Sanjeev Kotnala: If you are not audio branding, you are missing opportunities

30 Jan,2019

By Sanjeev Kotnala

 

The new generation is video generation.  The use of sound (audio input) is becoming more critical than ever. The environment is becoming more sonic by abbreviating communication in the real world.

The audio enabled (IOT) gadgets and their unique distinct notifications nudge your brain into action. Every one of these audio interventions is opportunities for audio branding.

It does not come as a surprise when Bruce Bendinger suggests: ‘Marketing does not have a “blind spot”, it’s deaf! Too many operate with the audio dimension totally underleveraged.  Brands are not taking advantage of unique audio opportunities’.

Colleen Fahey, Managing Director of Sixième Son USA and Laurence Minsky the award-winning copywriter, marketer and professor at Columbia College have written ‘AUDIO BRANDING’. It is a practical do-it-and-learn guide and workbook explaining the art of audio branding. Added input by the guest commentators sharing their Perspective and point-of-view is a bonus. It adds to the book impact and experience. They add a new dimension to the subject.

The book ‘Audio Branding’ Is Full Of Real Life Examples.

The book is full of case studies brands having successfully deployed Audi Branding to their advantage. Brands like SNCF, Michelin, Huggies, MGM Loin Roar, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau, Hawaiian Tourism, Renault and French Open feature with their unique audio branding.

Unfortunately, there are no Indian examples, but the people in Advertising-Marketing will relate to the examples.  However, most of us are familiar with the Doordarshan news, IPL song, Chennai Super Kings song, Colgate ring of confidence and Nirma as an example of audio branding examples.

In case you miss that, then look within the vibrant cultural and religious spectrum in the country. The drumbeats of Ganapati Visharjan, the Holi songs, the Bhangra beat, the Durga Puja shankh, the hymns sound, the aazaan are all perfect example of strong audio branding.

What Is Audio Branding All About?

Audio Branding is a concise, practical guide on the influential world of audio branding – what it is, why it is important, and how it can be used to enhance a brand. Consider the familiar tune of a branded ringtone, the bubbly sounds of Skype, and even the chosen sound bite for a branded car unlocking as the driver presses the key. How do these choices tie into a wider brand identity? Which emotions do they spark, and most importantly, how do these choices enhance brand association with the consumer?

Advantage Of Audio Branding.

A well developed audio branding will not only reflect the brand values and brand story but will help the brand to stand apart from the competition. The audio Logo; the small piece of a 2.5-4 second of audio that is present across all communication stems from the overall audio language and music for the brand. It is not constraining, all it will allow for flexible adaptations within the structure without repeating itself.

Audio Branding Argument.

The right music and audio language help build brand authenticity. The argument by Mickey Brazeal from Roosevelt University as Guest perspective in the chapter ‘The search of your sound’ makes a logical point.

‘Words will always be at the centre of marketing. But words create a cognitive response that always includes the counter-argument. If you say ‘this is how it is’, the human mind will always imagine that it might also be some other way. But a non-verbal argument does not provoke the counter-argument. We do not summon up the alternative visual or alternate music.’

The second key is congruity. If the music experience is clearly relevant, appropriate and congruent with the brand idea, then it creates an argument that is never rebutted. It says that the values of the brand truly are what they are. And it is believed. Music that captures the essence of a brand consistently and measurably enhances the authenticity of the brand as perceived by the customers.’ (Page 96)

There is no debate that music can work as a magnet (drawing people in), mood magnifier (intensifying the visuals), mnemonic (stimulating memory), Mask (brand identity) and even as a messenger (delivering information). Just think of your whatsApp message notification.

Treat Audio Branding Like Visual Branding.

The audio logo needs a treatment that visual logo is given. As a best practice, every communication must be endorsed with the audio logo. The audio signature must not be distorted. There is an audio gap between music and the audio logo just like the visual logo has the area of freedom around it.

Leveraging Audio Branding

The book rightly puts audio branding into perspective.  It treats audio branding like any other element of brand development. It urges you to develop a guideline (DNA / MAP) of audio language for the brand and an audio logo that then becomes an integral part of brand communication and connect across touch points.

Initiating Audio Branding.

So before you start, do answer these simple, tough questions. What are the codes, clichés, and expectations of the category? What does the competition communicate, even visually? What- if any- music of brand sounds they use? Is anyone using sound exceptionally well inside the category? Is there a company outside the category that is close in positioning? If so, how are they using the music?

The brand custodians should work with the stakeholders (other departments) and sound branding experts (not necessarily musicians or their creative agency) in developing the Audio Branding.  A concept of creating the Audio Brand Committee that is diverse in their outlook and expertise so that the natural owner music bias does not derail the efforts.

The branding elements are only as good as their consistent deployment, so they are as strong as the people who manage them. (Page -131).

Do’s & Don’ts Of Audio Branding.

The book ‘Audio Branding’ recommends that you do not leave the audio strategy for the last minute. Don’t confuse audio branding with entertainment. Don’t forget that impact without meaning can be distracting and counterproductive. Don’t choose a piece of music just because you like it. Most of are guilty of this act. Don’t just repeat the same music repeatedly.  Don’t confuse music production houses with audio-branding experts even if they claim to be able to create audio logos.

However, articulate what your brand ideally represents before addressing what the audio branding must do.  Stop thinking of your audio brand as a system of distinctive sounds and music, a jingle or even a stand-alone audio logo at the end of the TVC. Investigate audio approaches within the category. List down audio touch points so that they can be distinctively addressed. Plan to adjust your audio logo whenever the visual logo animates on the screen, at the same time for a multisensory advantage. (Page 91)

Final Say.

I did find the content very iterative. Many pages are devoted to making a case for Audio Branding. Something that is well accepted, so what, if it has been underleveraged. Maybe it is required as the subject is not well exploited and is finding a new buy-in. ‘Audio Branding’ is a book that marketers are best advised to read it once.

Read ‘Audio Branding’ by Laurance Minsky and Colleen Fahey to refresh your understanding of Audio Branding and evaluate if your brand is leveraging it rightly.

 

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