IAB: Why your audio branding is just as important as visual branding

IAB Audio Council on best practise for audio advertising

If you ask a brand what their visual brand assets are, there is no doubt they could rattle off a list as long as your arm, down to the colours, sizes of logos and even their offices.

However, if you ask most businesses what their brand sounds like, the answer will be entirely different, because the sound of brand is not something on many radars.

So what ends up happening is brands will use re-purposed or disjointed audio across different mediums, such as radio, podcasts, TV and smart speakers (if they have a smart speaker strategy at all), leading to a confused and ineffective audio brand.

With this disjointedness apparent, IAB Australia Audio Council decided to do something about it, partnering with Eardrum to develop ‘Best Practice’ creative for Choosi’s audio advertising. The result is being showcased at IAB's Measure Up conference today. 

Gai Le Roy, CEO of IAB Australia, said IAB has been running the Audio Council for the last few years to encourage the use of audio across all mediums, for better ROI.

“It’s important to do a lot of work on standards, as often people try to use re-purposed creative shoved into a new areas that just doesn’t work. When it came to our Best Practice, we were looking for a marketer who has used audio to bring a brand to life, and to show how it can be more effective if you take the time to tailor it for different mediums,” she said.

Simon Hovell , CMO of Choosi, said Choosi was happy to be involved, because while the brand had done some work on its TV audio, it hasn’t done well on radio.

“We haven’t managed to make radio work for us. We’re a very analytically driven business, in terms of TV creative, placement, time of day etc, and we go through that in immense detail. But we’d never been through it with radio, and as result we’ve dipped in and out of it as a channel,” Hovell told CMO.

“Radio is low single digits in terms of share of spend. So we saw an opportunity to use Eardrum’s knowledge in this space.”

The result of the partnership has seen audio assets specifically created for Choosi, demonstrating how audio is best used across different mediums, such as radio, IHeartRadio 'shake me', Spotify, podcast ads, smart speakers, sponsored podcasts, and even an on hold message.

The assets are not live as yet, but are being used as learnings to be fed into Choosi, as well as other Greenstone brands, for best practise.

“Until now we hadn’t taken an overly disciplined approach to audio like our other mediums. We are now also toying with voice search. We spend a lot of money on traditional search, paid and organic, and Google is very open in telling us voice is the fastest growing aspect of search,” Hovell said.

“We are looking to understand that channel and how we can help our customers understand things on their way to talking to us. So the idea of an audio brand becomes more important. Particularly because 13 per cent of all households in the US own a smart speaker, 50 per cent of all searches will be voice generated by 2020, and 30 per cent  of all searches will be done without a screen by 2020. How your brand can translate through that pathway is important.”

Ralph van Dijk, founder of Eardrum, said given the increase of audio consumption by consumers, if brands want to reach these growing audiences they need to ask themselves what their brands sound like.

“We were looking for a brand we could create assets for to demonstrate a better use of audio. Choosi is brand we’ve been working with for a number of years, primarily for TV campaigns,” van Dijk said.

“Some brands sound completely different from one platform to the other, whereas the visual approach is consistent. So we wanted to take some of the assets Choosi had and develop a suite of audio that is fit for each different audience in the mode they are in, helping to bring that to life.

“Your brand sound is dictated by the experience you want your customers to have. It’s no different from the criteria you place on your visual. You need to consider literal tone of voice, also the way you come across in the music, the pace, language, male or female, age – they all dictate how your brand comes across.”

It doesn’t come without challenges. How do you take the visual of a blue shirt, for example, and translate that to audio?

“There needs to be visual transference, so when you hear the audio you think of the visual to the TV ad. Audio lights up different parts of the brain and retains more effectively and in more detail, which is why we can remember jingles from when we were six,” van Dijk said.

“But you just need to turn on the radio to hear the lack of understanding of this. The starting point is always the audience, so while the one size fits all approach might be more convenient for the advertiser logistically, but it won’t create anywhere near the impact that audio tailored specifically for that medium will.”

Hovell agreed, saying Choosi went into this thinking they could just tweak something for different mediums, but it quickly became evident that is not the case.

“When you sit there and play them back to back, you get a better understanding how different these elements need to be to be effective,” he said.

Defining you audio brand according to Eardrum

  1. The three steps are to define WHAT you want to doWHY you want to do it, before we get to HOW (the execution). The key here, is resisting the urge to jump to an execution, or the “How”.
  2. Any expression of a brand starts with an understanding of what makes a brand distinct. The truth of the brand - it's vision, values, promise and personality. 
  3. Once the essence of a brand is defined then all expressions can be created to communicate the brand in a consistent, distinct and positive way. A brand’s audio identity should be designed to be as meaningful and coherent as it's visual identity
  4. There are three ingredients that make up sonic branding: music, voice and sound effects.

Music is the most sophisticated of the three. It is also the most powerful for generating memorability and distinctiveness.

Voice. There are at least 25 variables that can be used to describe voice, including accent. Choosing a consistent brand voice which matches the essence of the brand is crucial. If the perfect voice is used consistently, your customer recognises your brand instantly. 

Sound effects. Natural ambient sound can be very useful in stressful office environments and influential sound effects can be incorporated into sonic logos (mnemonics) too. 

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+:google.com/+CmoAu  


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