The world is constantly evolving for people and brands alike, but the changes that have taken place in 2020 have come especially quickly. From re-imagining the workplace virtually overnight, to how we get the news each day, shifts that started in the last decade are progressing with unprecedented and unanticipated speed. As brands navigate new environments and changing consumer behaviors amid this evolution, few developments have been as important as the rising prominence of audio.
Futurists, marketing gurus, and tech moguls alike have predicted and discussed the importance of sound for businesses for several years, but now predictions are becoming reality. Just last year, Juniper Research predicted Americans would use nearly a billion voice-assistant enabled devices by 2022, and Deloitte identified a 63% growth rate in the smart speaker category, making it the fastest growing connected device in the world.1 That rate has increased by an additional astounding 43% in the first half of this year.2
As my colleague JD Crowley shared, this all reflects a move away from our screens towards audio-centric environments. If brands are going to thrive here, they’ll need to embrace sound as a key ingredient in their marketing strategies. This is where sonic branding comes in. While it’s not a new tool in the advertiser’s toolkit, sonic branding has new applications and a new sense of urgency in this audio-first world.
Some brands have always understood the importance of sound. Intel, for example, has long represented the vanguard of sonic branding with their iconic chime sound logo. Apple has also been recognized for their work in audio, not just with a strong sonic logo but with the way they consider sound in all areas of their product, from Siri’s voice to the way their touchpads sound when you use them.3
Tech, often the pioneer in branding, isn’t responsible for all the great sonic branding, though. One of the oldest examples in advertising history is one of the least intuitive: Rice Krispies. The cereal’s iconic mascots, Snap, Crackle, and Pop, have been around since the 1930s so long that it’s easy to take their existence for granted. Looking back from a modern point of view, the decision to brand a food product according to the way it sounded rather than the way it tasted was a radical stroke of branding genius. In this regard, Rice Krispies can teach marketers today plenty about their mindset. To fully maximize the potential of sonic branding, one has to consider the many contexts in which consumers hear your brand and how you can leverage those opportunities effectively.
At Entercom, we think daily about how brands sound, including how they’ll sound in the environments they are presented within. Fortunately, audio is in our DNA – we know how to connect with consumers via sound. We know how to help brands break through and engage using only sound. And as the experts in audio, we recognize and appreciate when others do it well. To that end, here are things that brands should consider as they embrace sonic branding, with some examples of companies that are doing it well already.