The future of brands is sound

Sonic identity is witnessing a boom says Rajeev Raja, Founder & Soundsmith of BrandMusiq

“In today’s attention-deficit world, brands are increasingly seeking a sonic identity to enable them to connect with their customers, faster, deeper and wider.”

It’s a whole new world out there. A world of fragmented media, digital communication, e-commerce and a mobile-first environment.

Add to this the proliferation of social media channels coupled with the emergence of ‘audio first’ mediums such as podcasts, audio streaming platforms, voice activated speaker systems and you’ve got a compelling reason to add a sonic dimension to your brand.

Today, progressive marketers are looking closely at creating their sonic brand, recognising that a strategically crafted sonic asset can cut through the clutter and enable both brand ‘cognition’ and ‘emotion’. However it is important to follow a strategic process that ensures that the ‘sound of the brand’ created expresses its unique DNA and isn’t just a random jingle used tactically in a campaign.

By creating an identity which is true to the brand, brands can build a deeper emotional connect which can work across multiple ‘earpoints’ – 360° media where your brand can be heard. If the visual identity is the ‘face’ of a brand, then the sonic identity is its ‘voice’.

The area of sonic branding has witnessed a boom in recent years. Marketers are realising that a sonic identity is no longer just a ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’. And the digital explosion together with rapidly changing media consumption habits of millennials has a lot to do with this.

Due to the transactional nature of the digital world, and with interaction increasingly being limited to laptop, tablet or phone screens, consumers often go for months or years without meeting a human being representing the brand or company.

As a result, brands are slowly getting de-humanised and face the danger of being diminished to playing utilitarian roles in consumers lives.

Brand loyalty seems a thing of the past. Add to this the decreasing impact of the television ad as a medium and building an emotional bridge between a brand and its customer is becoming more and more difficult by the day.

This is where a carefully thought out sonic strategy can help. Music is defined as the ‘language of emotion’ and if used well as part of a sonic identity can instantly ‘emotionalise’ a brand.

Secondly, the overt brand messaging and differentiating product claims from brands are being taken with a pinch of salt by consumers.

A sonic identity if used well can communicate a subliminal message without trying too hard. Smart marketers are aware of the need to project the ‘sub-conscious’ brand as well as the conscious brand.

The earliest example of sonic branding precedes the era of organised brands. Town criers in ancient Rome developed distinct and identifiable calls while selling their wares. Religions have long recognised the power of sound and the church bell in Christianity or the Muezzin’s call in Islam have been used as a call to prayer.

In today’s world Intel was one of the first big brands to create a signature sound with the creation of the iconic Intel ‘bong’. Coca-Cola and McDonald’s have also invested in creating sonic logos and have used it very creatively across media.

In the past few years, there’s been a boom in sonic branding with brands opting to create a comprehensive sonic identity system rather than just a sonic logo. The global fintech brand Mastercard and India’s largest private sector bank, HDFC Bank are a few examples. Both brands have reported considerable increase in salience, engagement and impact with the well planned use of their sonic identity.

Both Mastercard and HDFC Bank have featured in the Top 10 of a recent Best Global Audio Brands survey. A recognition that sonic branding’s time has come!

For brands, the future is sound!

Rajeev Raja, Founder & Soundsmith, BrandMusiq and a jazz fusion flautist.