Hear That? It’s the Sound of Audio Building Brands

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Over the past few decades, audio has been used mainly as a tactical tool to drive immediate sales.

And for some very good reasons. Radio serves as the last mile in reaching drivers in their cars or trucks who are about to make a purchase. Meanwhile, direct-to-consumer brands have had great success with host-read ads that direct podcast listeners to websites and convert to sales.

Increasingly though, advertisers are also looking to audio to boost awareness and build brands. Here are four reasons:

  1. Advertisers are rediscovering the long-term benefits of building brands. The work of Binet & Field and others have shown that brands that focus only on immediate sales can cut into their brand equity over the long haul. You can only live at the bottom of the funnel for so long before you need to find prospects to fill the top of the funnel.
  2. Big brands are looking for alternatives to the echo chambers of digital media. Procter and Gamble is the most obvious example. P&G has dramatically increased their audio spend over the past two years—and is now the #2 radio advertiser in the US after the federal government. Reviewing their overall marketing mix, P&G discovered they were getting too much frequency from their digital advertising. They needed mass media that could deliver precise reach and they found it on audio. Likewise, insurance companies have hiked their budgets on both radio and podcasting over the past couple of years.  Bank of America and McDonalds now rank among the top 3 advertisers in podcasts — something that would have been unimaginable just two years ago.
  3. Smart speakers and digital assistants are focusing brand attention on audio. It’s still early days, but brands are recognizing the importance of creating a distinctive audio presence for smart speakers and digital assistants. As Larry Minsky, co-author of Audio Branding: Using Sound to Build Your Brand puts it: “when there’s no picture, no visual, no colors, no fonts, no anything of the traditional branding sense… you’re leaving your brand up to Alexa or Siri?” Audio logos can help to fill that need.
  4. Audio offers an untapped opportunity for creativity and emotional impact. Audio sits in that sweet spot between text and video. It provides richer sensory cues for communication than text. Meanwhile, audio engages the listener as an active participant to paint their own picture while video, by laying it all out there, often leaves the viewer as a passive bystander. That unique ability of audio, combined with new audio technologies and platforms, opens the door to a world of possibilities.

Not all of this is that new of course. Music has long been used to add memorability to the brand-building process. Listen to the Wheaties Quartet debuting the first-ever radio jingle on Christmas Eve, 1926:

Fast forward nearly 100 years. Following in the footsteps of brands like Intel and McDonalds, Mastercard launched a huge multi-level sonic branding initiative in 2019 to lock in an emotional connection with consumers. The result of two years research, it’s based on the lightning-quick six-note melody you now hear whenever your Mastercard payment is accepted on your mobile device. They’re banking on triggering that same positive feeling whenever a listener hears those six notes repeated. Like they might in a radio, podcast or streaming ad.

The explosion of audio options over the past 15 to 20 years have led many to say we are entering the golden age of audio. And so it is that we are on the cusp of a golden age of audio marketing for brands.

Interested in knowing how well your audio campaign is building brands?  For more information on Brand Lift Studies for audio, watch the brief video below, or go directly to our Brand Lift Help page where you can access our video series on Brand Lift Studies for podcasts, radio and audio streaming. You’ll also get a Brand Lift Brief template, a checklist to help you get set up for a successful Brand Lift Study.