Sound business sense

Your campaign needs to build a connection between your brand and associations that are linked to your brand positioning. The best way to make this connection stick in the minds of your audience is to harness sound.

Building a strong brand in combination with short-term sales activations is a powerful way to drive profits. Without building a brand, a company is selling its potential and long-term future viability short. Part of that brand building should involve the vital and hugely cost-effective element of …sound.

How is brand building good for business?

Building a strong brand reduces price sensitivity which means you can charge a premium for your products. Take Apple, for example. It has a lower market share in comparison to Samsung but its profits are higher. It can charge more for its products, taking in the majority of the total profits generated in the smartphone industry. A higher price leads to higher margins. Higher margins are, on average, the biggest contributors to profit growth for a company.

Long-term brand building campaigns increase base sales but you need a longer window to track the effects. Certainly longer than the typical first six months after campaign launch. If you breed brand familiarity among light and non-buyers without selling them anything at first, follow-up campaigns are much more effective. According to Profit Ability, 58% of the results in profit happen after six months and up to three years after a campaign launch.

So, investing in brand is good for business. The billion dollar question is: how do you actually develop those brand-building campaigns? This is where the power of sound comes in.

Who’s that brand?

In every piece of communication, it needs to be clear it’s your brand that’s sending a message. Distinctiveness is key. Brands can start to look and sound the same if they don’t think creatively about these assets. Take this excellent example of how brands communicated at the start of the COVID-19 crisis. ‘Every Covid-19 commercial is exactly the same’ featured big names such as Apple, Uber, Budweiser, Facebook, Hyundai and Mazda. It demonstrated how all followed the same format. Sombre music and similar language such as ‘unprecedented,’ ‘distance’ ‘closed doors’ and so on.

This inevitably means they lack differentiation. If people don’t remember the brand, it’s impossible for the message to have its desired effect. A sad reality is that most people, most of the time struggle to remember the brand after seeing an ad. You need all the help you can get to increase brand recall.

Just as brands develop distinct visual brand assets, strong brands such as O2 tap into the power of sound. The mobile network uses a distinctive ‘breath’ sonic branding element to reinforce its visual ‘oxygen’ branding.  Recent Ipsos ‘Power of You’ research has shown that if you harness on-brand, distinct, sonic assets, they are 16 times more likely to get branded attention than visual assets alone.

Out of sight

The added benefit of having sonic assets at your disposal is that you create additional ways to signal your brand. This is vital in media channels that don’t allow for visual brand assets, such as radio, in-app, and podcasts.

Investing in your brand will pay out even more dividends. The power of sound is yours for the taking to help you achieve a strong brand.

In a sporting context, let’s look at the iconic sound of the Champions League, one of football’s most prestigious tournaments. The anthem really plays on the feeling of a grand history. It has become a hugely powerful translation in sound of what the brand stands for.

For the Premier League, its sonic brand identity had to sit in its own space but still be applicable across multiple touchpoints. It takes iconic moments from football games – the clink of the turnstiles, the sound of studs in the tunnel and fan chants – added to a rousing, unique soundtrack that stands out among the other major European football league brands. That sound is now broadcast to over two billion viewers worldwide with 11 adaptations to support the 11 premier league shows. It’s played across all clubs, and the stadium version is so popular, fans download it and share on playlists. To add to the authenticity of experience, fans even demanded it be integrated into EA’s FIFA17.

Harness emotional storytelling

Your campaign needs to build a connection between your brand and associations that are linked to your brand positioning. The best way to make this connection stick in the minds of your audience is to harness sound. Research shows that when music and brand/ad message are congruent, purchase intent goes up. Visual recall of ad scenes and verbal recall of brand and message is also better.

Let’s remind ourselves of the fantastic We’re the Superhumans ad by Channel 4 for the 2016 Paralympics and how music became the driving force behind the creative. A rousing and yet slightly unexpected 50s swing beat meets modern-day, technologically advanced paralympians. The music even features heavily in the film action which further drives the story. It builds such a recognisable hook, it stays in your mind. Within weeks of launching it became the second-most shared Olympics-themed ad on social of all time. Research found it shifted attitudes towards disability and perceptions of those with disabilities.

Aim for fame

While sales activation campaigns are effective when done in a highly targeted way, with brand-building campaigns you want to target and reach the entire category. If you can afford to do a television campaign, it is by far the most effective channel in reaching mass audiences. Again, Profit Ability found it is, on average, responsible for 71% of the total profits at only 55% of budget costs, yielding a return of over £4 for every £1 you invest.

According to the IPA, the optimal balance seems to be 60% on brand building and 40% on short term performance marketing to be most effective with your marketing budget.

A perfect illustration of how to aim for fame in the right way is the hugely successful John Lewis Christmas campaigns. It has made the music central to the campaign to really drive the emotional impact of the story.

The media landscape gets more fragmented by the day. Building a strong brand that cuts through the clutter and is distinguishable is crucially important. Brands must realize that focusing only on the visual side is not enough anymore, so adapt your strategy in order to prosper. Investing in your brand will pay out even more dividends. The power of sound is yours for the taking to help you achieve building a strong brand.

Featured image: Denisse Leon / Unsplash

Moos Lamerus

Moos Lamerus works as global chief operating officer and partner at international creative music agency MassiveMusic in Amsterdam.

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