Brand Sound Differentiation

Ruth Simmons
May 26, 2020

In Part 2 we explored the importance of a brand knowing who they are and what they stand for, through their sonic identity and Brand Sound DNA. In this next installment of our deep dive into Sound Equity, we’ll be looking at how brands can differentiate their brand sound from others (Brand Sound Differentiation), so to create an advantage in today’s crowded and noisy market place.

Brand sound – think smart to get noticed

In markets where there is a high degree of competitive convergence, sound can be the deciding factor whether a customer buys from you or your competitors. The right sound for a brand helps create Brand Sound Differentiation.

As consumer research specialist Gerald Gorn wrote way back in 1982, “What a customer hears may make the difference between their choosing and not choosing your Brand”*.

Yet sound is often treated as a peripheral activity, where it is the last thing to be addressed in the creation of an ad.

Brand sound differentiation strategy

When music is chosen because it highlights the narrative, it’s readily available, or it’s within the remaining budget, the likelihood of choosing a track that is also aligned with the Brand Sound DNA is very low. The final decision is often disguised as “I’ll know it when I hear it.” But the truth is, these decisions are effectively nothing more than subjective views.

The other outcome is that the creative team decides on a track without finding out whether and when it has been used before, or worse, it is currently in use. ‘I Get Around’ by The Beach Boys has been used at least five times in the last 18 months by five different brands. I cannot imagine any brand allowing their agency to tell the same story as a competitor within a few months or weeks of each other, let alone at the same time.

If the consumer is to differentiate a brand from others in the market place, the least they should expect is hearing music that’s different from any other brand. Brands need a carefully crafted brand sound in order to stand out from the crowd.

Brand sound – get emotional!

Music is emotional. There are few other elements that a brand can use that has the power to give people sensory pleasure and promises to deliver an ambition/lifestyle. Music can make us feel we belong to a larger group and promote self-confidence and security. Great music can create a yearning for a brand. And with so many people now multi-screening, the music that a brand uses may be the first and only way that a consumer tunes into a brand.

So how can we choose sound in a better way?

How can we produce better ways of using sound and music that is not just cost effective but creatively effective? The answer may be to marry science and sound together. If we create links from empiricism to strategy to the creative process we can keep everyone happy.

If you want to know how well people are going to react to your music choice and connect it to your brand, then you need to be brave enough to test it with your target market and what is happening with your competitors.

We recently worked on a commercial for Smyths Toys Superstores. Through detailed consumer testing, we knew the chosen track matched their Brand Sound DNA and would increase brand recall among consumers – before the ad’s first air date!

And whilst like/dislike and memorability are still good questions, perhaps these are better questions:

1). How effective is the audio-visual partnership?

2). What’s the level of emotional engagement to your brand recall, product suitability and purchase intentions?

If we want to achieve effectiveness in music then we need to understand the marketplace in greater depth. When consumer research is part of the brand sound strategy, brands will know what is going on with their competitors and who sounds like what and where the gaps are. More significantly, it will give a brand the confidence that will take it from ‘I think this music is right’ to ‘I know this music is right’.

*Gerald Gorn, The Effects of Sound In Advertising on Choice Behaviour

Thanks for reading ‘Brand Sound Differentiation’. The final part in this series – ‘Music: From a Cost to an Investment’ will be published on our blog this time next week! See you there and stay safe in the meantime.

Ruth Simmonssoundlounge CEO

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