I’ve touched on this subject before, but I think it’s worth exploring in its own dedicated blog.
When COVID-19 first hit North America in early 2020, most professionals were scrambling to adapt to a changed world. Being in the audio branding industry, it was very interesting to see these changes from a multi-sensory branding perspective.
Most brands, even those that have been around for many decades, have been mono-sensory for their entire existence. A brand that is only focused on visual media and branding often lacks emotional depth and flexibility. Never had this been more obvious than during the early days of COVID. Suddenly brands were forced to adapt not just in the way they do business, but in how they market themselves. What resulted from many of these brands was a series of commercials that were all pretty much the same. If you don’t believe me here’s a clip called ‘Every Covid-19 Commercial is Exactly the Same’.
These commercials are very indicative of a lack of brand depth. Their brand self-awareness was so superficial, that instead of doing something unique, they panicked and took a more generic and reactionary approach. The result was a series of commercials that, in a strange way, ended up branding the pandemic instead of the business. Sad, airy piano music and “In these unprecedented times” became assets of the COVID-19 brand.
Quite often visuals convey information, but sounds convey emotion. Film students often go through an exercise where they’re shown two versions of a movie scene; one with just the visuals, and one with just the sound. When you isolate the visuals, what you often get is a series of events, but with little-to-no emotional context. When you play just the audio, you’re not always sure what’s going on, but the emotional narrative is very apparent.
In audio branding we go through a process of getting to the emotional core of your brand. This is crucial because sound is inherently emotional. All sounds have emotions. I’m not even just talking about music. Even the subtle, everyday sounds of our lives have weight and texture. Many of them evoke images and symbolize different things. You can’t produce brand sounds and music without getting to the brand’s emotional core.
Of course you can’t always just produce an audio logo and call it a day. We also saw how not adapting to the changing times, even with audio assets, worked against certain brands. Audio logos like McDonald’s and Old Spice, which are very bright and cheery, tested below average in 2020. The incongruity between the brands’ audio identity and the social climate actually drove them into a negative emotional space with the public. More on that here.
Many of the brands that got it right during COVID were the ones who not only had a well established audio identity, but were able to flex. They had the emotional depth and the foresight to adapt in a way that was appropriate, but still on-brand.
State Farm is a great example. They’ve had the same sonic identity for fifty years. If you see or hear “Like a good neighbour…” you know exactly where it’s going. It’s so deep in the public consciousness that all State Farm had to do was take their existing melody, and just tone it down slightly to reflect the current social climate. They were relevant without compromising their brand identity. As a result, it increased positive perception of the brand by 50%, and they were the #2 audio brand in 2020 (Veritonic).
A congruent and well established audio identity can take your brand to places that visual assets alone cannot. Sonic branding is more than just making your brand memorable. It’s about creating emotional flexibility and depth. As we saw during the early days of COVID, when most brands were forced to dig deeper emotionally, they found they didn’t have a big enough shovel.
The good news is it doesn’t have to be that way. Your brand is deeper than you think. You can build assets and strategies that will crisis-proof your brand, and take it to places that visual assets alone cannot. Give us a shout to get the conversation started.