Published: July 10, 2022

Leverage the Power of Sound for Your Brand

Build an audio strategy to connect with customers

Take a moment to think of a sound that always makes you smile. Maybe it’s your favorite song, the sound of someone you love laughing or the opening theme of your latest binge-watch. 

Now take a moment to think of a sound that makes you angry. Maybe it’s a fire alarm, a baby crying on a crowded airplane or the voice of a politician you despise.

Sounds have the power to impact emotions directly. This power is universal. Sounds even have the power to impact health. Sound therapy is used to help with migraines, stress relief, improving focus, boosting energy, decreasing nausea, decreasing symptoms of epilepsy, mental health—including depression—decreasing pain, improving sleep and much more. 

There are multiple resources dedicated to using sound to benefit health, including meditation apps. Walter Werzowa, the creator of the Intel “bong” sound and a member of the team that leveraged AI to finish Beethoven’s 10th Symphony, launched Health Tunes—an audio application specifically dedicated to improving health. He spoke with CMI Media Group on a panel at Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity and cited studies in which patients with Alzheimer’s disease experienced better neurological function with sound therapy. And this impact starts early—audio has been used in the NICU to help lower high heart rates of newborns. 

Sound in marketing

Advertisers have the opportunity to leverage the incredible power of sound for their brands. But surprisingly, this doesn’t happen often. Consider these stats from iHeartMedia:

  • Consumers spend 31% of their time utilizing audio—whether that’s streaming audio, podcasts, or other audio entertainment.  
  • Wireless speakers continue to top of the list of electronics purchases, and smart speakers are in 60% of American homes.
  • 61% of podcasts listeners are listening daily.
  • Broadcast radio reaches 9 out of 10 in the U.S.

But audio branding makes up an average of only 9% of brand budgets. And a recent study found that audio accounts for only 1% of digital impressions despite being the most consumed channel.

There are some exceptions. Insurance companies do a great job of building their sonic identities. Just think of companies like Farmers Insurance or State Farm and it’s likely you just sang the jingle to yourself in your head. McDonald’s has won awards for their simple-but-effective “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign. But still, those exceptions are few and far between. 

Developing a sonic identity for your brand can offer huge return. Digital audio offers a 120% conversion-to-brand rate relative to digital display, which offers 5%. 

Audio advertising can also help brands connect on a deeper and more inclusive level with their audiences. Let’s say a podcast ad mentions the word “home.” That leads the listener to imagine what home means to them. They immediately have the image in their mind, and it’s customized to them. This is harder to achieve in visual advertising because a home looks different to everyone. 

Things to know as you get started

Maximizing the impact of audio in your campaigns is a multi-step process.

Custom creative is a must. A brand cannot just pull audio from a TV ad. Not only will it seem out of context, but there will be a missed opportunity that comes from leveraging creative specifically for audio, including music, carefully chosen language and even ASMR. 

Get to know the offerings. It’s not all 15- or 30-second radio ads. In fact, longer formats have been gaining traction ranging from 75 to 90 seconds. Beyond that, streaming platforms are continuing to roll out new, innovative ad units such as Pandora’s interactive voice ads, which are ads you can actually talk to, and iHeart’s immersive 360 audio formats. Podcasts open up an entirely different set of options, including ads read by show hosts and sponsorship spots. Many of the streaming platforms also offer visual components such as companion banners or video assets for people consuming streaming audio on laptops or iPads.

Devote 10% of your campaign budget to test and learn initiatives. This gives brands the flexibility and freedom to try new media without pressure. 

Educate internal stakeholders and get them on board. While it can be scary to be first, you also don’t want to get left behind. But there’s a middle ground, especially given the evidence we already have backing the power of audio branding.

As we head into planning season, make sure you’re ready with your audio strategy. The end goal is to continue reaching audiences the way they want to be engaged—and right now, that’s through their ears.

In his innovation-centered role at CMI Media Group, Mark Pappas consistently uncovers innovative ways the nation’s top healthcare brands can better engage consumers, patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. CMI Media Group, a WPP company, is a full-service media agency focused solely on health, wellness, and pharmaceutical marketing.

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