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Making your brand sound as good as it looks

Although sound can often sneak into wider marketing considerations, audio branding is still overlooked and undervalued as a core marketing discipline.

That fact holds even truer in B2B marketing, where relatively few firms have explored the possibility of using sound as a means of reinforcing the messages and branding communicated via more traditional channels.

Research conducted by Leicester University has shown companies that match their brand to music are 96 per cent more likely to be remembered.

Sound has a strong effect on our subconscious and hearing is, in fact, a more powerful emotional sense than sight, meaning it can have a huge impact on potential customers.


Listen to what your brand is saying

Despite the inherent power of sound, there remains a genuine lack of consideration among businesses regarding audio representations of their brand.

Currently, 70 per cent of brands spend less than five per cent of their budget on sound, so there is a massive discrepancy when compared to visual marketing.

Yet image isn’t everything. Our hearing is a more powerful sense than sight, so sound is often more effective in grabbing the attention of potential customers and sparking brand recollection.

It is important to scrutinise all potential sonic touchpoints to ensure these sounds fit with the overall image of the business and form one coherent brand voice.

This means product noises, videos, the messages people hear when put on hold on telephone systems or the voice and music used for interactive voice response (IVR) call answering systems. Even the sounds customers are exposed to when they visit your premises and employee voicemails should be carefully selected.


Don’t get caught up on audio logos

Too often, audio branding is equated to the process of developing an audio logo.

Logos such as the ‘Intel Inside’ jingle have been incredibly successful in keeping a company’s products front of mind but this success has possibly prevented some marketers from thinking beyond such logos when it comes to audio representations of their brand.

Instead, the process of deciding which sounds best represent your business shouldn’t be too dissimilar to the one used in determining a brand image.

Consider elements such as brochures, letterheads or your website. If you use a soft colour palette, gentle fonts and typefaces then it stands to reason you’d have gentle sounds too.

There may even be certain sounds your customers already equate with your brand. Making the most of such characteristic sounds can help you to establish a strong presence without necessarily creating an audio identity from scratch.

If your business has a strong regional presence, perhaps your company’s voice needs to incorporate an accent or regional dialect. A company supplying high-quality produce from a specific region may use this to convey a sense of tradition and provenance to clients

Whatever way you look at it, congruence is key and these sounds must fit neatly alongside visual representations of the brand.


Harness the power of the humble telephone

Even the way your employees answer the phone is vital. When they take a call, what are they saying and how do they say it?

It is important to choose the right language – whether it’s a formal greeting like ‘good afternoon’ or something far more informal – and to strike the right tone. The establishment of company-wide best practice for the answering of calls is a good first step in putting an audio branding strategy to work.

On average, 94 per cent of a company’s marketing budget is spent on getting people to call in but only six per cent is spent on handling those calls when they arrive.

Often, use of a telephone system is viewed as extremely tactical and will be handled by the head of telephony or head of IT rather than marketing and sales but it is a largely untapped means of communicating with customers.

Considering UK businesses put callers on hold for an average of 33 seconds – longer than the average commercial – this is an ideal opportunity to pass on information about products and services.


Set the right mood

Voice and music must fit within an overall audio branding strategy but can also be tweaked according to the audience.

For example, if an IVR call routing system is used to filter customers’ telephone calls, it makes sense to use different music and voice for each different section, depending on the mood and requirements of each caller.

If a customer is directed towards the complaints department, it would help to employ soothing or relaxing music and voice. However, someone calling to renew a policy or make a purchase may react better to something more upbeat and motivational.

Cold, impersonal reception areas could be transformed through the use of the right music or introduction of subtle marketing messages. Similarly, stands at trade conferences or expos could make use of music or soundscapes to make them more enticing.

Ultimately, audio branding is an underused yet invaluable marketing discipline that can help to influence a customer’s purchasing decisions in ways they aren't even aware of.

It provides a powerful tool in helping marketers to reinforce existing perceptions of a brand and open new channels of communication with its target audience, ensuring all potential touchpoints are utilised.