What does your brand sound like? If you’re like many marketers, you probably don’t have an answer to this question.
Audio marketing a rapidly developing area of branding and communication. Voice-controlled interfaces like Siri and Alexa provide new avenues for consumer-brand interaction. Audio-first marketing channels like podcasts pose challenges for brands still searching for their voice. As new technological innovations incorporate more of the five senses, brands need to embrace a holistic approach to create a sensory experience through their marketing campaigns.
Dr. Cornelius Ringe and Sebastian Fuchs, CEO and Voice Director at WESOUND, respectively, are experts in audio branding and voice marketing. Together they will lead a Spark session you need to hear to believe — all about the future of brand sound in digital marketing.
We had the chance to speak with Sebastian about how companies can start thinking about brand sound, who’s leading the industry, and what the key opportunities are for marketers in this space.
Q: I’ll be honest — I don’t know much about audio marketing. Do you find that it’s an often-ignored aspect of branding? What do you say to marketers who are curious about getting started with brand sound?
It is strange, isn’t it? As we try to be early adopters, we are still assuming CI to be the abbreviation for “see” and “eye”. But that doesn’t fit our daily experience, which is mainly audio-visual.
Audio has really caught up the last years and is about to surge forward. So brands should think about their sonic identity the sooner the better. We call our method finding this path: “Sound Design Thinking.”
It’s not rocket science: when you have determined your brand’s core values, you are on your way toward crafting your own unique sound DNA. That’s the first milestone. This DNA has to be so rich that every element (audio logo, hold music, etc.) can be derived from it and the listener is able to identify the brand within the blink of an eye.
Q: How should established companies approach audio branding? Creative marketers have a long history of determining a brand’s voice, key messages, tone, and visual style. How can we translate those aspects into audio?
If you have already crafted these aspects, you’ve almost climbed the mountain. The work on your auditory identity is the last stage towards the peak. Bear in mind that you have to transfer your appearance to a distinct sense, which follows certain rules.
Let’s take the relation between “tone of voice” and “brand voice.” Compared to a theater play, the tone of voice would be the written piece, which is the work of an author, while the brand voice would be the presentation on stage, executed by an actor, who follows the interpretation of the director.
The prosody (melody, tempo, timbre, etc.) of the brand voice really brings to life the brand persona. The way of speaking should be structured conceptually in accordance with the brand, before castings take place. Likewise you should deal with all other aspects of the sonic brand. For that we suggest working with experts who are well experienced with both: brand and sound.
Q: Alexa, Siri, Google’s Assistant, Cortana — how can marketers make the most of these digital voice assistants? Do you think these are passing trends or early indicators of a new channel for enterprising marketers?
These voice assistants are definitely prophets of the golden age of audio. But they are still very poor regarding brand fit possibilities. Today, when you implement a new Alexa skill, your brand is speaking with Alexa’s voice. That’s not good for your brand – it’s good for Amazon!
Although you can interact with your customers, Alexa’s voice is always feeding the listener with Amazon brand values. The next step will be – the providers are testing that already and it works really well – to choose from a bunch of voices in a text to speech app and to design different parameters like emphasis and melody. That’s better, but it’s still not precise enough to represent your brand through a certain voice and a distinct way of speaking. The step after the next will be to model a voice easily and to use it as an instant voice assistant so that it fits your brand properly.
Most brands haven’t realized the potential for a new auditory brand experience. Conversing with this largely unexplored channel causes nothing short of a paradigm change. How exciting! What an enormous potential! Besides the fact that accessing the internet without a keyboard or screen increases convenience, brands are now able to connect with the customer in a far more immediate and approachable way.
Q: What company today do you think is really nailing audio marketing? What are they doing well and how is it affecting their bottom line?
Today, no brand is really using the whole potential of audio marketing. However, there are many good examples for successful single solutions.
Mastercard, for example, is one of the first brands to realize the meaning of brand sound in future voice assistant applications. They had the courage to drop the company’s name from the visual logo and to accelerate systematically their own sonic appearance. Unlike other brands, Mastercard launched the new audio logo as an application sound. It plays every time there is a successful voice-based transaction.
I quote Cornelius Ringe, our Hamburg CEO, who will also join me at Spark: “Brand sound is no logo. It’s a whole dimension.”
Q: How can marketers optimize their product pages — or other important pages — to rank for voice searches? How much of an impact could this have?
Instead of bothering you with detailed optimization instructions — since we assume, that you’re all digital natives — we’re excited to share our daring visions of future voice search with you in our SENSEation in Copenhagen at Spark. Looking forward to meeting you there!