Six Steps to Creating a Successful Audio Brand
Submitted to Data-Driven Marketing Network by Laurence Minsky… on Fri, 04/04/2014 – 08:00
Marketers today have a harder job than ever before. First, a firm’s ability to stand out has shrunk due to the ever-growing media fragmentation and the homogenization of marketing tools. Secondly, people are even more distracted, with some reporting that attention spans have dropped below those of goldfish.. And third, it’s harder to manage the ever-growing array of marketing specialties. Just think: Not long ago, marketers used to manage two or three agencies and today they manage as many as twelve, including those specializing in general market, digital, social, experiential, shopper, content, youth, sports, internal/channel, PR, and multi-cultural. 
But there is a strategy that can help tie all of the agency efforts together and boost your overall marketing effectiveness as well as help set your firm, product, or service apart from your competitors and create brand value: audio branding.
In fact, as we showed in a previous article, audio branding – increasing a brand’s influence through sound and music that expresses its values and personality – can help ensure coherence across all of your tactics and with all of your audiences. What’s more, because audio cues get processed faster than visual ones, the recipient captures the message in a less than a flash, so he or she will literally hear your branding message before even being able to think about tuning it out. And, as an extra bonus, developing an audio brand could even save marketing dollars because of the hidden costs of licensing music for each exploration.
Just what Peugeot achieved with its new audio brand. In support of their new brand expression, Motion and Emotion, Peugeot set the ambitious goal of communicating the emotion of the driving experience along with their emotional values of innovation, impeccable standards, allure, dynamism, and modernity. The resulting audio identity broke from the traditional, somewhat metallic, sounds of the category, which customers had a hard time attributing to specific brands.
They launched their audio identity with a fullness that isn’t normally found in the category. Based on their new Audio DNA, they created music optimized for each touch point – from customer service lines, to mobile ringtones designed for various tastes, walk-in music for events, radio, as well as TV and an interactive Facebook App and their website http://peugeot.com.
So, what do you need to do if you want to launch your audio brand? First, you must think of it as a system. From the commercials and the app start up to the on hold recordings and even the expos and events (and perhaps even ring tones for employees), you need to optimize the audio expression for each touch point, so that it is appropriate to the experience as well as recognizable that it’s coming from your brand. Then, you need to compile your team of strategists, composers, sound designers, and implementation experts, so you can ensure the right message gets to the right ears at the right time, and follow these six steps (notice the correspondence to visual brand development):
1) Just as when you create a visual brand identity, you must first make sure you have defined your brand’s foundational elements.
Look back at your brand essence – the two or three words that describe its core – as well as your mission, vision, values, and personality and where they stand compared to your competitive set. This will help you narrow down your value enhancing audio strategy and identify the audio language that will represent your brand with precision. Peugeot, for instance, refreshed both their visual brand and audio brand in such a way that they enhance and add meaning to each other.
2) Review the touch point analysis you completed for your visual brand and complete a competitive audio analysis.
Don’t have a visual touch point analysis? Then now is a good time to start. Identify of all places your brand – and your competitor’s – come in contact with customers and other stakeholders. Also think of the new touch points that are now available because of your audio brand. For Swedish Mall, Emporia, just within the center itself, this included their six plazas; each bathroom; each level of their parking garage; and each lounge as well as their PA system.
3) Create your audio collage.
Similar to visual mood boards, these are snippets of music, voices, and other sounds that convey your message. The audio collage’s goal is to help define includes texture, rhythm, melody, harmony, and instrumentation that best convey the diverse values of the brand. Each element imparts specific and significant semiotic meanings.
The goal: To compose a unique sound or piece of music from the selected influences in a way that clearly communicates your distinct brand essence and values. This composition should be about 40 seconds long and will contain a motif that will influence your audio logo.
Licensing a popular track, on the other hand, can produce immediate impact but, in the end, impact without the appropriate meaning can result in mixed signals, creating customer confusion, and, ultimately reduce sales and income. Research, in fact, has shown that sales have dropped 28% due to “inappropriate retail soundscapes.” To help ensure success during this stage, make sure you have a good music strategist on your team.
4) Test and refine what you’ve composed.
Remember, music is essentially a language and that is not about the specific elements. Rather, it’s about the brand. You are seeking a combination of elements that are distinct from your competition and communicate your brand’s essence, values, and promise as well as, possibly, add dimension to your visual brand identity or help underscore your visual message.
The Peugeot audio brand was tested in several different countries by the market research group Taylor Nielson Sofres. Two qualitative panels were used in each country, one with Peugeot owners and, the other, non-Peugeot owners. The results showed that despite huge geographical and cultural differences, the music succeeded in conveying the same values to diverse listeners.
5) Based on the audio DNA, create the adaptations to each touch point.
Then, when you execute, don’t be mindlessly repetitive. Rather, you need make sure each interpretation of the audio DNA is appropriate to the touch point to achieve your behavioral objectives, particularly at key “inflection” points.  For instance, in a train station, you might want to be slightly calmer, because people are stressed, but for on-hold it could be livelier and more varied to underscore the excitement of travel and to reduce perceived wait-times–but both would still come from the same DNA. And, just like your visual brand, you need to ensure that your DNA is flexible enough for adaptations to multiple touch points over many years.
6) Create an audio style guide (just as you’d create for you visual brand assets) and assign somebody to enforce it.
The guide will help the brand supervisor recommend, plan, and supervise the installation of the elements into devices, expo booths, displays, call centers, and other places where you touch your consumer.
When Peugeot overhauled its sound across all forms of media, their style guide included the genesis and uses of the audio identity and described how to use it. The manual also provided examples and guidelines for radio and TV advertising, telephone welcome and on-hold messaging, events and conferences, mobile ringtones, as well as a legal framework. Swedish Mall, Emporia’s Style Manual also included such details specifically geared to the soundscape, or environmental design of the spaces.. And, in both guides, all of instructions were punctuated with links to the appropriate musical adaptations.
Of course, once completed, your audio elements should be managed just like the rest of your brand assets.
Just as Peugeot and Emporia managed their audio identities, you too can experience enhanced results. After all, audio branding brings life to your brand, making every touch point a relationship-builder. And it enables you to emphasize differentiators; reinforce your brand’s association with specific emotions; communicate your brand values internally as well as externally; and, most of all, influences sales. All you need to do is get started. Why not today?