How Audio Branding Simplifies A Brand’s Communications

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The following is a guest post from Future Buzz community member Colleen Fahey.

One of the difficulties of managing a brand’s content (and overall) strategy is making sure that, despite the various messages and methods used, all efforts consistently reflect well on the brand — providing an opportunity to create coherence and meaning in a distinctive way.

As new communication channels are developing and current channels are evolving, marketers need to gain consistency across all mediums and customer touch points more than ever.

Add in the fact many new touch-points are audio-enabled, brands must devise a strategy that guides the use of a brand’s music and sound, and strive to be as meaningful in their audio expression as they are in their visual one.

It’s about using music as a language – it’s about audio branding.

At its best, audio branding offers meaning and continuity to your messaging so what a consumer hears in relation to the brand always sounds like the brand. This gives brands the opportunity to make every touch point a relationship-builder and create brand association with specific values.

Today is the ideal time for all brands to consider a unified solution for their audio universe. In addition to conveying powerful meaning, a brand team can save money and time. Once a brand’s audio identity and guidelines are in place, the team is armed with clear dos and don’ts and is free of last-minute decisions about what music to choose for news releases, on-hold sounds, expos, videos, commercials and presentations .

Michelin simplifies its sound with a single audio DNA adapted across the world (sample it here).

Michelin has marketing operations in 170 countries. They have no direct-to-consumer relationships. They, however, do use advertising to convince dealers to carry their highly innovative products and to insure sell-through of their inventories.

In 2009, to underscore the brand’s leadership, the Michelin Man icon was transformed into a superhero-like character. A series of TV commercials with a powerful and unified look and feel were developed. But, at first, the sound was an afterthought.

The commercials were performing well but not optimally. Michelin embarked on a soul-searching definition of their audio identity. A venerable company incorporated in 1888, they needed to convey their forward-looking leadership and commitment to innovation. They wished to express their distinctiveness as well as the emotional aspects of mobility and driving pleasure.

The resulting audio DNA, created by Sixième Son, was scored to the commercials. Tests revealed an 18% increase in the perception of leadership, a 12% increase in innovation as well as increases in perceived mobility and pleasure. The result is that the DNA still infuses every commercial to this day, as well as every other communication, saving the company untold time and money.

Around the globe, Michelin offices don’t need to search out licensed music for meetings, corporate films and customer service lines. The same audio DNA is tapped and adapted for their global management meetings, their customer service on-hold music, the soundscapes for events, and their corporate films.

Simplicity is build into the legal side, too. Markets are protected from unwitting violations of licensing agreements and Michelin is protected from copycats. The music exists within a protected legal framework.

But, perhaps, the best part of this simplicity story is that the employees don’t live in a cluttered auditory environment. The music they hear continuously reinforces the company’s values. They know what they’re a part of and what it stands for.

Help Guide the Choices of Your Marketing Partners

These days, brands may be managing digital and mobile agencies, social media providers, content creators, advertising, PR and promotion agencies, event and multi-cultural marketers. As the types of agencies have increased, it’s easy to become far too musically diverse. Each partner may be licensing one-offs for events, video news releases, web videos.

With an established brand identity, groups accustomed to making or guiding music choices now have a powerful go-to resource. Armed with this audio identity system, your teams will stand positioned to underscore the role of the brand in their customers’ lives, no matter where those customers are located.

A brand’s leader must think beyond licensed music (which is often used for campaigns) to create distinctive audio signals and compositions for the long term. Much like your graphic identity does, your audio allows you to meet your customer in new, subtle and distinctive ways to constantly bring them home to the brand and what it represents.

An audio branding expert will also help define the brand’s musical territory to help guide the selection of appropriate music for a brand’s needs and touch points.

An audio branding agency will help examine the brand’s musical roots and your competitors’ musical approaches.  Then, exploring the brand’s core values and personality, they can create a musical vocabulary for your brand. They’ll compose an  audio DNA that will set you apart and deliver your unique message, and provide an audio logo.  Last, they’ll set up guardrails that help manage your musical identity.  These will usually be codified in an Audio Style Guide.

Then you begin to translate the Audio Identity with sensitivity to your ever-growing sea of touch-points. For the first time, they’ll sound like a family.

As a brand steward, you’ll find yourself in control of the way your brand sounds and what its sounds communicate. Clear. Coherent. Easy.

About the author: A senior marketing executive with over three decades of experience, Colleen Fahey is the U.S. Managing Director of Sixième Son, a unique audio branding agency founded in Paris, France in 1995. Working from a deep understanding of every brand’s ability to strengthen their position within the marketplace by creating and owning its own audio identity, Colleen helps clients tap into the value that audio branding provides through the use of music and sound. Colleen makes her home in Chicago, IL.

image credit: Shutterstock