The First 3 Steps in Developing an Audio Brand Strategy
What do you think of when you hear the word "branding"? Is it a name? Perhaps it's a household name like McDonald's. Or Apple. Or Nike.
Perhaps a logo comes to mind. Like those world-famous golden arches. Or the semi-eaten apple. Or that swoosh on the side of your sneaker.
Well, that may have been the case up until now, but as more and more people come to depend on voice-enabled technology, sound, not visuals, will be the thing remembered.
Sonic branding and audio brand strategy
In a nutshell, sonic branding is a sound or series of sounds that become associated with a brand. It’s Intel’s five notes, the Windows start-up tones, and McDonald's "ba da ba ba ba."
Sometimes also referred to "earcons" (a play on the word icon), sonic brands are the audio equivalent of a visual logo and are often referred to as audio logo, sonic logo, audio brand, sonic brand, and sound brand.
Sonic brands can be used across multiple channels, in multiple contexts, and can be subtly manipulated to ensure maximum reach, usability, and audience appeal.
But implementing an audio logo is not the same thing as having an audio brand strategy. An audio brand strategy is the strategic use of sound in the customer journey and experience as well as in the company culture and employee experience. It begins with the development of the sonic brand/audio logo and then expands to a sound ecosystem.
The power of sound
Science and psychology suggest that human beings are hard-wired to react instinctively to sound. Studies have shown that certain types of music can make our hearts beat faster and increase muscle tension, while goosebumps and a lump in the throat can be created by something as simple as a change in melody.
Research also shows that human beings react faster to audio than they do to visual stimuli. A study reported by the Journal of Neuroscience and Medicine showed that the difference in response times can be as great as 20%.
And research has further shown that a pancultural music sentience exists in the world— people are able to identify certain unknown pieces of music as either happy or sad, regardless of their cultural background.
Whether you're a small to medium-sized business (SMB) or a big "jumbo" brand, sonic branding can enable you to communicate with customers and prospective customers on a level that is simply not achievable with visuals alone.
But before you jump in with both feet, we recommend that you take the first 3 steps in developing an audio brand strategy.
1. SWOT Assessment
The first step in sonic branding is NOT the creation of an audio logo. The first step is a good old-fashioned SWOT (strengths-weaknesses-opportunities-threats) analysis. The goal is to diminish weaknesses and gain strengths. If you find that your chief weakness is that your target audience doesn't respond to your content, then no matter what sonic branding effort you put forth, you're still not going to hit the target.
Part of the SWOT analysis must then be to determine if you're going after the right target market. Understanding your audiences' wants, needs, perceptions, and expectations is the first step in attracting them to your content, including your audio brand assets.
2. Competitive Intelligence Gathering and Analysis
Along with understanding your audience, you must also get to know your competitors. That said, it's time to engage in some competitive intelligence gathering, including analyzing what drives traffic to their website and landing pages and what types of content engage their audience.
So yes, you will need to perform a SWOT analysis on your competitors to see how they stack up against your branding and marketing efforts. Look for gaps in their marketing and brand messaging. If your competitors don't utilize sound, right there is an open door of opportunity. Doors of opportunity that you can open will build strengths for your brand and your company. Opportunities can also sometimes make up for weaknesses and can help you mitigate threats.
3. Industry Analysis
Finally, seek to understand the current state of your industry and where it's going, particularly with respect to technology. If you aren't already doing so, you should be religiously reading publications like WIRED to learn about technological developments that may impact your industry (and therefore your company) going forward.
For example, since the 2003 launch of iTunes here in the U.S., the music industry has been severely hurting in terms of both sales and profits. Practically overnight, a $20 billion recorded music industry was reduced to a mere $7 billion, and a primary method of music distribution—compact discs—was gone. That led to the closing of record stores like Tower and the downsizing of others like Virgin Megastore. And that led to a severe decline in income for artists, songwriters, and record producers.
For more information about sonic branding, audio brand strategy, and the application of sound and music in brand messaging, digital advertising, UX, visit our sonic branding page or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.