Last time we highlighted some of the differences between active and passive media consumption.
Another distinction that needs to be made for audio-only advertising is emotional versus logical persuasion. There’s certainly a lot of value to persuading with facts, figures, and data, but numbers don’t always convey well in audio ads. To a passive listener, they’re often just noise. In this context, noise is anything that disrupts the message, flow, or brand recognition. If you’ve got an interesting fact to relay, by all means do it, but do it in a way that is simple, accessible, and if at all possible, emotional.
Emotion is at the heart of audio branding and audio advertising. All sounds have emotions. I’m not even talking about just music. All sounds imply certain things and evoke certain images and textures. This is why I get frustrated when people are so hyper-focused on text in an audio-only medium. The ad starts with a script, but ends as sound. You need to be able to conceptualize and compose the sound of the completed ad the way a painter would approach a painting. You don’t just tell somebody what the painting’s going to be and call it a day. It doesn’t affect anyone until it’s brought to life. All those elements – the voice, sound effects, and music – play a part in setting the emotional tone and building an audio brand. You need to take as much control of your sound pallet as a painter would with a traditional colour palette. An audio branding strategy establishes this palette and keeps it consistent. It doesn’t matter if it’s audio or visual branding, brand elements and strategy need to be decided on the brand level. If it’s decided on the vendor level, you’re getting a different set of colours every time.
Music and emotion have a unique relationship. Not only do all sounds carry emotions, but sounds and emotions are both processed in the limbic system. Also worth noting that sound reaches the brain faster than sight. If you hear a startling sound, you react instinctively and instantaneously. If you’re driving down a dark highway and see a deer, there’s a moment of hesitation. The speed and the path of sound make for a direct pipeline into people’s emotions.
Emotional persuasion is so important because most purchase decisions are emotionally based. I’ve seen it divided in several ways. In his book Sound Business, Julian Treasure cites that purchases are 70% emotional versus 30% intellectual. I’ve seen other sources say it’s as high as 90%. Regardless, it’s always a strong majority. Persuading someone logically is certainly valid, but if your product or service is similar to your competitors, emotional appeal will ultimately tip the scales. And who’s going to have more emotional appeal? The one with the stronger brand.
As indicated in part one of this blog, we rely on sight the most, and as a result, visual branding tends to get more attention than audio branding. And this is fine if your brand touchpoints are all visual-only. If your brand media is limited to a website and print media, you can probably get by with just logo, colour, and typeface. But if you find yourself in an audio only medium, none of that carries over. When people can’t see the brand, they have to hear the brand. Suddenly instead of branding with logo, colour, and typeface, we have to resort to sound, voice, and music. When you have guidelines set in place, and they’re working concurrently with congruent audio products, your sound will become inseparable from the rest of your brand. Your ad will simply sound like your ad.
One of the keys to a successful audio brand is time and consistency. This is how you go from being noise to being part of the public consciousness. If the sound of your ad changes with every campaign, you’re not only starting over each time in terms of branding, but you’re not building a relationship with the public. You’re not bringing them along on your journey. In audio branding, Consistency + Time = Trust. And trust is the key to business. If there’s no trust, there’s no sale.
I’d like to leave you with what I call the Audio Branding Challenge. I’ve spoken on this before, but it bears repeating here. The goal of an audio brand, and one of the signs of its success, are being able to answer yes to the following questions.
- Does it Engage the Passive Listener? In other words, can people not be paying direct attention, and still know that it’s you?
- Does it Work Without Visuals? When visual and auditory media work concurrently, they strengthen each other, but if the sound doesn’t stand on its own, you may have to go back to the drawing board. For more on this, see the previous blog.
- Does it Still Work Without Your Name? A lot of folks might balk at this one, and I’m not saying you should remove your name from the ad, but if you’ve been growing your audio brand with the necessary frequency and consistency, it can be done. Without paying direct attention to the words, your audience should recognize you within the first few seconds. When they recognize the brand sound, there’s a shift in perception. Suddenly you’re a familiar acquaintance instead of a stranger. You transcend the noise and step out of the background. You’ve brought the listener into your world. The familiar pace, feel, music, voice, writing style, and of course the audio logo will set a tone that will function with just as much speed and efficacy, if not more, than your visual brand.