You've got a lot to show customers. Your visual assets, messaging and overall values are a huge part of the reason customers choose you over other brands.
But if you've not thought about what your brand sounds like, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.
Sound is super important for brands. It's a great way to build relationships with customers, make your messaging memorable, and increase sales.
Sonic branding is the name of this discipline. It's about extending your brand from something people experience with just their eyes, to a recognisable voice they have an emotional connection to.
Below, we'll explain what makes people want to listen to you in the first place. Then, we'll explore the channels you can start reaching people through, both through broadcasting and in-person.
Do you know the difference between passive and active listening?
Passive listening is when you hear things without really being conscious of them. You're not motivated to process the sound information that's entering your ears; it just passes through without making much impact.
You might drift in and out of focus on it, or you might not really hear it at all.
Active listening is when you're not just hearing something, but focusing your attention on it. You're spending mental energy on processing it, understanding it, and committing it to memory. Because it takes more effort, you actively listen to fewer things or people in any given day.
This is important to understand because building the audio side of your brand will involve both types of listening.
What makes us actively listen to things in the first place? Interesting, relevant sounds that trigger an emotional response.
Bringing an audio dimension to your brand is about choosing the most appropriate ways to reach your audiences' ears, and giving them the right sounds at the right time. Let's look at the best ways to make your brand voice an appealing listen.
Firstly, it's worth getting specific about where your brand audio is going to be heard.
Different channels have different demographics, so you'll need to think about your customer segmentation and where your intended audience spends their time. But people consume content from platforms differently, so choosing the one that's most appropriate for your needs is crucial.
Radio branding works well for mass-market advertising because it's broadcast to wide groups of people.
Messaging in retail stores can encourage purchases on the spot, enhance your visual merchandising displays, and enhance the multi-sensory aspect of your brand.
Public space advertising can be effective passive advertising (although you can make it more unique and memorable with certain audio setups – see our Samsung case study for inspiration).
Social media advertising can be narrowly targeted towards your desired customers, who should be immediately able to make a purchase from you, although you will have to invest in visual branding like images or video to go alongside your audio.
Podcast ads and sponsorships can be some of the most powerful forms of digital marketing, because listeners are the most active and engaged out of all channels.
A multi-channel approach may well be the most effective way of building your sonic identity. Being exposed to your sonic brand on multiple occasions over time is the best ways for listeners to develop an affinity for you.
As sonic branding expert Hamish Macdonald writes,
"For sonic branding to be effective, the volume of exposure is king... Much like establishing a regular workout routine as part of your lifestyle takes time and consistency, the repetition of a sonic identity helps consumers to make a 'habit' of a brand, albeit mostly subconsciously. With continued exposure, a musical pattern becomes encoded psychologically and, over time, it can become more favorable."
Like any other marketing activity, there has to be a purpose. If you're in charge of a budget, you'll need to prove to your investors or management that there's a return.
While some ventures have to be treated as experimental – business does involve taking risks – you have to have a plan for your audio branding strategy. Set a timeline, declare your goals, and explain the steps you'll take to get there.
Do you want to increase brand recognition in a certain target audience? Uplift sales by 10%? Create an identity that you can use for 5 years or more? Plan these things out and you're much more likely to create a successful audio campaign.
One of the most well-known examples of music making a difference in consumer behaviour came from a study about wine shops. It was found that customers spent more money – choosing the more expensive bottles – when classical music was playing in the background, compared to other types of music.
If you're aiming to increase brand recognition and brand recall, choosing something catchy should be your priority. Many of the most famous brands in the world have musical 'jingles' or ‘sonic logos’ that identify them within a couple of seconds - like McDonalds, Microsoft, Intel, and others.
Despite only needing a few seconds of melody, this isn't an easy undertaking. You'll probably need to make use of professional musicians or audio branding consultancies to make sure you get good results.
But it's not just a jingle that makes up your audio brand identity. It could be the smallest audio interludes, like for when a scene changes in your videos. It could be the sounds that play when someone interacts with your products, or even the chime your cash register makes when it opens.
Every part of the customer experience that involves sound can be personalised with a melody or texture that's part of your audio brand.
If you're creating spoken-word branded audio, you'll only have a few seconds to make your impact. People won't give you their attention unless there's a compelling reason to do so.
Power words are words that have an immediate impact, provoking emotions like urgency, curiosity, excitement, or desire. You should aim to use at least a few of these in your audio, whether that's through in-store announcements, public ads, or elsewhere.
If you want people to visit your donut shop for example, you wouldn't say "Visit our donut shop to buy some donuts". You'd make it more evocative with something like "Pop into our friendly new doughnut shop on your next lunch break. Our expert donut crafters will be delighted to serve you the sweetest, tastiest doughnuts in town."
A skilled copywriter can give you just the right words to say, and an outside party can sometimes describe your offer better than you can. A fresh perspective can work wonders on your marketing strategy.
If you're not able to hire outside branding help, then have a look at this list of power words for inspiration.
It's important to note the tone of your audio brand assets and match it to the channel it's going to be played through.
There's a mixture of art and science when it comes to crafting great audio – a skilled music producer is worth their weight in gold. But you don't have to be a master of audio engineering to know that some things sound better than others in certain places. Daytime radio usually consists of mid and high frequencies because it's played through car speakers or workplace sound systems, where it competes with noise from the surrounding environment.
Akoustic Arts' directional speakers, for example, thrive with high and mid-range sounds due to the way that directional audio works. This means they're great for the spoken word and classical or pop music.
Music that's heavily weighted towards bass frequencies might not be a great match, but tunes with a wider frequency spread can work really nicely. This is certainly something to experiment with – play your recordings in as many environments as you can to see what works best.
Have you ever been listening to the radio in your car and heard a siren or alarm as part of the ads? It's super annoying – it causes a mild panic as you think there's a police car right behind you.
It's attention-grabbing, but in the wrong way. Sure, you might be remembered by listeners, but probably not for the right reasons. Your sonic branding should provoke an emotion, but it shouldn't be anger.
It's hugely important to be trusted by your audience, so don't take their attention for granted. Remember that anything your promise in your ads and branding needs to be backed up by a quality product or service, too.
(So don't overdo it on the power words.)
Audio branding really benefits from attention-grabbing, engaging experiences. We think our product provides just that.
Akoustic Arts directional speakers can put a new spin on your sonic branding strategy. They're suitable for both active and passive listening experiences; you can use them in locations where people are likely to concentrate, or you can place them where visitors might experience them subconsciously.
They're perfectly suited for an in-store environment, where you can direct audio in a straight beam to:
The overall result? More engaged customers, a better working environment, and increased sales. Contact us today if you'd like to find out which benefits you can find for your retail store.