If you're going to focus on one thing this year, make it audio branding
As a brand marketer, this is the year to set your sights on defining and refining your brand's audio presence.
In addition to the fact that audio has a significant effect on brand perception, consider also that audio is second only to video as a consumer's preferred format for content. The average American consumes five hours of video each day and two hours of audio content. More than ever, brands must leverage the audio (or audio-visual) medium to reach consumers.
Soon, brands that don't have an audio presence may not have a presence at all. Here's what you need to know about defining your audio branding, including the importance of tone and the components to consider. Plus, we'll also walk you through audio examples of how a brand can be brought to life.
Audio Branding Considerations: Emotional Response
From a branding perspective, thanks to the emergence of smart speakers, the rising popularity of branded podcasts and more, your company's tone of voice has more literal applications then ever. What remains the same though, is that all branding elements should represent your brand's core values brought to life: from written tone of voice, to font styling and color palette. Audio elements are no different.
Your audio branding should complement your overarching brand strategy, and nest well within your brand style guide. Just like your pantone palette mirrors your written style, so too should audio enhance the consumer experience and form an emotional link. For instance, if your brand's core value is to bring fun into your customer's lives, you may describe your brand audio as "jubilant, light and fast-paced."
Audio tones have a scientifically proven effect on human emotions, and the messages they convey can rise above language and even cultural barriers. For instance, people from around the world will label a piece of music as having the same emotional vibe (e.g. sad, happy, etc.) even though the listeners may have completely different life experiences, languages and backgrounds. This common emotional interpretation, quite unique to audio, further underlines the importance of specifying exactly which emotional response you want to create.
We all know the bright, cascading xylophone tones that define NBC (N-B-C), the zany, digitized voice of Canadian mobile phone company Koodo ( Koo-doh) , and the fun and youthful "ba-da ba ba ba" of McDonald's famous "I'm Loving it" soundmark. All of these examples evoke a feeling that matches an intentional brand vibe. Aim to do the same.
Examples of Brand Voice Come to Life
Perhaps one of the best ways to understand how sonic branding guidelines can impact brand perception is by example.
Here, we're going to give you three scenarios using the same fictional brand: A new rideshare service app called Tyxi. The company tagline is "It's how we get you there."
While the tagline will stay the same in each example, we're going to change up the brand personality, and their respective sonic descriptors, so you can literally hear how the brand is brought to life in wildy different ways.
Example 1: It's all about fun
Brand Values: A rideshare should be an enjoyable, social experience. Transportation is about more than getting from point A to point B. It's a shared experience that allows us to connect with others. It's fun and exciting, and Tyxi's drivers have all been selected for their ability to make travel into an enjoyable experience.
Brand Voice Description: Tyxi's brand voice is charismatic, energetic and yet approachable. Delivery is natural and energized, but never forced or frantic. When you hear the Tyxi voice, it puts a smile on your face. You're energized because you feel like you're hearing the voice of a friend, one who always has an interesting story and an empathetic ear. The pacing of the voice over is natural and slightly upbeat. It has a dash of energy—but not so much that it feels frantic.
Example 2: It's all about luxury
Brand Values: Travel should be stress-free and elegant, where the customer is always treated like a VIP. Their rideshare service requires that only luxury vehicles can be registered, and drivers have been vetted for their ability to provide white-glove service.
Brand Voice Description: Tyxi's brand voice promotes intrigue through its mix of professional, intellectual and luxurious tones. There's a sensuality to the voice, although it is not sexual. This is the voice of the inner conscience of an individual who is confident. Voice over should be delivered in a manner that is relaxed, measured and dreamlike.
Example 3: It's all about speed
Brand Values: Efficiency and speed. The customer shouldn't have to waste unnecessary time on travel, as there are other, more worthwhile endeavors their time could be better spent on, like family time. Customers deserve to arrive safely at their destination, without annoying delays and with time to spare.
Brand Voice Description: The Tyxi voice is no-nonsense and to-the-point. The Tyxi voice embodies efficiency through leveraging as few words as possible, but each is ripe with meaning. Therefore, the pacing of the voice over delivery should be punchy (not high-speed), while the tone is markedly authoritative and reassuring (think confidence with a smile). Listeners should feel like they are being motivated by a warm-hearted leader.
Audio Elements Can Enhance Your Overall Brand
The possibilities for your sonic branding are limited only by your creativity. Describing your audio branding does not have to be daunting—after all, if you have a well-defined brand guideline or brand personality already, then you're 90 percent of the way there. Leverage similar descriptors for your audio styling as you have in your written and visual components. Think 'enhance'' not 'reinvent.'
By defining your brand's literal voice and incorporating the key dimension of sound into your brand guidelines, you will be well on your way to establishing your brand's audio presence.