18 April 2018
Does anyone remember when every brand had a jingle? That musical note at the end of all messages on radio and TV that made it clear which brand you were listening to.
Now we live our lives glued to screens, so spend our time looking rather than listening. It’s all about the visuals and aesthetic of a brand.
However, there could be a shift emerging as audio makes a comeback.
At the moment, two big trends are mentioned over and over again: voice search and podcasts. Every other article is about what the future of marketing means with voice search, and podcast monthly listeners are at 67 million in 2017.
How a brand sounds is about to become a whole lot more important.
Consistency of sound
Whether it’s music, frequencies or snippets of noise, sound can trigger both memories and emotion. And with an increased focus on authenticity, using emotions is a way for brands to appear more human and real. From powerful or exciting to calm, one definitive sound can tie all aspects of a brand together and be the best way to convey one mood.
From online to TV to retail, the composition can enhance all touchpoints in a consistent way.
An iconic example is McDonalds ‘i’m loving it’. With the phrasing and music, the golden arches come to everyone’s mind whenever they use their ‘audio logo’. This means that whatever platform they’re using, the same image is conjured.
People take in sound subconsciously. Where pictures can be ignored, sound cuts through, possibly without a consumer even realising. So when they take in a brand’s distinctive audio they’ll think about them without even meaning to. Sound is subtle, but highly effective.
One of the most common uses of sound is through music.
A brand might want to use a pop or rock song to appear cool and current or something retro to boost nostalgia. However brands need to be careful when choosing the sound they use if it already has associations.
One example who didn’t quite get this right is Royal Caribbean Cruises. They used Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ to highlight how fun their trips were. However, it was quickly withdrawn when people pointed out that the song was about drug abuse and prostitution. The problem is that this song already had its own themes, which most music has, so research is key to avoiding an embarrassing mistake.
So, when using music composed outside of a brand it’s important to look up what the lyrics mean. But as long as music is picked carefully, it can create a lasting positive feeling.
Optimizing for voice search and what it means for the future of marketing is inescapable, and for good reason. 50% of searches are predicted to be through voice by 2020.
And when searching, 70% of the enquiries are with a natural voice, so brands should be matching this more informal tone. If people are changing the way they search, brands need to change the way they’re found.
A push for incorporating colloquial language into text is the usual advice, but what does this mean for sound?
People treat voice search like a conversation: ‘what’s my nearest pizza place?’, ‘how do you clean a red wine stain?’. Brands should reply in an equally friendly, and most importantly human, manner. In a conversation the way we communicate is vastly different to how we write.
Voice search also means people are expecting more audio to be incorporated into their lives so it’s the perfect time for brands to jump in. Having a unique voice will help a brand to stand out when people use smart speakers, and being optimised for it means it’ll be the brand that comes up more than any other.
Podcasts and video have brought audio domination to the world of content. Both are constantly on the rise and the mode of choice for a lot of consumers. People like to listen and more importantly, are willing to listen. So, it makes sense for a brand to use these spaces to input sponsored content.
A lot of brands hand over control to creators on these platforms, with some adding swears and even mocking the ads they read out. As scary as that sounds, it’s what their audience will be used to and expect and actually makes the branded content fit in seamlessly. If it seems authentic, people are much more likely to engage with the idea and respect the brand.
Brands can also learn from the way these creators work with sponsored content. Podcasters and YouTubers often have a very distinctive voice, as personality is what keeps people listening. Brands should work on their personality to stand out and sound is a great way to do this. How someone talks and expresses themselves is often how we gage who they are and the same can go for brands.
A unique idiolect might be the way brands really bond with their consumers and build a relationship where they do more than ‘talk’ at them.
Developing the sound of a brand will be increasingly crucial in years to come, and brands that get involved early on are likely to be the ones that dominate an audio-first world.
From ads to social media, sound can tie in every aspect to create a seamless and distinct brand.