technology, engagement and new frontiers in audio branding

Once upon a time, we “heard” a brand primarily though commercials that were broadcast via television and radio.

The advent of social media, coupled with technological advancements in recording and playback devices, has opened a whole new world of opportunities for the audio branding enthusiast.

It might have been a spoken phrase with a memorable rhyme that became a positioning line easily remembered. Or a jingle that stuck in your head and kept you humming a brand name through the day. Advertisers hoped that if they were catchy enough, these moments of audio branding would become messages spread by word of mouth, engaging an audience enough to join in a vocal chorus that moved beyond the confines of TV and radio.

That was then. This is now.

While memorable hooks and catchy melodies are still an important part of the equation, the advent of social media, coupled with technological advancements in recording and playback devices, has opened a whole new world of opportunities for the audio branding enthusiast.

Brands have access to more audio assets then ever – libraries, crowd sourced platforms, licensed audio, original compositions, branded content, music/sound companies – and more ways to actually engage consumers with those assets via technological advancements. But it’s not enough to have the tools at your disposal. It’s important to understand how to use those tools effectively in order to see a real ROI. When it comes to audio, it’s easy to be lead astray by our own preferences and instincts. Choices based on personal preferences or creative concepts alone can often lead to an apathetic consumer reaction at best – or a disengagement from the brand at worst.

As a point of reference, let’s consider a couple of recent cases that, in our opinion, illustrate an excellent use of new technology in audio branding strategy, execution and research.

Exhibit A: Old Navy launched a new campaign earlier this year, tagged with the positioning line, “Real Music. Real People.” As part of the strategy, CP+B worked with Old Navy to create a series of original songs as part of the “Real Music. Real People.” campaign.

CP+B and Old Navy partnered with Shazam (a commercial mobile device based music identification service) to create a unique brand promotion. Shazam has developed software that will allow your mobile device to sample an audio performance, compare it to a library of samples in the Shazam database and then respond to the user with an ID of the appropriate match.

As part of the promotion, whenever one of the Old Navy commercials aired (television, radio, in-store, internet – the medium was inconsequential) a consumer could use Shazam to identify the song. In doing so, it gave the brand an opportunity to further engage their fans. The first 1,000 people to use the application to identify the audio signature of the commercial were rewarded with a coupon good for free jeans. The results speak for themselves: a 70% redemption rate for the coupons, a 33% rate of on-line engagement either by shopping, downloading the song or watching the video and a number one position on the Shazam music chart – besting even Lady Gaga.

What makes this an interesting audio branding case study isn’t the execution of the original music used in the commercial. In fact, it’s a bit ironic that the new commercials feature “faux artists, faux songs and a faux label” to promote the idea of “reality.” Rather, it’s how they used technology to engage the consumers via the audio content of the spots.

In a recent study by IBM on social media and CRM, researchers found an interesting disconnect between what businesses say are the reasons consumers engage them via social media and what consumers say are the reasons for the engagement. The top two reasons consumers engage? For discounts and to make purchases. Interestingly, the businesses surveyed believed that purchases and discounts are the least likely reason for consumers to follow them through social media.

Not only did the Old Navy campaign engage an effective, integrated use of technology and social media, but it also hit the sweet spot of why consumers connect with brands via social media: to get stuff.

A little art. A little science. A big win.

Exhibit B: All Good fair-trade bananas and their marketing campaign, “Listen to Your Conscience.”

All Good’s innovative strategy involved the use of sound, not in a commercial setting but at the point of sale. Ogilvy Auckland partnered with All Good on a campaign designed to literally “get inside the head” of the consumer: namely by speaking as their conscience and appealing to their sense of social justice when it comes to fair trade.

The campaign employs the use of Dr. Joseph Pompei’s “Audio Spotlight” technology that focuses a beam of sound into a very narrow space. Directional sound technology opens up the possibility of projecting an audio message that can only be heard by the intended listener (e.g. an individual in a retail environment).

It was a simple promotion that targeted the consumer directly at the point of purchase (a strategy particularly important when you consider recent research identifying the significant role promotional activity at the point of sale can play in driving consumer sales.) In a unique twist, the brand voice was reframed as the voice of the consumer. The expectation was that if the brand could get consumers to “listen to their conscience,” those consumers would choose All Good’s bananas over the rest. The result? Within three weeks, sales of All Good fair-trade bananas increased by 130%.

The All Good “Listen to Your Conscience” campaign is an example of an audio branding strategy that employs a simple voiceover, projected through a technologically advanced speaker system. Other applications could use music, an audio logo, a product sound – any number of audio identifiers projected into any number of environments, capturing the attention of consumers without “polluting” the sonic space entirely.

It’s a powerful way to be heard…and not just seen.

The use of new technologies and innovative consumer engagement strategies continue to transform the world of audio branding. It’s not just the creation of audio assets that are a part of the equation, but the medium through which you deliver those sonic messages. Couple technological advancements with the opportunity to connect the dots with consumers even further through social media, and it’s easy to see a world of new audio branding touchpoints at your fingertips.

One Comment

  1. Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Hello Steve,

    thanks for sharing these case studies. The possibilities of directional sound seem promising indeed, especially for in-store applications.


    C. Stiegler

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