Did you know that 86% of advertisers have visual branding guidelines but only 17% have audio branding guidelines (Radiocentre, 2015)? Whether you plan for it or not, your brand generates sound. Take a moment to think about it.
The lack of audio planning, or just plainly neglecting it, are decisions which affect consumer perception regardless of whether it was a strategic choice or not. Any audio used in conjunction with your brand from product sounds to in-store background music, define and mold how your consumers perceive you. There is no way around it.
This is not a warning, it is an opportunity. Having an audio identity opens up new communication opportunities as it reaches consumers on another sensory level than just visually. The ability to engage consumers with emotional reactions is the very reason why music is one of the most impactful branding tools brands have access to.
Most importantly it can impact your sales. According to a study conducted by Leicester University, brands that use music that is aligned with the brand identity are 96% more likely to be remembered by the consumer, versus brands that use ‘unfit’ music or no music at all. The same study demonstrated that consumers who recalled, understood, and liked the music the brands were using, were also 24% more likely to purchase the brand’s products (Leicester University, 2008).
What is audio branding?
The term ‘Audio Branding’, as far as the existing literature is concerned, derives from the expression ‘marque sonique’ used by a French commercial expert Jean-Pierre Baçelon in the 1980s. Through his work as an on-air radio salesman, Baçelon recognized the benefits of audio branding and the positive effect it had on the sales numbers of the products advertised on air. By categorizing and analyzing radio advertisements he realized that the ads that included some level of audio branding generated better sales, repeat business, and most of all, brand awareness (Jackson, 2003).
Music and melodies have been used as power tools since the early days of advertising. Today, audio branding is much more than just outdated jingles. In fact, the objective of audio branding is to create a unique audio identity that connects your audience with your brand. In other words, it is strategic audio planning that is aligned with your brand identity across all touch points from product sounds to TV campaigns.
The benefits of consistent sound are manifold:
- Increased brand value: loyalty, equity, and recognition
- Enhanced and more coherent brand communication
- Increased impact of your visual communication
- Stronger brand differentiation
- Improved brand recall
The main takeaway for CMOs and other marketing and advertising professionals should be that music has been a grossly undervalued branding tool.
Audio branding in practice?
It all starts with understanding your brand and how your brand values translate to music and other audio elements. Creating an audio branding strategy is much more than just choosing great music. It’s also about creating your very own audio brand assets and using them consistently and strategically. Just like you’d do with your visual assets.
Music is highly subjective and we all have our preferences. When you are defining your brand’s sound try to keep this in mind. You are not choosing music to fit your personal preferences, but you should be choosing audio elements that fit your brand’s identity. To help you with this process there are a plethora of great music professionals out there. Just don’t rely on your cousin as the running joke goes in our industry – unless your cousin is a professional of course.
Why is there a gap?
The answer is two-fold. First of all, marketing professionals are rarely comfortable dealing with audio decisions. There is a large difference between understanding what strategic audio planning means versus just choosing a one-off song for a commercial. Secondly, change is hard and the advertising industry is suffering from a bad case of inertia when it comes to incorporating audio decisions in the planning phase. This means that music decisions are more often than not, left as an afterthought. Relying on stock music libraries is equivalent to using stock images to build your brand’s visual identity.
As much as 83% of all marketing expenditure globally has been focused on visual assets (Lindstrom, 2005). This means that there is a lot of noise for sight and the power of the other four senses has been largely undervalued. Sound is a cost-effective way to stand out. It really is the new golden age of audio.
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Radiocentre. ‘Strike a Chord’ Research [internet]. Available from: http:
North, A. and Hargreaves, D. (2008). Leicester University.
Jackson, D.M. (2003). Sonic Branding: An Introduction. 1st edition, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lindstrom, M. (2005). Brand Sense – How to Build Powerful Brands Through Touch, Smell, Sight & Sound. London: Kogan Page Limited.