Building a B2B brand through sonic identity

Aircall co-founder and CEO shares why the phone and contact centre solutions provider has invested in a comprehensive audio branding strategy and the creative process

When you’re a business that’s all about enabling phone conversations, having a sonic identity is a no-brainer. But having achieved significant growth globally, Aircall’s co-founder knew it was time to up the ante on the eight-year-old company’s audio approach.

Aircall provides cloud-based phone systems and contact centre solutions. Founded in 2014, the business has raising more than US$226 million in funding along the way and now exceeds $100 million in annual recurring revenue. It’s growth that’s led the company to secure a spot on Deloitte’s Fast 500 for technology innovation and achieve a market valuation of over $1 billion.

Aircall CEO and co-founder, Olivier Pailhes, told CMO the company was aware of the need for sonic identity from the get-go. Coming from a family of musicians, he put his hand up and developed one in-house.  

“Eight years later, the company has changed a lot and is growing very fast. Today, we have 800 employees spread over five continents,” he said. “We recently overhauled our visual identity, and in the process, decided to differentiate ourselves. My team and our agency, Sixieme Son, highlighted how strategic and powerful music can be for brand awareness and recall, which convinced me to update our sonic identity.

“Together, we came up with a unique sound that brings consistency at every touchpoint and helps audiences easily identify Aircall around the world. This new sonic identity is designed to create cohesion, to engage our employees, clients and prospects in a strong project, and to reinforce our leadership.”

Aircall’s mission was to attain a sonic identity that showcased its technical solutions, as well as energy, creativity and people. The creative process involved employees coming from their New York and Parisian offices to record claps and finger snaps in Sixieme Son’s studios, providing the element that underpins the broader sonic concept.

For Pailhes, Aircall’s sonic identity is a mix between an easily memorable melody – inspired by the musical tastes of their music-loving founders – and bright electro textures. He described it as halfway between UX design and music.

“Our business isn't necessarily the sexiest at first, but we are disruptors in our sector and we break the codes,” he explained. “Our sonic identity reflects that philosophy. We are also customer obsessed, so this sonic identity is also about providing them – and their own customers – with a comprehensive, high-quality brand experience at every stage of the relationship. Finally, it is a way to engage our workforce and to show them we are striving to be cutting-edge on all aspects of our business.”

While it’s clear a sonic identity is a strong way of reflecting Aircall’s business model, Pailhes believed having distinctive audio assets was also critical given how much meaning is conveyed in sound.

“The strategic use of sound can play an equally pivotal role in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust and perhaps most importantly, increasing sales and marketing ROI,” he commented. “Investing only in visual branding is like competing with one hand tied behind your back, weakening your efforts. Cognitive studies show that relevant sounds and musical cues can truly have a powerful impact on brand perception and preference.  

“The ability of a sound to spark a reaction is essential to create an emotional link with the brand: Sonic branding allows you to stand out in a competitive market. It gives a brand a stronger and unique personality, helping to capture the audiences’ interest. There must be an element of surprise that helps differentiate from the competition.”

For Pailhes, the most surprising part of the work was the ease with which collaboration occurred with Sixieme Son’s musicians.

“My team and I brainstormed a lot on the topic and I also had ideas in terms of symphonic directions. Sixieme Son very quickly understood and integrated those inputs. It was fascinating,” he said.

Aircall’s new sonic identity will be stretched across all customer touchpoints and from on-hold music to ring tones, digital platforms, webinars and events. It’s also incorporating the sonic elements into the product itself.

“It was an international rollout, because Aircall knows no borders, and we mainly used social media for this launch,” Pailhes said.  

An easy way to assess the success of a sonic strategy for Pailhes is how employees embrace it. So far, there’s been a lot of positive feedback internally, he said.  

“But measuring the long-term success of a sonic identity takes time. Studies published by Toluna - Harris Interactive and Sixieme Son show most sonic identities take at least two years to perform, and that whether people like it or not isn't necessarily a success factor,” he continued. “Therefore, we will have to wait before driving more in-depth analyses.”

For its part, Sixieme Son MD, Laurent Cochini, said the building of Aircall’s sonic strategy was exemplary in many ways.

“It was very inspiring to work for companies that are booming, moving fast, and innovating in sound – especially when driven by a music enthusiast,” he said. “Aircall's ability to handle audio as a powerful tool is a strong sign sent to the market and further amplifies the leading status of the brand.”

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