Written by Paul Smith, SVP of Commercial, AdTonos

If the term “sonic branding” sounds new to you, the practice behind it definitely won’t.

Many of the world’s biggest brands have their own sonic identity, from McDonalds to Netflix, and if you’re Mastercard, you’ve got a whole catalogue and album under your name.

It’s the jingle, the quip, the song that accompanies an ad, a specific activity, or transaction, the one you immediately associate with a particular brand. Whether “you’re lovin’ it”, or decide to “just do it” – you know exactly which brand I’m referring to, and you’re recalling the crafted sonic identity behind the core of that short sentence.

A sonic identity is what makes you think of a brand not only with your mind, but with your ears. The link is automatic, the feelings and memories it triggers are quick to follow – there is no doubt a sonic identity, when done well, can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool: one that persuades 21% of UK’s young adults to purchase a branded product.

The sound of meaning

So say, like countless other brands, you decide to venture out into creating your own sonic identity. Where do you even start?

Let’s start with the basics: sounds, like any sensual cue, are very sensitive. We are quick to recognise a siren as grating or a sudden crash as jarring. We judge a voice by its timbre, even if we don’t know the person, and someone’s voice can go a long way in influencing how we feel about them. Scarlett Johansson’s voice is widely recognised as sultry, Janice of Friends’ voice as irritating, and Morgan Freeman sounds like – and has portrayed! – god.

When it comes to our daily interactions, we ourselves change our voices depending on who we talk to. Whether it’s family members or a professional phone call, whether we’re asking for something or demanding – each request, declaration, hint, is moulded to convey meaning.

Sound, perhaps more so than image, is personal. There is ongoing research into how music can induce emotions, create meaning, and encode memories. Even without going into the details, it’s a complex process which activates different areas of the brain.

What we know for certain is that music and sound truly matters, which is why it’s so important to get it right.

The medium and the messenger

Personalisation and getting the sound just right is crucial for any brand. So the first step? Take a step back, and consider: in which environment is my audience hearing my message?

There are a number of layers to involved here: it might apply to the country and culture, for example (Mastercard collaborates with musicians from across the world to create different audio depending on the country), or a specific point in the consumer journey (as Singapore airlines did, designing a sonic journey that accompanied passengers from check-in to boarding and landing stages).

Another way to think of it is, how will my audience engage with my message?

Nowadays this goes beyond TV or radio – audio technology is quickly expanding, which we can see by the rising popularity of smart speakers worldwide. And where might consumers use these? Perhaps in the workspace, but it’s more likely they will be using them at home. Be it the kitchen, the bedroom, or living room: you are in someone’s personal space. How do you want your audience to perceive you?

Knowing your audience – the who, the where, the why – is the core of any successful marketing campaign, and vital in audio (if not more so than other media). Understand their interests and build an ad around that, around an awareness of their location and their abilities, and in the knowledge that you only truly get one chance at a first impression.

The emerging opportunities of audio technology

We’ve covered sonic identities and smart speakers, and there’s a reason why: basically, these two concepts fit together like hand in glove (bud in ear? I’ll see myself out…).

If you can craft a persuasive and engaging audio ad, it makes sense to take advantage of interactive audio technology and make your product or service easily accessible to the listener.

Interactive audio ads are the number one way to engage with consumers in real-time. If consumers want to know more about a specific product or service, they can book a call with a sales representative, share your number, or receive a calendar invite. Listeners can even access vouchers – the ways to engage potential customers can only grow.

The first sonic logo was introduced 72 years ago – but today, we can take this truly emotive message one step further into action.