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The five golden rules of audio branding

09 Apr 2020  |  Matt Hopper 
The five golden rules of audio branding

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Once convinced that your brand needs an audio identity, where do you begin? Matt Hopper shares his sonic guide

There was a time, not too long ago, when ‘audio branding’ simply meant having a catchy jingle. A jingle that a brand would roll out over a few radio and TV campaigns and then change, either because of a change of Marketing personnel, a change of agency... or just to ‘try something different’.

The audio landscape is a lot broader and more diverse now, so we can (and should) be a lot smarter in the way we devise and apply audio branding. And apply it we should, because the increase in engagement with audio over the last couple of years has been nothing short of remarkable, and shows no signs of abating.

Additionally, voice interaction is reducing screen time and the opportunity to get your visual branding seen, so the logic of having an audio strategy is more compelling than ever.

Audio branding can increase ROI, improve customer loyalty, and make a brand truly ‘famous’. But where to begin? Follow these five golden rules and you’re on the way to audio branding success.

1. Think long term

Famous brands didn’t get where they are today by changing their visual branding every five minutes (McDonald’s introduced the golden arches in 1968), and you adopt the same long term approach to audio branding.

Audio branding strategies should span five to ten years, or even more (McDonald’s started using Justin Timberlake’s ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ sonic 17 years ago). The more you use your audio branding, the more the more famous your brand gets, as familiarity builds.

2. Be consistent

Don’t just apply your audio branding consistently over time - apply it consistently across every possible touchpoint. It pays. Radiocentre and Ebiquity’s 2018 ‘Re-evaluating Media’ study showed that consistent application of sonic properties across multiple media increases ROI by up to 400%.

So to maximise results, just as you would your visual branding, apply your audio branding to strict guidelines and at every possible consumer touchpoint. Not just the obvious ones either – literally anywhere anyone interacts with your brand, or is within earshot of a brand communication. At point of sale, at events, in app or on-hold, for instance.

3. Adapt

The days of being able to roll out the same creative to all channels are gone. The way audio is consumed now varies immensely, from traditional radio which requires punch-through to break through the background noise, to podcasts and streaming services which are mostly consumed through earphones and are a much more intimate listen.

What sounds right on one won’t necessarily work in other environments. You’re catching consumers in different situations and moods and you’ll need relevant audio to match.

For global brands, this also means adapting audio so that it chimes with the local audience. Mastercard’s recent audio branding roll-out included multiple versions of their theme and card acceptance sonic, recorded by musicians in each key locale; a Latin vibe for Brazil, a Slavic vibe for Eastern Europe, etc.

4. Evolve

Take that five or ten year long-term view, but don’t stand still. Just as visual branding is refreshed occasionally, keep your audio identity fresh by evolving it carefully over time. McDonalds have used the ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ sonic for 17 years, but they’ve rearranged it several times to keep it fresh. You need to do the same.

5. Be unique

Radiocentre’s ‘Brand Multiplier’ study proved a direct correlation between the proportion of buyers that link a brand name to an audio asset and the share of total responses attributed to that brand. So, the uniqueness of your audio properties is key to audio branding success.

Original music not only ensures uniqueness but also can be shaped to match brand character; using a well-known tune is a short cut to familiarity but the brand needs to ‘own’ it and use it consistently over time and across all touchpoints.

To use a hit song in this way, though, will come with a considerable licensing bill. (Image how well Justin Timberlake has done out of McDonald’s after 17 years of syncing payments for ‘I’m Lovin’ It!)

Once convinced that your brand needs an audio identity, where do you begin? At Trisonic, we start with a close look at the brand, its culture, its history, its perception, its target audience and its aspirations.

We research the audience and competitor brands – hear what they’re doing. We may test branding options against each other, and against competitors in THE TRISONIC LABTM.

We look at how and where the track is going to be used, and start to build a toolbox of music, voice and audio elements that the brand can use in different ways.

To start a conversation about creating an audio identity for a brand, contact matt@trisonic.co.uk


Matt Hopper is co-founder and creative director at Trisonic

Mediatel are the audio experts operating at the centre of audio trading, distribution and analytic processing. Contact us for more information on J-ET, Audiotrack or our RAJAR data engine.

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22 May 2020 

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