While sound leapt into modern marketing with radio in the 1920s, and it's played a prominent role in advertising ever since, as a building block of branding it remains largely over-looked. That’s about to change - audibly.
As every brand needs a distinctive visual logo and livery, the instantly recognizable, emotionally rich signs of its identity, today’s forward facing brands are also creating the accompanying audio logos and language that help them stand apart.
There are several examples of the brilliant use of brand sound, (albeit from the usual suspects, including Apple which we’ll return to in a moment) but the point is pretty soon everyone will either rise or fall before the challenge - and it could get pretty loud in here.
Jingles as Mnemonics
Intel Inside’s chimes are justifiably famous as a prime brand example and signals of Intel’s identity. These proprietary sounds are harmonious cues to memory, or mnemonics; audio expressions of the brand that dramatically enhance engagement, recall, and attribution - all of which are critical for Intel in its role as an entirely invisible, ingredient brand.
NBC’s iconic notes, the very first trademarked sounds, appear to have started it all, while AT&Ts start-up tones and T-Mobile’s jingle are virtually everywhere today. Looking somewhat further down the road, Apple created an audio language based entirely on uniquely original sounds - consistent with its positioning, product line, and personality. Jim Reekes was the primary architect of the signature sounds within Apple’s family of Macintosh computers, from the boot up to the screen shot, etc. In this, with certain exceptions, Apple has stood largely alone. However, all this changes dramatically as our interactive experience evolves with the advent of voice recognition and its enabler, artificial intelligence.
No longer gadgets for gadgets sake, smart speakers connected to intelligent personal assistants are here to stay. Alexa, and her jealously competitive sisters, all enable search, shopping, easy listening to content, and the conversations driven by chatbots simulating the human voice that create personalized customer experiences at scale; massive scale. And this is where it gets interesting…because Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are all working to drive voice recognition as the new, primary path we’ll choose to get to the Internet and the rapidly expanding Internet of Things (IOT).
Voice recognition combined with artificial intelligence attached to the oceans of data these folks are collecting, promises to change everything. First, as your speaking voice (and your two-year-old daughter’s) becomes the routine way we access the net - and then each and every thing we want – simple talk replaces the lowly keyboard, perhaps even over-riding our scandalous love affair with the screens on our cell phones. Which means you can now source and shop the web, hands free, while gardening…or sailing…or driving...which is why Alexa is now being built into BMWs, Fords, and Toyotas…
While today only 4/10s of 1% of ecommerce is voice driven, that's bound to change; further disrupting traditional marketing and retail while reshaping the newly emerging models. And it’s in this context that sonic branding is starting to get its legs with some key people. Just how valuable is a pleasant, proprietary audio cue to, say, restocking your household supply of Pampers?
As no less than Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, Procter & Gamble has said: “When you think about an IOT technology on a daily basis, and it's giving you feedback, that's a lot more useful than an ad…I think it could eventually replace advertising as we know it.”
About the Author: As the Founder and Principal of Five Mile River Marketing, Lou helps companies from the Fortune 500 to venture backed start-ups look ahead, embrace change, and sustain success. A versatile business strategist, Lou’s expertise in marketing, branding, and innovation have made him a trusted advisor to some of the world’s most enduring businesses and well-regarded brands, including: AT&T, Castrol, Citigroup, Fed Ex, Labatt, Nestlé, Nikon, P&G, Sara Lee, Schweppes, and UPS. Five Mile River Marketing offers services from defining the value proposition and go-to-market strategy to leadership facilitation and alignment; from business and integrated marketing planning to creating a dynamic brand positioning; and from how to become a truly consumer-centric organization to effective corporate, marketing, and employee communications.