Are We Approaching A New Sound Barrier?

As we look around, voice technology is increasingly on the rise and has nearly tripled in the last three years, according to Statista. This rapid adoption is a renaissance for an old medium, sound.

We’ve experienced innovation in sound as a medium before. For instance, when we went through the “Golden Age of Radio” in the 1920s — the time when soap operas, quiz shows, and even comedies engaged our imaginations. But, even through ­this innovation and all the subsequent technology innovations, we’ve never fully explored sound as a branding medium.

We have explored sound as a tool for expressing emotion—heroic composers like John Williams and Hans Zimmer have left us on the edge of our seats for generations. We’ve also explored sound as a tool for guidance and feedback, our phones click when we lock them, our computers buzz when an email is sent, the street-crossing pole barks at us when it is time to cross. And at some stores, most notably stores appealing to a certain demographic, we hear the top hits of generations to set the mode or tone—Hollister’s music selection is ingrained in my memory as a perfect example.



Yet, despite sound’s emotional and transformative power and the ubiquitous calls for brands to be “more human,” we’ve yet to fully explore the anthropomorphic capabilities of sound—especially in the most logical of industries automotive. 

Consider that Americans are very attached to their cars. So much so, that roughly 40% of cars in America have names (according to a study from eBay) and there are over one million search results on Google for what your car says about your personality. It is part of our culture to anthropomorphize our cars.

Voice technology and cars have long gone hand-in-hand, even before voice technology was adopted by other industries. Chances are the first voice-enabled object most Americans owned was a TomTom. They trained us that objects with speaking roles in our lives were a bit robotic—anything but the personalities we give to our cars.

Now, consider that by 2019 roughly 55% of cars will integrate voice technology, according to Statista. As a marketer working on behalf of the industry, I say this is a tremendous opportunity to evolve the concept of a brand into uncharted branding territory. Its an opportunity to truly redefine what a “brand tone of voice” is.

On the other hand, as a consumer with immense affection towards my four-wheeled companion, shouldn’t this also be an opportunity to give my car a voice—a new personality dimension it’s never had?

Perhaps it’s time for us as auto marketers (and marketers in general) to consider we may be approaching a new sound barrier—one that requires us to relinquish creative brand control? Our brands may now serve to enable consumer expression and we need to think of brands as a sort of mixing board.

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