The rules of branding in the age of audio

This week Haley Paas, SVP Head of Strategy & Insights, Carat US has been on the ground at SXSW finding the key messages and themes in a sea of events, keynotes, and panels. Escaping from the back-to-back sessions for a few moments, Haley was able to interview Susan Panico, SVP Strategic Solutions at Pandora and really get down to the big trends and implications for brands regarding audio.

Quick Takeaways for Brands:

  • Thinking of how much time, effort, and resources brands put into their visual identity; they should be putting as much effort into creating their sonic (audio) identity.
  • If you don’t have a sonic identity as a brand, and don’t know where to start, begin by looking at audio data among your key consumer audience(s) to get inspired. Are they big into Country music? Folk? Rap? This can help you understand what sounds may resonate best with your consumer.

Haley: Audio is a very hot topic right now, everyone’s talking about it. What are the big trends you see happening in the audio space right now?
Susan:
For us at Pandora, we have been talking about audio for quite a long time. Audio is obviously very native to the music experience and I think what’s really brought audio to the forefront for a lot of marketers is the explosion of the connected home. The connected home has become the most personal of all geo-locations that you can possibly be in and now there is that intersection of voice, home, different people in the family which has really brought a lot of challenges to marketers, too. With that, one thing that we talk to people about is that brands spend a lot of time on their visual identity. They think what are the colors of my brand? What does my logo look like? Who are the people in my TV spots? What people don’t think about is, what is the sound of my brand? What is my sonic identify? What should I sound like? Which would be very different in someone’s home than it would be on mobile or in a car. A lot of the times people have traditionally built creative for a radio world, where they are trying to shout over 12 different spots in a pod. When you’re in someone’s home you need to think about that environment, you need to think there’s multiple people that are probably listening. There is a huge contextual opportunity to take advantage of, but you have to be more human than you have before.

Haley: We have a few clients that have really strong sonic identities….Folgers, Venus; what brands do you think are doing sonic identity really well today?
Susan:
One of my favorite spots was actually the partnership between T-Mobile and Netflix, you could be anywhere and you would hear the T-Mobile jingle and the Netflix sound, and what is great about the recognition of that is you don’t have to be in front of the TV to que in and know what brand is talking to you. Prior to this, I was at Playstation and ran the brand in marketing, and we had the mnemonic ‘Playstation’ and one of the things we learned/ saw very early on was that during TV, people were starting to do a lot of other things and that was a huge que to come turn and lean in.

One more example is we [Pandora] did an audio ad with Twix and helped them on the creative side to take advantage of earbuds and technology built into speakers. Their creative storytelling is between the left Twix and the right Twix, so we had the audio shift between the left earbud and the right earbud/ left speaker and right speaker as each of those were speaking so that really brought the media platform into the creative and I think was a really good use of audio creative and reaching people.


Haley: For brands that don’t have a strong strategy or sonic brand identity today, what advice do you have for them? How should they start thinking about creating that?
Susan:
I think that it really starts with understanding who you are as a brand. A partner can really help validate who your audience is through data. For example, there was a CMO of a Fortune 100 company who was convinced that their audience listened primarily to hip hop and we were able to, based on device ID and a lot of other factors, look at their audience and see that they were actually really big country fans and that was a huge realization of sonically how they want to show up, the music that they want to align to is much more in this area than it was in that area. There is also a lot of testing that you could do that we can help with, for example, we had a university that has used a male voice for three years across all of their creative and we helped them test not only a male voice vs. female voice, but also different dialects based on different audiences and learned that the female voice was actually pulled through better on recall and affinity, but the dialects didn’t matter. So, you should be doing a lot of experimenting, testing and learning and really thinking about what are the sounds that are right for the audiences that matter the most to you and stay true to who you are from your core brand ethos and positioning.

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