Short. Quick-hitting. Impactful. Not the 140-character tweet kind -- but that of sound. Several seconds of sonic branding can carry quite a punch.
Most people can identify the sonic branding examples of the “Intel Inside” campaign, the NBC chime or McDonald’s “I’m Lovin It.” But beyond simple awareness, audio can also powerfully and quickly bring to mind detailed brand messaging, strong emotions and vivid visual images.
“If you have consumers who are snacking on short amounts of time with different types of media channels, we have to think about how to communicate in short, 'snack-like' bits of messaging,” Unilever’s Patti Wakeling, global director of media insights, was recently quoted as saying in an industry trade magazine.
The effective use of audio might just be the right recipe.
A recent study explored how audio can impact what we see, feel and consume by analyzing the emotional and visual influence these sonic brands can have on consumers. It tested 24 of the nation’s top advertisers’ signature sonic brands by having 250 respondents listen to each audio snippet and answer three questions: Do you know the company or brand that uses this sound in its advertising? What message comes to mind when you hear this sound? What pops in your head when you hear this sound/how does it make you feel?
The powerful connection between the familiarity of sonic brands and the emotional responses elicited was profound. The respondents overwhelmingly cited emotions for the brand represented, such as “hungry,” “happy,” or “safe,” when they heard the sonic brand demo. For example, one respondent claimed to “feel at home” when hearing the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s recognizable giggle. Among men ages 18-34, McDonald’s sonic brand (the five-note “Ba-da-ba-ba-ba”) was the best-performing demo, and the respondents consistently said the musical notes made them hungry and excited for McDonald’s, bringing to mind French fries and Big Macs.
Also impressive was the fact that many of the respondents described vivid visual images, such as referencing the advertisers’ spokesperson’s attire or appearance in detailed fashion. After listening to the Six Flags’ sonic branding, nearly one-third of respondents described visual images of the advertiser’s character, Mr. Six. Many of the descriptions included remarkable fine points, such as one who said they saw “an old bald man with black glasses dancing, energetic.”
It’s important to note that there was absolutely no prompting of any kind whatsoever -- yet the respondents overwhelmingly identified the advertiser’s sonic brands.
Respondents also often jotted down the advertisers’ exact slogan, which was not present in the tested sonic brand snippet. Nearly 90 percent of respondents correctly identified the Gecko’s voice as GEICO’s sonic brand and nearly 80 percent of respondents said they thought of State Farm Insurance’s “Like a Good Neighbor” slogan when hearing only the musical jingle.
It’s all too often forgotten or overlooked that audio can very effectively trigger powerful brand messaging, elicit an emotional response to the point of impacting us physiologically, while positively impacting several key branding metrics: awareness, intent and affinity. This study is an important reminder of how several seconds of audio can trigger brand messaging and explicit visual images, providing an advertiser with the benefit of the visual at audio prices. This knowledge can be put to use, both tactically and strategically, to deploy audio at key moments of consumption to increase sales. Radio, anyone?
Check out the results of the entire study at www.sonicbrandstudy.com.
Great article. The Sonic Brand Study is an invaluable tool to help amplify the power of sound. Many companies use music and/or sound in their communication efforts, but fail to fully exploit audio/sonic branding as a "process". As Bob mentions, it must be both a tactical and "strategic" process, which should be viewed as a necessity at the beginning stages of campaign planning.
Brands should take notice of the benefits of psychoacoustics, and embrace audio as an imperative asset that is essential to not only consumer engagement, but also overall brand equity.