How to launch an audio asset in practice

By TAMBR and Validators

Ever since the invention of the church bell, brands have tried to support their message with sound. Yet it is only recently that we have learned how this works. In her book Building Distinctive Brand Assets, Jenni Romaniuk describes how the consistent use of recognisable brand elements (sounds, but also shapes, colours and logos) can help create brand awareness.

This gives the brand a more extensive association network in the consumer's brain. The stronger and more numerous these associations are, the greater the chance that a consumer will consider the brand in a purchase situation.

We call this increasing mental availability. And that audio is the most effective way of doing this was recently proven again by research by Ipsos Views (The power of youIpsos Views 2020). It is therefore no coincidence that marketers are taking their musical brand assets more seriously. TAMBR, an agency that has been helping brands develop their audio identity since 2018, is also experiencing this.

The first question marketers ask is: how long will it take before listeners associate an audio asset with our brand? A tricky question, because to make a statement about this you need to set up a large-scale experiment. Something that Validators - aided by the circumstance of a displaced European Football Championship - was fortunately able to do.

Summer of Sport 2021: a unique opportunity
Because last summer we were spoilt with - indeed - the European Football Championship and the Olympic Games. Big tournaments with name recognition, big media budgets and two pairs of brand new audio logos. In case you missed them: the European Championship sounded like and the Olympic Games had this sound. These circumstances presented an exceptional opportunity, because it was now possible to gain insight into the effect of frequent and large-scale exposure to a new brand sound.

In order to monitor the course of this effect, Validators conducted a weekly questionnaire among a nationally representative sample of N=150. And what did it turn out to be? At the time of the European Championship final, the tune already had a 29% familiarity rating. In other words, after only four weeks, almost one-third of the respondents spontaneously mentioned the European Football Championships when hearing the tune!

The tune of the Olympic Games had reached a familiarity level of 14% in its final week. A lot less, but easy to explain because the Olympics lasted shorter and were not always broadcast on prime time. The greater the range, the stronger the brand associations. Byron Sharp in practice.

Spontaneous familiarity (Fame) of the tunes used for the European Football Championship and the Olympic Games respectively, measured from week 27 to 31 with a follow-up measurement in week 43.

Zooming in on the spontaneously mentioned brand associations, we see that respondents mainly (36%) tried to guess who the sender of the sound was. Only then followed emotions such as "happy" or "busy" (19%) and contextual associations such as "holiday" or "Asia" (13%). Listeners try first and foremost to place who a sound originates from. In doing so, they mainly mentioned brand names (63%), followed by categories (34%).

The disastrous effect of radio silence
What makes this experiment so unique is that both audio assets were either not heard (OS) or hardly heard (EK, as a single by Martin Garrix, this tune was still played on the radio) after the sports summer had ended. This allowed us to measure the effect of radio silence on brand recognition.

Three months after the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games, Validators conducted a follow-up measurement. This showed that the EC-tune was still linked to the tournament by only 6% of the listeners. Only a little over a fifth of the original familiarity! The OS tune also proved not to have built up a lasting brain position: a paltry 3% could remember the correct sender.

If we look at the brand associations mentioned after this period of radio silence, we see that most listeners still try to make a link between audio and sender (33%). What is striking is that not a single respondent was able to name a contextual association. The least strong connection also appears to be the first to disappear.

Familiarity versus uniqueness
The research shows that an audio asset can create significant brand awareness in a short period of time, but that absolute radio silence is disastrous for the connection between sound and brand. Refreshing brand associations is therefore crucial. Marketers do well to keep repeating the connection between sender (e.g. in the form of a logo) and audio. Combining DBAs seems a valid strategy in this respect.

So is this a plea for big ATL campaigns? Certainly not! Building a brand is about consistent use of all your brand assets. And the beauty of audio assets is that they can be used in virtually any form of communication. Think pre-rolls on YouTube, Instagram reels or even the hold music on the customer service phone.

This brings us to the next question: how "unique" should your audio asset be to trigger optimal brand recognition? If we compare the tunes of the EC and the OS, we clearly hear two different compositions. Yet both leaders are mixed about as often: 26% of the respondents mention the OS with the EK-tune, and 21% the other way around.

At the beginning of the OS, however, something remarkable happens. No less than 59% of the listeners suddenly link the EC-tune to the OS! The related media frenzy is apparently causing the distinctive EC sound to lose out here to the category of "sports event".

The lesson for marketers? No matter how distinctive your audio asset is, you have to keep shooting, otherwise you can't win.

If you would like more information about this study,please contact
. Joris van der Zwan.

This article also appeared on MarketingTribune.