Brands with the best audio strategy

Siemens, Intel and McDonald's have come out as the most efficient audio brands among the top 25 audio brands ranked in the report "Best Audio Brands 2020" by digital marketing agency amp. Siemens and Intel had an audio brand efficiency score of 59%, while McDonald's was 40%. 

The audio brand efficiency is calculated based on the estimated ROI of every dollar spent on music and sound for audio-visual content on digital channels and TV. According to amp, it is measure against the benchmark of a brand that owns its sonic identity and uses unique and reusable sound assets strategically across all audible touchpoints. The report explained that these brands have embraced a holistic sonic strategy to various degrees. They own audio assets that work well together, resulting in a higher efficiency score.

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Nonetheless, the report revealed that there is a drop in efficiency year-over-year. One reason for this is the sharp dip in the use of sonic logos, with brands that use a sonic logo in their content dropping from 56% in 2019 to 32.5% this year. Pioneers in the use of sonic logos such as Intel and McDonald‘s decreased their usage from 95% to 50% (Intel) and 95% to 44% (McDonald‘s).

To ensure long-term effectiveness, brands must be able to adapt their sonic assets to a variety of storytelling, touchpoints and use cases along the customer journey, to deliver the most relevant customer experience and increase or sustain customer trust.

A sonic strategy revolving around a single asset such as a sonic logo is not flexible enough to be used across the multitude of different touchpoints.

The report added that brands that commission owned music and adaptable sonic assets are investing money in their long-term audio identity, instead of simply renting one. The more owned assets a brand uses, the more adaptable and efficient its sonic identity becomes. This is because the brand is able to customise its assets to different touchpoints more easily, while remaining recognisable no matter the context.

Top five performers overall

Overall, Mastercard, Shell, Apple, Google and Amazon were ranked the top five among the 100 brands due to two distinct strategies. Amp's report explained that Mastercard and Shell have embraced a holistic sonic identity that is consistent across all touchpoints.

For Mastercard in particular, it jumped from 72nd in 2019 to first place this year as a result of the consistent use of its sonic identity, which was launched early last year. According to the report, consistent use of all available sonic assets, the development of new assets based on the sonic DNA builds trust and influences the ranking positively.

On the other hand, Apple, Google and Amazon made the ranking due to the strength of their product sounds and use of brand voice. They rely heavily on expensive licensing of tracks, leveraging pop culture to support their communication, the report added.

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Investment in sonic branding should be focused on the long-term objective of growing and building assets that can be used flexibly across all touchpoints along the customer journey. To date, the report said that several brands have approached the creation of sonic assets on a short-term or tactical basis without exploring the opportunities and rationale for a strategic approach. Brands should note that sound has the ability to cut through the clutter and stir up emotions beyond the means of visual communication. 

Previously, while brands have experimented with corporate sonic identities by using a set of static audio elements or single melodies, the report said this approach falls short of achieving meaningful results. In a complex environment such as today, a far more comprehensive approach is needed to keep pace with technology and customer experience developments and help build sustainable brand equity.

Focus on storytelling and emotions

One musical style pervasive throughout many different brands and types of videos is the emotional piano-string-ensembles. That sound, according to the report, contributes to affect-generation and bias, and brands use emotional piano-string-ensembles to evoke feelings such as grief, empathy and caring. That said, it is not the genre or style of music that triggers emotion. In fact, it is the different elements within the music that evoke various feelings. Syncopation, for example, is one of the elements and it essentially means when a note anticipates a beat, creates surprise and excitement in the human brain.

This mistake in the approach to the emotional connection can be found in the wide majority of all existing sonic strategies, the report said, adding:

The question is not 'Does hip-hop fit to the brand?', but rather 'How does the brand sound in the hip-hop musical domain?'.

To gain the best results in storytelling, brands have to be fully aware of the impact of music on the human brain: It is not only the hearing that is influenced by sound. Sound also affects all other human senses. As such, it is important for brands to invest in sound and focus on a proper sonic branding strategy.

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