Building a Sonic Strategy

Ruth Simmons
May 19, 2020

Sonic strategy – the next step for brands

Welcome to Part 2 in our exploration into Sound Equity. In Part 1, we said artists who endure are effectively brands with a strong sonic identity. They have a Brand Sound DNA that we can identify from the very first bars. In this next installment in the series, we’ll be looking at how brands can build upon their sonic identity to create their very own sonic strategy.

How can a brand discover its brand sound DNA?

We were once called by the new Global CMO of Brand X, who had reviewed the last five years of ads and was concerned because the brand sounded schizophrenic. There was no doubt that the agency was delivering some very creative advertising. But what about a sound strategy?

In our sound audit we discovered no conformity in anything, from tempos and instruments to music styles. There was clearly no sonic strategy, and this was a very popular global brand with strong tropical roots. Yet we counted over 16 different music genres – only one of them culturally appropriate. Plotted on a graph, the brand looked like it was having a heart attack!

In visual terms, it was the equivalent of each brand agency in each territory choosing their own font, colours, and design every time they launched a campaign. The brand was so visually right, but it lacked a coherent sound strategy. So, how could this brand move forward?

Building a sonic strategy

Our recommendations apply to any brand – to fully leverage the power of sound and music they need to answer these five questions:

  1. What sounds and music have been used historically?
  2. What were those sounds in layman’s terms?
  3. What is the consumer’s sonic perception of the brand?
  4. What types of sound and music reflect the Brand’s positioning, personality and core attributes?
  5. How is the brand going to make points 3 and 4 align?

If a brand cannot answer these five questions with a clear and consistent and documented response, then they do not have a clearly defined Sonic Strategy.

Sonic strategy does not contradict creative input

Imagine going into the British Library and asking the librarian for a book. Undoubtedly they will point to the rows and rows of books and say, “Yes we have plenty of those”. Now imagine they ask what you have read before, what genres, what authors, what kind of plot you liked and then pointed you down the right aisles – much simpler to find what you are looking for.

Music briefs often just say ‘music’ in the margin. Music Supervisors are too often briefed with ‘we want music’. With over 40 million tracks to choose from it is an epic task. How much easier if the brief could identify what genres, artists, styles, what resonates with consumers and why. Understanding the Brand Sound DNA will put the creative teams in the right music aisles, knowing what will work and what doesn’t for their client.

When this sonic strategy is actively co-ordinated within a brand’s cultural fabric, it will mean that every audio representation of the organisation – from television commercial to elevator music – will powerfully convey the company’s Brand Sound DNA.

Les Binet, Senior Strategist and Planner at adam&eveDDB, noted, “Effectiveness of a commercial can be raised by 20-30% in advertising if the impact of audio is understood and used strategically, but very rarely is research carried out to explore and confirm that the audio is effective.”

Data and creative can be a powerful combination. They are not mutually exclusive.

Thanks for reading. Part 3 – ‘Brand Sound Differentiation’ 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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