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Brand Building in a Voice Environment

As voice tech adoption accelerates, organizations are building audio into their brand platform
March 19, 2019

By the end of 2021 more than 70 million U.S. households will have a voice device in their home (e.g., Amazon Alexa, Google Home, smart speaker).

To put that in context, that’s more than the number of U.S. households with cable.

In a world that is increasingly dominated by voice, the visual brand you so meticulously curated (think logo, colors, fonts, photography style) means little when the device the audience is engaging through has no visual interface.

While that makes your brand and marketing managers want to die a little inside, voice tech opens all kinds of new creative outlets, as I learned at a recent South by Southwest panel that featured Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing and communications officer at Mastercard.

With voice interfaces everywhere, Mastercard is pioneering the “audio brand.”

What is an audio brand?

Think of an audio brand as a sound signature that accompanies your marketing. It’s frankly not so different from a jingle, except the new audio brand considers all the different audience touchpoints and brands each with your unique sound signature.

Audio branding essentials

As Rajamannar explained to a group of about 500 marketing and communications professionals, branded audio is not easy. It took Mastercard nearly two years to figure out how to make it work.

Fortunately, he shared the lessons they learned through the School of Hard Knocks, so we don’t have to repeat their mistakes.

Rajamannar’s best practices include:

  • The audio brand must be hummable. If you can hum it, you’re more likely to remember it.
  • The audio brand must be universal enough that it can work for any type of application – sad, happy, exciting, serious, etc.
  • The audio brand must work as three pieces: a melody (i.e., the full audio signature that functions as a song of 60 seconds to two minutes in length), a sonic signature (i.e., a five- to 15-second clip) and a snippet (i.e., a two- to three-second version).

Bringing your audio brand to life

Below is Mastercard’s full audio brand.

Listen to the main version and see how Mastercard has interpreted this audio signature for various markets.

Now, you’ll see that by simply changing the instrumentation, Mastercard is basically transcreating the audio signature. Genius!

Additionally, Mastercard developed a branded audio snippet that plays when its customers complete a purchase. This sound not only reinforces the branding but also serves as a sort of sound-based confirmation message letting the customer know that the transaction was completed.

How can you enhance your brand with audio?

Consider all your audience touchpoints. Think about how that experience and the brand would be enhanced with the addition of audio.
For example:

  • Do your employees have to scan a badge to come into work? There’s an opportunity for branded audio.
  • Do you have an app? Or a voice app? A branded sound that confirms when a user’s action has been accepted might add to the experience.
  • Could you tag all your video, including ads and social media content, with your audio tag?
  • Do you have a physical location where you accept payments? Could each transaction be branded with a unique audio signature? (I’m talking to you, Goodwill.)
  • Have you considered branded phone call hold music?

Where else can you integrate branded audio?

Pulling it all together

We have reached an inflection point in marketing where audio plays a critical role in your brand. Crafting a branded audio strategy will be the key to better interacting with customers while enhancing and reinforcing your brand.

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