In 2018, many companies started to explore the business potential of sound through audio branding. An increasing number of brands ventured into new territories, including podcasting, playlist curation, artist collaborations, and even hosting their own music festivals.
But this is only the beginning. Based on hundreds of articles, customer cases, and industry trend reports, I am making the following predictions about the future role of sound in marketing with the hope that they will inspire your brand to use custom audio to empower your brand performance.
1. More Branded Audio Content Will Be Needed
“Sound is becoming a key channel alongside watching or streaming TV. It is also being cross-pollinated with other channels creating media ecosystems.” —JWT Intelligence Future 100 report
In 2019, growing media consumption means brands will need to produce more audio content. Sound has an all-encompassing influence over other mediums. With visually driven touch points like online videos, websites, and smartphone apps, the right music, voice, and sound design can add an important emotional element. The ad expenditure of online videos is at an all-time high; if you’re paying a premium for visual advertising space, why leave the audio half of the experience as an afterthought?
In order to deliver a premium brand experience across every touch point, you will need guidelines for selecting the correct music and voice sounds. The consistent use of sound can turn a barren campaign into a branded content ecosystem, with the companies’ visual and audio identities forming a symbiotic relationship.
2. Optimizing Audio Content For Mobile Will Give Your Brand A Competitive Edge
"By 2020, 50% of all viewing will be done on a mobile screen.” —Ericsson
The biggest contributor to the expanded content universe is mobile. As Ericsson predicted, half of television and video content will be consumed through mobile devices within the next two years. And where there are videos, there will be sounds.
As consumer interest leans further toward mobile, eagle-eyed manufacturers will develop exceptional speaker quality to keep up with their rivals. This kind of arms race led camera and screen resolutions to grow exponentially in a short time. Now R&D departments are turning toward capturing premium sound quality in smaller hardware. In fact, the latest portable Bluetooth speakers already have enough kick in them to blast sound throughout spaces the size of a small club.
In 2019, an iPhone might very well be able to do the same thing. Optimizing the audio content quality for mobile and other small-sized speakers will be crucial in capturing consumer interest, as well as maintaining the brand's credibility and premium brand experience.
3. An Analytical Approach To Sound Will Attract A Younger User Demographic
"Consumers are embracing music at all points of the day, demonstrating the importance and value that it has in our lives.” —IFPI's Music Consumer Insight Report 2018
People all over the world listen to music more than ever—18 hours a week on average, in fact. IFPI finds that Gen Z consumers, in particular, listen to music pretty much all day, every day, whether it's at work, at school, or during their spare time.
Choosing the right music helps your brand messages come across in the right way. For consumers, songs, melodies, and rhythms create connection points to current or past headspaces and emotions. For instance, an environmentally conscious brand could use music from folk or classical genres to showcase a softer value like sustainability, while leaning toward electronic soundscapes might yield a better return on investment for a cutting-edge tech brand.
So get analytical with finding your brand sound. Seek help from audio branding professionals who can translate the abstract qualities of your company attributes, way of working, and media content into comparable data and insight. Making the right musical decisions helps your brand come across as an advocate for an idea, lifestyle, or cause, rather than being seen as begging for attention, which seems crucial in attracting younger consumers.
4. A Suitable Tone Of Voice Will Enhance Customer Interaction
"The industry for smart speakers—internet-connected speakers with integrated digital voice assistants—will be worth US$7 billion in 2019.” —Deloitte Insights Technology, Media, and Telecommunications Predictions 2019
Deloitte bets some serious bucks on voice command devices and on solid grounds, too: 76.5 million units are expected to be sold by year-end in the U.S. Now that integrated virtual assistants are learning new languages, sales are about to escalate on the other side of the pond as well.
Whether it’s streaming music, listening to podcasts, or simply learning today’s weather, smart speakers and voice technologies have created a whole new pathway for receiving branded information. As users get more creative with using their devices and sales continue to increase, creating more audio content will be the key to staying relevant. Brands can also leverage voice command technologies to promote social responsibility by providing visually impaired people better access to their services.
It’s fairly obvious that speech-command internet searches will push brands to optimize voice search parameters. So brands should first consider their spoken word identity. This goes beyond selecting a pleasant-sounding voiceover for a commercial.
Check whether your current content matches your brand persona. For example, a pharmaceutical brand could benefit from using low-pitched voices, which foster trust. On the contrary, voices in the higher register, which create a more light-hearted and youthful appeal, could be a great choice for a sports fashion brand expressing the fun of exercising.
5. Investing In Audio Branding Will Deliver Significant Marketing Returns
“For the first time, marketers will have no choice but to consider the audio characteristics of their brands.” —The Ogilvy Consulting Trends for 2019
In 2019, it’s important to remember that exploring your audio identity is never wasted work. Thanks to mobile, we are about to witness a significant rise in replays of brand theme songs, audio logos, game anthems, app notifications, podcast episodes, audiobooks, interactive plays, and voice search results.
Now that the marketing industry has started to back up the importance of sound for brands, as Ogilvy noted in its latest trend report, advertisers will have to introduce audio strategies to match the importance afforded to the brands’ visual channels. More versatility, customization, and localization of audio content will be needed to make sure the brand identity stays consistent.
Whether as a lone stimulus in podcasts, audiobooks, and radio, or providing the emotional charge in videos, games, and event spaces, sound has an uncanny ability to enhance the brand performance.