Marketers in the US have been big believers in visual branding using carefully designed graphic standards to convey their core identity.
Sound has been overlooked. In past years, the primary audio-related question facing marketers has been what music to use in a TV or radio campaign.
Often an afterthought and usually licensed from popular music, this has done little to communicate brand differentiators or brand’s unique values. More confusing still, is the use of all varieties of music for on-hold music, expos, events, YouTube channel and retail outlet – creating an auditory hodge-podge hurting the clarity of your brand.
Many commercials are wasting the sense of hearing by using someone else’s music, running at its own pace—instead of their company’s proprietary Audio DNA scored to the story being told. When you replace the licensed tune with sound designed for the brand and story, you’ll see scores of particular attributes shoot up: “soothing and pleasant” for one brand, “innovative and mobile” for another. Comprehension of the commercial often rises, too.
Given the ever-growing number of touch points, the attention must be paid to defining core values of a brand and expressing them consistently.
That’s a key job of audio branding, giving each brand its bespoke and original owned sound and music to share the brand’s meaning. It gives a brand a neat system of sound, connecting people at a deep level.
Reducing sound to filler or background music is a tremendous missed opportunity. Because when used thoughtfully, audio has the ability to send a distinct brand message and make it memorable.
This is particularly important because new media over the last 20 years are not pages but devices with audio capabilities, With so many avenues, a brand can get out of control.
This creates the need for a stabilizing audio DNA and strict audio style guidelines.
Visual identity style guides are forces to be reckoned with. And though a visual logo may be look slightly different on a billboard than on a web page, its design will follow graphic standards.
Audio Branding Tips
The most challenging task is creating the brand’s audio DNA, the distinctive vocabulary of sounds that get reconstituted in various way at different touch points
Articulate what your brand stands for before deciding what the music must do
Think of your audio brand as a system. Beware of mindless repetition
Figure out your key audio touchpoints—there are more than you think.
Require an Audio Style Guide
Don’t confuse Audio Branding with entertainment. It has a job to do. The job is brand-enhacement.
Don’t choose a piece of music because you like it. Ask instead, “What does it say about me?”
Colleen Fahey is the U.S. Managing Director of Sixieme Son, a Paris-based agency exclusively dedicated to audio branding – advising creating and supporting its clients in defining their Audio Brand and adapting it to their particular touch-points.
Since its launch in 1995, the agency has created audio brands for over 285 clients. Among them are AXA, Cartier, Dior, Michelin, Nestlé Extrême, Royal Air Maroc and Samsung.