Sound Branding

The publication of Martin Lindstrom’s book BRAND sense in 2007 opened the door to a whole new world for many marketers, producing a genuine paradigm shift from one sense to five and confirming the beginning of a whole new approach which we now know as sensory branding.

Lindstrom reported that a massive 83% of all marketing expenditure globally has been focused on the eyes alone – which is way out of proportion compared to the integrated multisensory way we form our opinions and attachments. Marketers have been largely ignoring the power of the other four senses! Millward Brown, who carried out the BRAND sense research, summarise their findings thus:

The study confirmed that the brands with sensory depth were particularly strong, with clearly defined, globally understood and distinctive brand identities, and with relevant and aspirational brand values. In some respects at least, these brands had deliberately built their sensory values and are now benefiting from owning such associations.

Sound is potentially the largest unexplored territory in this new marketing world. It’s the second major sense after sight, because only through video and audio can marketers broadcast to large audiences – and only in these two senses can they deliver specific messages. Smell, touch and taste are powerful and should never be ignored, but they are either atmospheric and supportive or entirely specific to one experience, so they are rarely primary communicators.

According to Lindstrom and Millward Brown, sound is rated as a key element of brand communication by 41% of consumers – and yet just 12% of the world’s marketing communication budgets are spent on it.

The opportunity is emphasised by the work of Oxford University’s Professor Charles Spence, who specialises in analysing ‘cross-modal’ effects – the inter-relational effects of combinations of senses. Spence has found that congruent sound increases the impact of visual communication by 1107%, while incongruent sound reduces that impact by 86%. That’s an entire order of magnitude up or down! It’s a shocking thought that so much of the trillions spent each year globally on visual branding is being diluted in this way by incongruent sound.

At The Sound Agency, Chairman Julian treasure has identified eight expressions of a brand in sound. He calls them collectively BrandSound™. The eight expressions are:

Brand Voice, Brand Music, Sonic Logo, Advertising Sound, Branded Audio, Soundscapes, Telephone Sound and Product Sound

Every brand should consider all eight expressions, mapping its strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats in each, and then producing a set of BrandSound™ Guidelines, which will usually also act as a solid brief for creating a whole new set of powerful tools to use.

Thus properly equipped, the brand can venture out into the new world of sensory marketing as a leader, making those competitors who continue in just one dimension look (and sound and smell and taste and feel) like – as Julian asserts – the dinosaurs they are.

Many thanks to @thesoundagency @juliantreasure for providing content in this blog.