Quick: Name at least three kinds of new media that have appeared in the past two decades.
Here are some off the top of my head: mobile videos, apps, YouTube, and digital signage. What do they have in common?
They’re all audio-enabled.
So here’s my question to CMOs, who are managing more touchpoints than ever before. Have you thought about your brand’s audio identity lately?
Many companies use “Chariots of Fire” for meetings, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” for on-hold music, ’80s pop songs for commercials, and perhaps a metallic “ping” for app-opening sounds. What is that brand saying? Is it an energetic brand? A classical and delicate brand? A pop-culture brand? A technological brand?
In the same way a company has graphics guidelines and a logo to differentiate it from its competitors, it must also develop a sound identity. And it must manage that identity with the same balance of rigor and flexibility that goes into managing a visual brand.
Indeed, your audio carries as much meaning as your visual identity. This requires a system of sounds based on a proprietary audio DNA that expresses your brand’s values and personality--and it becomes an identifier across all your touchpoints. It requires a consistent feel, from your advertising, to call-waiting messages, to showrooms, to Web sites training videos, to YouTube
Yet many brands may be letting it carry an incoherent set of messages.
If your branding efforts are not taking into account the sense of hearing, you have a big opportunity to strengthen them with audio branding. What’s more, music is a globally understood language that can define what you stand for and underscore what differentiates you from competitors. One only needs to see the almost 2 billion views Psy’s Gangnam Style video has earned to recognize that borders are irrelevant, and music flows across them with ease.
Social media--on which time spent continues to grow across across PC and mobile devices--makes everything transparent. If your corporate videos and your ringtones speak in different vocabularies, everyone will know.
Convey Something Meaningful
A well-designed audio DNA can do much for a brand--more so, I believe, than can the use of licensed music or of jingles. Though these can add impact or aid memory, they can also detract from the brand if they don’t express its values. Impact without meaning just adds to confusion and clutter.
So how do you go about bringing meaning to the audio dimension of your brand?
Before anything else, you and your audio design agency must examine your brand’s values and aspirations. Do you want to express who you are today or what you’re evolving to?
With your audio agency’s help, you’ll also explore the historical audio cues of your company and contrast your sound landscape with those of the competitors. Together you’ll work to find the unique and differentiating dimensions your audio identity must express.
Michelin’s sound of mobility and innovation conveys a different meaning than does Nestlé Extreme’s soothing and sensual sound, and Cartier’s luxurious one. One of my favorite audio identities is from a Home Depot-like chain in Europe, Castorama, whose audio sounds as if it makes home repair projects incredibly easy. (Note: Michelin and Castorama are Sixieme Son clients.)
After you and your team determine the brand’s core values, music strategists will explore and curate different musical approaches to communicate those traits. Upon identifying which of those musical styles most accurately communicates the values and best fit for your brand, the designing of your audio brand begins. Sound designers will compose a unique and tailored audio DNA that becomes woven into your brand’s many touchpoints. Is there a sound when a mobile coupon is redeemed? What ringtones might your sales force use? What will get people’s blood coursing as you rise to the podium at the global meeting? What will make people feel welcome at an expo booth?
I’m not talking about mindless repetition here.
Each point of contact is an opportunity to deepen the brand relationship. Customer experience needs to be considered, and the sound needs to be adjusted according to the touchpoint (commercials, telephone on-hold messages, retail spaces, Internet, events).
Think of it as an audio media plan. Remember: People can close their eyes, but they can’t close their ears.