Colleen Fahey is U.S. Managing Director of Sixième Son, a leading audio branding agency. Laurence Minsky is Associate Professor in the School of Media Arts, Columbia College Chicago. They are the authors of AUDIO BRANDING: Using Sound to Build Your Brand.

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