by Kristen Lueck, VP Director of Business Development and Partnerships
More than ever, companies that have established themselves visually, verbally and even experientially are seeking to add branded sound to their communication toolbox. This comes as no surprise, as there are numerous ways sound can tap into our primal senses and elevate a brand experience. In fact, the top five requests from clients we’ve heard this year at Made Music Studio include:
- “We want to build brand consistency at every point of the customer journey.”
- “We want our brand to be instantly recognized, remembered and loved.”
- “We need a fast, impactful way for people to feel our brand values, what we stand for.”
- “We need new audio solutions for platforms where visual branding is disappearing.”
- “We need a way to reach and connect even when we’re physically distant.”
While considering the importance of brand consistency, a certain phrase rang in my mind. One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis who wrote, “this moment contains all moments.” To me, it reflects on the idea that what we are thinking and feeling today is a culmination of all the interactions and experiences that came before. I’d like to argue that brand consistency builds brand awareness, and that awareness is built moment-by-moment over time, as we interact with brand touchpoints that carry a consistent message. Sound can be the red thread that ties those touchpoints together effectively — and makes customers feel something consistent with the brand’s story every step of the way.
This sonic red thread stems from the strategy of a larger sonic identity system. A cohesive system of music and sound assets, that — like a visual identity system — includes guidelines that define a brand’s sound and best practices to ensure each sonic interaction is on-brand. Think of when a sonic logo marks the beginning or end of television advertising, and that same element is the greeting when calling into customer service lines. Similarly, on-brand music can play while customers are on hold (proven to even reduce perceived wait time). The same strategic music guidelines can inform playlists for large-scale events and retail spaces. The opportunities to show up consistently on every platform your brand exists are endless.
Brand consistency can be a powerful tool to gain awareness, loyalty and love for your brand.
It’s important to get it right, because the impact of a non-consistent brand journey can be jarring. You’d rarely have your brand’s color palette, iconography or photography shift wildly from how it’s portrayed from social to TV to physical experiences.
Imagine a fine dining restaurant, known for its classical and traditional style, playing loud rock music overhead.
Or the fun and spirited energy of a brand’s TV advertising not following through to its busy retail stores where you could use a familiar boost at point of purchase. Brand consistency can be a powerful tool to gain awareness, loyalty and love for your brand.
Here are three questions to ask yourself about your brand:
What consumer touchpoints are being ignored?
Brands can spend millions of dollars on advertising, setting the tone and expected experience of their brand in bright and flashy, serious or comedic ways. If they’re not careful, though, leaning on one aspect of their experience can cause other touchpoints to become overlooked – especially sonically.
A certain car brand, one you could call an “ultimate driving machine”, presents itself as strong, dramatic and luxurious in its advertising, but something altogether different happens when a customer calls them on the phone. The hold music is light, fanciful, even comical! Common reasons people are calling their car company are to make a payment or because they are dissatisfied and need help — moments where comic relief wouldn’t be welcome. An unexpected sonic experience can cause customers to doubt they’re in the right place or still engaging with the same brand story.
How can I own the unownable?
There’s an opportunity to take advantage of existing equity within your environment and “own the unownable”, so to speak. Take to the skies and consider how every airplane has a call button — that moment when you’re assured you’ll have extra personal assistance. Southwest Airlines decided to use that iconic call button sound as part of their new Sonic Identity system.
Now, in addition to experiencing the “ding” on their aircraft, you can hear it integrated into their sonic logo at the end of commercials (“clap”, “clap”, “ding!”). It’s an asset that can travel throughout their touchpoints; imagine it as a confirmation notification on an app or even at the gate.
Finding what’s unique to your brand and environment can be a good starting place for building consistency. Not to mention, competitor planes now carry the very sonic DNA of Southwest, anytime anyone calls for assistance!
How can I build brand equity through sound?
Once you’ve created your core Sonic Identity, or at the very least have a sonic strategy in place that guides musical decision-making, you’re ready to amplify your brand equity! The most successful programs that we’ve launched have maintained their sonic logo (short-form memory trigger) or music selection in markets for at least 6-12 months with consistency and no variations. This builds brand recognition and recall for audiences.
After this time, music and sound can begin to shift to variations for specific needs within the touchpoints, such as Brand Navigation Sounds® (notifications and alerts) within apps or new instrumentation or underscores on long-form music to work with poignant messaging in ads.
Overall, in a world where attention spans are lacking and a fight for awareness (across infinite platforms) is a daily battle, consistency is key to growing a loyal and engaged fan base. Leave no touchpoint unturned, consider what is uniquely “you”, and build new brand equity — knowing a new era of audio-first is leading the way!