You may have heard that we’ve entered the “Voice-First Era.” Not only are media outlets everywhere reporting on the proliferation of voice-first devices, but you’re likely also seeing the increasing use of voice play out in your everyday life, too. Like when your child asks Alexa a question, or when Siri pipes up to offer you help when you’re talking to someone.
However, the rapidly unfolding evolution of our voice-first world runs much deeper than voice assistants. Overall, the rising popularity of sonic channels is adding new ways for consumers to explore, and brands are using sound in more ways than you would expect—from branded podcasts and audio press releases to full-on albums and audio cues along the path of a transaction, and more.
For your business to “win” in a time when consumers can hear your brand, either alone as an advertisement or as part of a multi-sensory, in-store experience, you need to ensure that you’re proactively immersing them in sound that is cohesive. It must represent you as iconically as your visual logo. It must invoke the same feelings as your written tone.
To do this, you need a sonic brand.
Sonic branding is the collection of audio touchpoints that convey your brand values and personality. It is your company’s unique soundscape—the culmination of things like a sonic logo, interactive voice response (IVR) messaging, commercials and digital ads, how-to videos, podcasts, and even a sound that could be used when a customer uses your app or website.
If this alone hasn’t convinced you that your company needs sonic branding, here are five additional reasons.
1. Get the First-to-Market Advantage in Your Niche
While most savvy marketers know about sonic branding, and perhaps have even done some research in the area or an internal audit, the number of brands actually implementing a sonic branding strategy is still relatively low. That means that acting now to implement it in your business puts you ahead of the curve.
Why is it important to get your sonic branding out there early? Because sound is intangible, and it’s difficult for people to compare one sound to another quickly. Sound is a lot more finite in terms of opportunity and creative leeway than visuals are. Combine that with the fact that there are a limited number of musical combinations, and you have a competitive market.
This is especially important when it comes to sonic logos. It won’t be long before customers confuse one brand’s six-note melody for another’s. Your first-to-market advantage here is key to making your brand’s melody the one that is remembered.
2. You’re Already Using Audio, So Why Not Use It More Effectively?
People recognize and process sound much faster than visuals—from 10 to 100 times faster, in fact. So if you’re creating videos or digital ads, it’s the sound that’s making the first impression, not the carefully-chosen color palette. It’s critical that you weigh the importance of sound as much as you weigh the importance of visuals.
People recognize and process sound much faster than visuals—from 10 to 100 times faster.”
With sonic branding guidelines in place, it’s easy to incorporate your brand’s sound into every campaign, just like you would your brand colors. It helps you make a great first impression and goes a long way to creating a brand experience that feels the same across all channels.
3. Audio Creates an Emotional Connection
Sound has the unique ability to meet a person at an emotional level. If you’re trying to create an emotional connection and you are not strategic with your sonic choices, you’re missing out on an entire sense in the human experience. Why wouldn’t you explore this further?
When creating your sonic brand, you have the opportunity to decide what kind of emotional reaction you want to create. Take a look at your goals and figure out how emotion can help you achieve them. Do you want your audience to feel a sense of companionship? What about a feeling of being powerful? Sound is a wonderful tool for fostering that emotional relationship with your customers.
4. The Brand Audit Required Can Be Quite Revealing
When you are creating your sonic branding, it’s an opportunity to take stock of how well you are communicating your brand values to your customers by doing a brand audit. Your brand values are what set you apart from your competitors, values that inspire your employees, and characteristics of your company that increase brand recall.
While going through this process might not reveal any changes that need to be made to your overall marketing, what it often reveals is the lack of a standard for audio content. You can have the most carefully orchestrated visuals, but if your sound is all over the place, then you can bet that your customers are probably experiencing that chaotic feeling too.
It’s the difference between actions and words. To the discerning consumer, any inconsistency in your identity could suggest an inconsistency in your operation. Be consistent throughout so that your customers feel like they are interacting with your brand no matter where they encounter it.
5. Your Customers Likely Want More Audio Content
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average one-way commute time is 26.1 minutes. If you commute full-time, five days a week, that adds up to 4.35 hours a week and over 200 hours (nearly nine days) per year. People are turning to audio content to pass that time (it is the Voice-First Era, after all).
Branded podcasts are a great example of audio content that can fit nicely within your company’s sonic branding strategy and within your ideal audience’s daily commute. They are also one of the only ways left to connect to customers through powerful owned content. If you have a topic that is worthy of speaking to on a semi-frequent basis, then creating a 10–20 minute podcast is a fantastic way to connect directly with your customers and is another way to communicate your brand values.
However, should you have advertising dollars to spend, you can also consider directing at least a portion of that budget towards podcast advertising. As a fast-growing segment of advertising, podcast ads are becoming popular for a reason: they have been shown to increase brand recall over four times better than display ads.
In the End, Taking Time to Plan Your Sonic Brand Will Benefit You in the Long Run
Hopefully, reading through the above has helped to drive home why building a sonic brand is worth the investment of time. Defining your audio identity is not as daunting as it seems, and the benefits are plenty. Your customers want an authentic brand, so use strategic sonic choices to deliver just that.
David Ciccarelli is the founder and CEO of Voices.com, the largest marketplace for audio and voice over products and services in the world, with over 1 million business and voice actor registered users. David is responsible for setting the vision, executing the growth strategy, creating a vibrant culture, and managing the company on a day-to-day basis.