The 'Soundsmith' from Brandmusiq speaks on the widening sphere of sonic branding today.
It’s World Music Day. Signaling the first day of the summer solstice and an occasion for celebration. Across the world, musicians of all ages come forward and perform in public areas in an effort to spread the joy of music and foster a spirit of togetherness amongst communities, cultures and countries.
So what is it about music that binds humanity together?
From the time our human species came into existence, we’ve had a primal attraction to music. Our ancestors were first attracted to bird calls, the rhythmic chirping of crickets, the whistling of the wind and the clap of thunder.
In an effort to mimic the bird call early man invented the flute. And from there along with language, humankind’s musical sensibilities evolved and reached a level of sophistication that brings us to the modern age. Today, many of us may not realize it, but music is core to our existence. For those who would think otherwise, just try and imagine a world without music.
A world without Beethoven, the Beatles, Bob Dylan; or closer to home without Pandit Ravi Shankar, R.D Burman, or the Mozart of Madras- A.R Rehman?
Today, music is a soundtrack to our lives. It touches us, entertains us, soothes us and envelops us within its harmonious embrace, often acting as a counterpoint to the frenetic rhythm of our lives. It is this elemental relationship that we have with music which is attracting a whole host of brands in this exciting new digital age.
But you may say, music always existed, and marketers have always understood the deep connection between consumers and music. Look at the long history of ‘jingles’ or musical pieces that are associated with brands. Whether it’s British Airways use of the famous ‘Flower Duet’ aria, Intel’s ‘Bong’, Titan’s ‘Mozart’ or Britannia’s ‘Ting Ting Ti Ting’.
Yes, all of these brands do have a piece of music that they can be identified with, but several dramatic changes in the media scape are transforming the way consumers live, interact and experience brands. And this is forcing a shift of perspective from the use of music as a tactical communication device to viewing it as a strategic, long term brand property. A property that can go beyond being a mere ‘recognition’ device to an enduring asset that can enhance the emotional equity of a brand.
Goodbye jingles, hello sonic branding?
Yes, ‘sonic branding’ is the new buzz word that’s sweeping the hallways of the world’s most enlightened brand and marketing corporations.
So what is sonic branding?
Sonic Branding is nothing but the strategic development of a brand’s unique audio assets leveraged consistently across diverse online and offline media. Very simply put Sonic Branding is the audio equivalent of Visual Branding. While visual branding is consistent across ‘touchpoints’ sonic branding is consistent across ‘earpoints’.
A sonic identity is arrived at after a thorough understanding of a brand’s ethos, values, purpose, persona, competition and the culture that it operates in. It is not just a bunch of notes, but a comprehensive identity system that is perfectly matched to a brand’s DNA and creates a subliminal impact of the brand’s persona expressed through its unique sound. A good sonic identity must evoke an emotional response that is in sync with a brand’s emotional essence.
Since music is so interlinked with memory (where were you when you first heard Rahman’s ‘Roja’?) brand’s owning a sonic asset can instantly trigger consumer memories of the happy feelings they equate with the brand.
And this works best if a brand has a MOGO(short form for ‘musical logo’). A logo and a MOGO working together can activate both the mind and heart of a consumer simultaneously, creating a powerful synergy. In short sound opens a whole new dimension of sensory
In this digital age of fragmented media and shorter attention spans, speed is of the essence. More and more brands are realising that a sonic identity can help them connect faster and deeper with their customers. And the MOGO® or musical logo is proving to be the shortest distance between a brand and the consumer’s heart.
The business case for sonic branding has also been catalysed by the rapid rise of ‘new media’. There are a few billion customers walking around with little speakers in their pockets, courtesy their mobile phones. These customers receive alerts, notifications, confirmation sounds all of which present opportunities for sonic branding.
An increasing number of apps are using subtle sonic branding elements in their user interfaces helping customers navigate better.
Social scientists are calling this an ‘audio first’ world and there is an estimation that voice activated purchase through smart speakers will be a $40 billion industry in a few years from now. This is the new ‘invisible medium’ where visual branding is not possible.
With the rise of music streaming sites such as Pandora, Spotify, JioSaavn, Gaana, there is a corresponding increase in podcasts. More and more brands are creating narratives through these podcasts and their unique sonic identity can subliminally be integrated.
This is also true of unbranded video content sponsored by brands, in which, with no visual brand logo, a sonic identity has a role to play. And with the ‘millennials’ preferring subtler brand ‘experiences’ to overt brand ‘communication’, the case for experiential marketing with elements of the brand sound infused, is only getting stronger.
In short, it is dawning on brand owners and marketers that a sonic identity is no longer ‘nice to have’ but a ‘must have’. The evidence of this is an iconic global brand such as Mastercard, creating their sonic brand and a comprehensive sonic identity structure that will be heard across 200 countries.
So it looks like sonic branding’s time has come. And it’s going to be music to the ears of not just customers, but to a whole generation of brands across the globe.
(The author is founder and soundsmith of BrandMusiq, a sonic branding company. He lives in Bandra, Mumbai with his wife Meera and daughters, Revati and Rohini.)