Strike the right chord and sonic branding can emotionally engage customers, create innovative experiences, and improve ad recall, says Paul Reynolds, MassiveMusic’s MD.

When Ipsos, the global market research specialists, published its ‘Power of You’ report  looking at the effectiveness of distinctive brand assets, they recognised and proved the power of sonic cues over other assets, such as celebrities/

It revealed that if you harness on-brand distinct sonic assets, these are 16x times more likely to achieve branded attention than visual assets alone. Our response? Finally!

We’ve known this for years but it’s still something we have to educate brands and agencies on all the time – proving why we deserve a seat at the creative table, and how sound and music can create the perfect opportunity for brands to stand out.

It’s easy to opt for short-term brand building initiatives when times are uncertain and markets are turbulent. But it’s often forgotten that in the long run, building a strong brand in combination with short-term sales activations is the powerful way to drive profits.

Without building a brand, a company is selling its potential and long-term future viability short. And part of that brand building should involve the vital and hugely cost-effective element of sound.

What does your brand sound like?

Firstly, what are your brand values? Because, in order to know how they should sound, we need to understand who you are and what you stand for.

The brand message must be clear, whether it’s audio or visual. Many brands make the mistake by looking at what competitors are doing and following the ‘trend’ or not fully understanding the components needed to build an effective and deep-rooted sonic identity.

I recently wrote a piece on how Netflix missed a trick by sounding like every other film studio rather than differentiating and disrupting – which would have been true to its original values.

Look at this example of COVID-19 advertising and how quickly brands can start to sound the same. Research already shows that the majority of people struggle to remember the brand after seeing an ad so you need all the help you can get to increase brand recall. Brands must spend time properly understanding how sound can work in brand-building and what defines the brand to consumers – so the sonic identity doesn’t simply reflect it but has it embedded within it. 

Emotionally engage using visuals AND sound

As we gear up to Christmas advertising season, what comes to mind? Almost certainly the emotional pull these creative campaigns are designed to achieve.

The tugging on the heartstrings, the nostalgia, the feeling of togetherness and wanting to create the perfect holiday. These adverts work so well because they perfectly integrate sound and visuals in a seamless way – not just elevating the story but also ensuring it fully correlates to the brand.

You want that perfect mixture – an engaging story AND the brand recall. Because when it works, it works incredibly successfully.

You only have to look at one of the leaders in sonic branding – Coca-Cola– and how the brand has cemented itself as the sound of Christmas in the UK with its ‘Holidays are Coming’ campaign.

Or the hugely-anticipated John Lewis adverts that place a strong piece of licensed music as one of the central components. As much as this looks like a strategic commercial decision it’s there because, combined with the right visuals, it has the power to truly drive behaviours.

Utilise the power of technology

The surge in technology and the digital revolution has meant brands can live on a number of devices – which includes a sonic identity. Think about every time you order on an app like Deliveroo or pay for something using Apple Pay.

It may be subtle but those audible confirmations are delivering critical positive feedback as well as routing you straight back to the brand. It’s strategic and it holds incredible power. 

Take the banking industry and how differently consumer habits have changed. More of us are in the habit of simply logging on to an app to carry out transactions and account management, relying more on the technology than human interaction to carry out tasks.

Disruptors have discovered that sound cues provide key opportunities to engage. 

Last year, Natwest  started its trial with Google Assistant, allowing customers to bank from home and ask eight different questions using voice alone, including what’s my balance, what are my latest transactions and what transactions are pending?

With an estimated 1 in 5 UK households now having a smart speaker, there is a key opportunity for brands to capitalise on this significant user adoption. With more touchpoints for the user, these brands can apply sound in a strategic way that conveys trust and security to customers.

Simple sound notifications can be so reassuring for customers, and can do wonders for their loyalty to your brand.

Technology also extends to the machines being used – think about train stations and ticket buying or cash machines – the possibilities are becoming limitless and so a sonic strategy investment can be utilised in countless ways.

It not only provides brand recognition and feedback but consistency, positive recall, assurance and trust. This is yours for the taking – if you choose to strike the right chord.