Not every brand is ready to pursue an audio branding strategy. I’ve had many preliminary discussions that didn’t lead to action. And I hope that doesn’t sound bitter, because it’s not. Sometimes we may have the discussion and find it’s just not a good fit or it’s not the right time, and that’s perfectly fine. And sometimes I might suggest the client needs to figure a few things out before we proceed with a broader strategy. Here are some of those things.
A Willing to Invest
Yes, there are always cheaper options.
One that I’ve encountered is companies that will keep a library of stock jingles, and then adapt them to their current client’s name and slogan. That’s not brand building. That’s an assembly line. You tailor the media products to the brand. Not the other way around.
I’ve also seen certain brands try to save money by turning to services like Fiver. And you get what you pay for. It goes back to that old expression, if you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until you hire an amateur.
When you adopt an audio branding strategy, you’re playing the long game. These things can take years to become part of the public consciousness. Creating a sound identity is a big process. It’s just as involved as forming your visual identity.
You want to get it right. Getting it right takes time, and quite frankly, time is money. It can cost many thousands of dollars depending on the needs and scale of the brand. And whether it’s myself or another audio branding specialist, the purpose of the high cost isn’t to gouge. It’s to ensure you get our best work. The cheaper a product is, the less time and attention it gets. It’s the difference between going out for an intimate dining experience and going for fast food.
An Understanding Your Own Sonic Footprint
If your brand media is limited to a website, some print material, and maybe a billboard, you might not have an immediate need for an audio brand. Those are all on the hard visual side of the A/V spectrum. For almost anything else, there’s an opportunity to make your brand more emotional and immersive with branded audio media. And there may be a lot more opportunity than you think. Before you consult an audio branding specialist, it may be worthwhile to take an inventory of all possible conveyances of sound you have at your disposal. Here’s a checklist to get started. Few brands utilize all of these applications, but most brands use many of them.
☐ Public Address
☐ Phone Menu/Automation
☐ Ring/Text Tones
☐ Trade Shows
☐ Physical Products
☐ Voice-Activated Devices
☐ UX/UI Sounds
☐ Background Sounds
An Understanding Your Own Brand Values and Attributes
Film students will often go through an exercise where they’re shown two versions of a movie clip – one with just the picture, and the same clip again with just the sound. What they find is the visuals show a series of events, but with little emotional context. When the audio is isolated, we’re not always certain what’s happening, but we have a clear understanding of the emotional narrative.
Quite often, visuals provide the information, but sounds provide the emotions. Emotion is crucial in branding, and audio is inherently emotional (more on that here). All sounds have emotions. I’m not even talking about just music. All sounds have texture and weight, and they often evoke very specific images.
So when I have discussions with business people about their brand, I need to have a very clear understanding of all the brand attributes and values. What does it do? What does it stand for? What does it promise? What is its history? What is its future? How does it make the world a better place? How does it make people feel?
A lot of brand leaders can’t answer these questions. That’s not to say that we can’t work to find the answers, but a brand can’t be properly expressed externally until its fully understood internally.
A Willingness to Play the Long Game
The strongest brands in the world are strong because they were consistent over a long period of time – often decades. Building a strong audio identity is no different.
Time + Consistency = Trust
Without trust, there is no sale. Without sales, there is no business.
Once the guidelines and media products are in place, you need to commit to them. If they’re forgotten as soon as a new marketing manager takes over, all that time and money was wasted.
A few years ago I created an audio identity for a certain brand that will remain nameless here. We went through the process. We created guidelines and some custom audio products. I’m not really sure what happened, but after a while they seemed to forget about it.
I’m in business to make money, but I’m also in business to be effective. I was paid for the work, but frankly if I knew their level of commitment prior, I would have passed on the project.