As the cliche goes, music is the soundtrack to our lives. It provides the score to our most important life events and can be highly evocative of past times. Music inspires a broad range of emotions – from passion to contempt – and plays an important role in helping define our identities. For these and many other reasons, it is a vital tool for effective human communication. This is a fact that brands should pay close attention to.
Music has always played a role in advertising. Early commercial radio advertisers pioneered the 'jingle' in the 1920s, and from the 1960s onwards pop music was increasingly co-opted into radio and TV ads. However, since then the pace of change has been slow, with few real innovations in how brands use music to reach their audiences. Until now, that is.
Thanks to digital technology and the explosion of online audio services including podcasts, digital radio and music streaming, audio branding has become exponentially more sophisticated and powerful. In this article, we look at the rise of audio branding in audio advertising and examine how advertisers can best use the approach. We will cover:
What is audio branding?
The benefits of audio branding
How to create an audio branding strategy
Why focus on efficiency
What is audio branding?
Audio branding is the practice of using sound to create a positive and memorable identity for a brand. This includes the sonic brand of a company.
The sonic brand is to the audio world what a logo is to the visual one. It's the personality of the brand in a melody and can be a powerful asset. Intel, for instance, created in just five notes a sonic ID that is as evocative today as it was when it launched 26 years ago. Say 'McDonalds' and the tune to 'I'm lovin' it' springs to mind almost instantly.
More broadly, audio branding uses a wider pallet of sounds to give voice to the brand story and build emotional connections with listeners. Applying audio branding to audio advertising, creative teams have a vast pool of resources to choose from including sound beds and soundtracks of existing content and production capabilities to produce original content.
Audio branding has never been more important. We're awash with audio content and more people than ever are tuning in to audio services. As smart speakers grow in popularity it's a trend that's only likely to increase.
The four main benefits of audio branding
As an integral tool for telling brand stories, audio advertising brings with it a wide range of benefits for brands. Here are our top four.
1. 100% engagement: Unlike with visual advertising, so long as an audio advertisement or sonic brand is playing, consumers have no choice but to listen to your brand. After all, we can't simply turn off our hearing, and for most people, the inconvenience of struggling with volume setting makes it preferable to hear the ad out. Sonic branding in particular and audio branding in general therefore give you a great way to build affinity with audiences even when they're not necessarily paying attention.
2. Cohesive storytelling: Sound can be used in a wide variety of settings. A brand's music and sound beds can be used to tell a cohesive, sonically-linked story across digital experiences, marketing communications, and live in-store experiences.
3. Improved targeting personalisation: Knowing what music their audiences listen to lays the foundation for powerful targeting personalisation strategies, as it tells marketers what genres they need to use in their branding. If you know that your audience has a higher than average regard for electro, for example, that gives you a simple way to build brand affinity (use more electro in your audio brand). Such approaches are becoming more important as science shows just how vital hearing is for humans when processing emotion.
4. Better results: Audio branding is highly effective, perhaps even more so than other forms of engagement. One research study found that 60% of consumers believe music used in marketing is more memorable than visuals. In the same study, 45% of respondents said that music helps them understand a brand's personality and 47% that it makes them feel more connected to a brand.
How to create an audio branding strategy
Today, any brand without an audio branding strategy is at a disadvantage. The sooner you get yours in place, the sooner you can optimise your marketing strategies across podcasts, digital radio stations and music streaming sites. Here are our top three tips for building an effective strategy:
1. Audit your audio brand: The first step in improving your approach to audio branding is to map your current capabilities and approach. Almost every brand will use music and sound to one extent or another and these uses constitute the existing brand. You need to record every instance where sounds are used and the context and the suitability to your overall brand, deciding which if any are worth keeping and reviewing them for inspiration into the future direction of your brand.
2. Refresh your audience data: Good marketing always comes down to understanding what customers want, and this is as true of audio branding as anything else. Gather data and insights on what your target audiences listen to and build up a list of their favourite genres. Concurrently, think about the contexts in which your customers will engage with your audio messages. If they're likely to listen to music streaming sites in the gym for example, it will be worth looking for energetic, high-tempo tunes within their preferred genres.
3. Think about your emotional story: Map the emotional journey you want your customers to go on. Do you want them to feel happy and excited about your brand, or perhaps frustrated about their current brand experiences? Combined with your audience insights, the journey map will provide the information you need to start selecting the right music.
Why focus on efficiency in your branding?
In the modern world of programmatic advertising and dynamic content creation, ad production needs to be fast to keep up. From an audio branding perspective, that means creatives need to be able to find and use the right music fast and efficiently.
Technology can help. New AI-enabled platforms like our own Ossia Studio allow brands to search for music by genre, mood and tempo and add it to voice over within minutes. What's more, as our library is all produced by AI and our own award-winning producers, there are no licensing agreements to slow things down. With Ossia Studio brands can get on with creating audio brand-compliant assets fast and effectively, allowing them to make the most of the opportunities on offer on podcast, radio and music platforms.
The days when music was an afterthought in brand marketing are well and truly over. Brands are looking for new ways to reach audiences and engage with them in compelling, consistent and authentic ways. Audio branding has an important role to play in meeting these objectives, particularly as audio-only content continues to become more popular and audio advertising becomes a core part of the marketing mix.
By choosing the right sound beds and music you can create a personality for your brand and engage with your customers on an emotional level that goes well beyond the visual. And thanks to advances in technology, doing so has never been easier.
See for yourself how AI-powered production can make audio branding easier than ever for your company and sign up to a free demo of Ossia Studio.