There is a rising tide of awareness in the world of sonic branding, and 2022 could well be the year of the 'sonic boom'. A year in which branding experts and marketers finally get to grips with the power of sound and start to capitalise on its ability to engage emotionally with consumers.
So how could this play out and what are the likely implications for the industry?
1. Branding agencies will increasingly muscle their way into offering sonic branding services
Until recently, the major agencies have typically subcontracted a specialist sonic branding agency when a client required a sonic identity. However, this is now changing. Agencies with existing brand expertise will increasingly hire or partner with music production experts to offer a full suite of music branding services. Where demand grows, so does competition.
2. TikTok will drive a wave of music investment
TikTok’s confirmation as the fastest-growing social app will drive an increased interest in music from brands keen to make a connection with its billion-strong audience. TikTok has rightly put sound and music at the core of their marketing strategy – and this is already paying dividends, both as a launchpad for new artists, but also for brands who want to forge deep connections with the TikTok generation.
3. The proliferation of voice interfaces will continue to drive sonic investment
The growing prevalence of voice assistants and smart speakers means that screens no longer dominate the way we interact with brands. As brands increasingly lose the ability to interact with consumers through visual mediums, audio engagement will become ever-more critical. This will drive a rising wave of brand investment in brand-matched music, voice and in-app sounds.
4. The subconscious power of music will reign supreme
Sound, and music in particular, principally operates at a subconscious level. It is overwhelmingly a system 1 (subconscious) rather than system 2 (conscious) response – particularly when paired with visual content (e.g. a commercial). The ability to quantitively measure this implicit response will become critical in assessing sonic effectiveness.
5. Smart brands will get more tactical with sonic branding
Brands will get smarter about how they use their sonic assets. Delivering a branded sonic cue at the most appropriate consumer touchpoints is a highly effective approach to rapidly building brand salience. Think of the Netflix 'ta dum' delivered at the precise moment that the consumer is in a relaxed but hyper-receptive state, or Mastercard adding its sonic logo at the exact moment a purchase is confirmed.
6. Strategic sonic branding will extend to strategic sonic marketing
It is only a matter of time before many brands will extend their newfound sonic expertise to the assets they use in marketing. Matching their sonic marketing to their overarching brand personality is not only smart marketing but will also contribute to building brand salience with every consumer interaction.
7. A growing divide between the haves and have-nots
I expect to see a growing value divide between brands that have a well-crafted sonic strategy and those that do not. Those that ensure their investment in music creates distinctive sonic brand assets will ultimately supercharge their brand salience through a consistent sonic approach that resonates with their desired brand personality. Those that do not risk leaking brand salience to competitors.
8. More advanced sonic testing will mitigate the risks associated with subjective decision-making
There will be increased use of specialist consumer testing to reduce the level of subjectivity in audio branding/marketing decisions and increase the certainty of a healthy return on investment. Sonic testing won’t replace creativity, it will inspire it. Reliable tools will optimise the final decision making before launch. These tools will also help to underpin and justify sonic branding investment.
9. Major music publishers will introduce brand personality search to their catalogues
Publishers with sizable catalogues currently use a plethora of music tagging approaches to help them navigate their catalogues and match music to client briefs. Sometimes this is done manually and others use AI tagging. As music joins the top table of brand assets, the need for a brand personality filter will become increasingly important for those brands pursuing a holistic and strategic approach to brand management.
10. There will be a wave of VC and M&A activity in the sonic branding and marketing sector
If sonic identities and sonic strategies are destined to become de rigueur for the majority of brands worldwide, 2022 will represent the starting gun for rapid consolidation and innovation within the sector. It will not be Spotify, iHeart Radio or Universal Music that emerge as the sector leaders – it will be companies with deep branding expertise that apply proven branding strategies into the music medium.
Whatever your current view of the importance of sound in branding and marketing, the growing sonic rumble is set to become a sonic boom. You should not be deaf to the opportunity – for your brand, your clients or your career.
David Courtier-Dutton is chief executive of SoundOut