Authenticity in marketing is more important than ever, and there’s nothing more authentic than the sound of the human voice. Marketers are realizing the power of audio, creating sonic branding that reflects their brand values as much as their visual branding does. You only have to look at the rise of audio social media platforms like Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces to see the shift marketers are making to connect with their audiences through audio.
But sonic branding is not a new concept. Daniel M. Jackson wrote the book Sonic Branding: An Essential Guide to the Art and Science of Sonic Branding back in 2003, and early adopters have been honing their brand’s sonic identity in the years that followed. If you’re looking to create your own sonic branding, a great place to start is a sonic branding audit and a deep dive into sonic branding success stories from other brands.
One of the most impressive sonic branding success stories I’ve seen was done by a surprising company: Mastercard. Earlier than most, Mastercard recognized in 2019 that more and more purchases were being made via audio-based platforms and wanted to tap into that audio revolution. They created a team of experts that included composers, neurologists, and musicologists to create their sonic logo and what they call their sonic DNA. In 2020, Mastercard even released their own pop song ahead of a full-studio album as part of their sonic branding, collaborating with big pop names like Camila Cabello and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda.
We asked other brands to tell us about their use of audio in their marketing strategies and whether sonic branding is something that all companies should be incorporating. Many remarked on the special nature of the time we’re living through right now, where people are largely staying and working from home, having ushered in this need for audio content.
“After hours of sitting through Zoom meetings and webinars watching our peers trying to turn off cat filters, it’s no wonder podcasts and apps like Clubhouse seem to be doing so well nowadays,” says Alice Johnson, co-founder of Vegan Sisters. “Thanks largely to the increase in people working from home, audio content has become an important trend. There is a definite thirst for online learning and listening to podcasts as we go about our daily lives is an excellent way to absorb new information and learn about new brands.”
“Audio or sonic branding is increasing in importance due to the popularity of podcasts, the rise of Clubhouse and other non text or video content. Brands want in the picture. As text and video aren’t the main media focus of podcasts and Clubhouse, brands leverage an identifiable sonic audio tool so that listeners can identify quickly who the message is from,” says Robb Hecht, a virtual adjunct professor of marketing at Baruch College in New York City.
Others remarked on the SEO aspects of sonic branding and audio content:
“After the Google algorithm changed in 2018, a lot of companies started using audio for content marketing. SaaS products started considering this new marketing experiment,” says Saurabh Wani, a content marketing associate at Automate.io. “We started recording entire blogs and added an audio button on the top of the blog so that the readers can listen to the blog instead of reading it. This was a very long and time-consuming process, and after a few months, we realized that there is no major change in the traffic or rankings even after using the sonic branding. The audio search is an important metric in ranking, but in my opinion, this would be a huge hit in the future.”
“The boom in popularity of digital voice assistants and smart speakers means voice search is poised to have its moment in 2021. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with spoken commands, and stay-at-home orders mean individuals spend less time in public, where spoken commands sometimes seem intrusive,” says Yuvi Alpert, founder, creative director, and CEO of Noémie. “Verbal technology is even having a rise in popularity in social media, with the audio-based app Clubhouse reaching new heights after its international expansion. Get ready to incorporate voice search into your web development plans, especially when it comes to optimizing your site for Google searches.”
Quite a few brands told us that they found tremendous success when focusing on their sonic branding.
Sonic Lens is an agency dedicated solely to audio branding, and Managing Partner Marco Vitali told us of one of the sonic branding campaigns that they are particularly proud of. “Sonic Lens Agency created a first of its kind Sonic Identity System for NBC’s true crime network, Oxygen, to grow the brand halo across all platforms. Within months this system was fully recognized by their total audience and fully integrated across all channels — linear, social, digital, podcasts, etc., in a flexible, distinct manner. A comprehensive library of ‘sonic clues’ around the crime genre adds a ‘theater of the mind’ dimension to all visual branding, working with modular melodic elements and a 1s ‘earcon.’ Oxygen now has the most holistic, cross-platform, and award-winning sonic identity system in TV.”
Jason Parks, president of The Media Captain, told us of a beneficial way their written and audio content work together: “We got our first international client from Australia after they listened to our podcast. What’s interesting is they found our podcast based on a related link within a blog post that we wrote.“
If you’re just getting started with sonic branding, we also gathered some useful advice from those who have already put their audio content to the test.
“It’s important to provide valuable information where your audiences are looking and in the formats they prefer. In B2B marketing, podcasts are a great way to provide valuable information in a format audiences can dip in and out of anytime they have a few minutes to an hour to spare,“ says Hinge managing partner Lee Frederiksen.
“When it comes to audio content, I consider podcasts as the best audio content type in 2021… As for sonic branding, assigning a tune to your brand can help you reach your customers on a completely different level, as opposed to images and text. Since music and sound are closely related to memory and emotions, a catchy, unique sound will ‘burn’ your brand into the minds of your target audience,” says Richard Garvey, CEO of Different SEO.
“Sonic branding usually accompanies brand recognition rather than being solely responsible for it. Audio assets, on the other hand, are accessible for businesses small to large. We’re loving podcasts at the moment, and even have our own podcast which we advertise through our social media channels. Repurposing audio content such as podcasts for social or blog content is an effective way to utilise your unique content and ensure your brand is heard online,” says Amber Reed-Johnson, content marketing assistant at Giraffe Social Media.
“Sonic branding and audio marketing are subtle but powerful tone setters in your brand’s message,” says Roy Morejon, president and co-founder of Enventys Partners. “Much like the way music sets the tone in movies, the sound of your brand conveys the tone of your brand. An ethereal, soft song for your brand sets the tone that your brand provides a luxurious experience. A more upbeat song may make your brand memorable in a sea of competitors. “
Miranda Yan, founder of VinPit, a tech company dedicated to software development, gave some actionable insights into ways you can incorporate audio into your branding:
- “Podcasting: A podcast is a highly affordable and effective audio content type to advertise your brand among different audiences. Try to build your content as short as it can be (around 4 to 5 minutes) so that people can know about your company even when they are moving around.
- Voice search keyword optimization: Nowadays, people are more inclined towards voice search rather than typing. Make sure to put more keywords for the ease of voice search optimization. You can use various keyword research tools available in the market to know about common search phrases.
- Audio-only advertisements: Currently, there are fewer voice ad options like Spotify, Google Express, or Pandora, but many other audio-only promotions are likely to appear very soon. You can use these platforms for advertising your brand.”
At Voices, we’ve been refining our sonic branding and even took the step of creating our own sonic logo last year. We also love to help other brands with their own audio content. Our pool of professional voice actors come from 160 countries and speak over 100 languages, making Voices the go-to destination for sourcing voice over for your next audio project.