5 Tips for Integrating Audio Into a Marketing Strategy

Article originally published in Adweek on July 5, 2018.

As music streaming, podcasts, audiobooks, smart speakers, connected cars and voice assistants have caught the public’s attention, the amount of audio-friendly content space is multiplying by the minute. To plant a seed in this growing ecosystem, brands need a comprehensive strategy for navigating the flourishing mediums that rely on sound, music and voice. If your brand is not present in these new gardens of growth, then it runs the risk of falling behind companies that have put thought and effort into audio branding. Here are a few tips for creating an audio strategy that provides a substrate for your brand to grow there.

Think broadly

Brands make sound everywhere they are present. Any tone, voice, noise and racket that springs up from your form or function counts. For example, Harley Davidson motorbikes’ iconic engine roar or the rustling of a Doritos chips packet are, whether intended or not, sound advertisements that are included in their brand experiences.

Are your customers treated with music while waiting to get through to your service number? Does your company make frequent trade fair appearances or pop-up events? Does your website user interface make sounds to enhance the browsing experience? Or perhaps none of these? Even silence is a branding choice.

The entirety of a brand’s aural output forms a concept called audio identity, and yes, you have it, too.

Make strategic musical choices

Audio branding is more than just making approachable, nice-sounding music. It is an extensive strategy that objectifies music and voice to create guidelines for building the brand’s own sound. Similarly, to visual guidelines, an audio brand absorbs a strategical and cohesive approach to representing the values, mission and reason for a company’s existence. This creates a visual interpretation, the mental image about the brand.

Since we experience brands with multiple senses, it makes sense to include sound into consideration as well. When your brand is present, which notation, key, instrumentation, tone or frequency rings your audiences’ bells?

Give your audio theme a facelift

Selecting branding theme music doesn’t mean you are doomed to being a one-hit wonder. Visual brand campaigns, for instance, are rarely 100 percent identical since fonts, colors and features are bound to evolve. Even though the appearance undergoes facelifts, the end result still embodies “our brand.”

An effective audio strategy plays along these notes, as the audio theme also has to survive the ravages of time and consumption. Instead of sticking to the same earworm on every touchpoint or campaign, cultivating the song helps the audio brand become timeless yet allows for variation in the musical context. For instance, the McDonalds audio logo has appeared in various styles without losing the company’s audio identity.

Start from objective

Interpreting brand attributes into music and sound can be tricky since music is a subjective experience. Some people enjoy acoustic singer/songwriter warmth while others connect emotionally to pompous, upbeat pop tunes. It’s understandable that the range of individual preferences can throw a wrench in the works of any decision-making process.

Audio branding strives to remove the difficulty of choice by objectifying sound, music and voice and aligning their use and placement to represent brand values. Once the original elements of a branded sound are there, personal preferences become relevant yet less contingent because the analyses have provided the crème de la crème to choose from. The only thing left for the decision makers is to choose the sweetest piece of the musical pie.

Fill this new world of audio friendly space

In the past, visual branding methods and guidelines have developed hand-in-hand with new and therefore necessary channels that have emerged with time. The last such instance occurred as the world shifted from under the domination of TV and print to the age of smartphones and online streaming. The appearance of new platforms, channels and mediums created a whole new void of visual content, which brands have since filled commendably.

Now the ball of yarn has started to unravel with audio, too, as Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, along with Google Assistant, are taking audio marketing to new, uncharted territories of unheard-of customer experiences. In fact, the current trajectory of technology is lavishing new voice- and sound-driven apps, devices and services at our feet on a daily basis.

We are living in a time where the growth of multisensory marketing with audio in the forefront is giving the visual world a run for its money. As audio is liberating us from staring at screens, it is becoming an integral part of our daily life. Consequently, crafting an audio strategy will be the key to better interacting with customers in the coming future.

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