6 lessons for getting your audio branding right

Article source: Eye for Travel

Connecting directly to emotions, audio branding is a powerful tool for communicating brand values and making your brand instantly recognisable, even to customers who have their eyes shut.

At times, however, audio branding efforts don’t quite work out as planned, and there are some valuable lessons to be had from this.

1. Anticipate confusion

One of the toughest audio branding problems is to anticipate confusion with popular songs, a lesson learned by Geneva Airport a few years ago. For a time, airport announcements were preceded by an upbeat five-note chime jingle that would have gone unnoticed except for an unfortunate coincidence. The same five-note sequence just happens to be the first five notes of the popular 1950s novelty song, How Much is that Doggie in the Window?

Many travellers commented on this and others used to break into song adding “-gie in the window” after each repetition. The jingle has since been replaced.

2. Triple check that the song is appropriate for your audience

Another hazard that sometimes catches people out – but really shouldn’t – is when they choose a song without checking how it will impact customers. British Airways’ choice of music a few years ago is a cautionary tale, according to Julian Treasure, Chairman of The Sound Agency – a UK audio branding company.

Since the 1980s, British Airways had used Aria on Air – the Yanni-McClaren version of Leo Déltibes’ Flower Duet from the opera, Lakmé in a series of highly successful ads created by the Saatchi & Saatchi agency:

When British Airways sacked Saatchi & Saatchi, the new agency replaced this music with the song Leaving on a Jetplane,” says Treasure.

If you listen to the words, it seems an obvious choice for an airline commercial. Except the second line of this song is ‘Don’t know when I’ll be back again’, and was sung by John Denver who died in a plane crash.

3. If it works, register the soundmark

BA’s new choice was so unpopular that British Airways later returned to the much-loved ‘Aria’ theme. However, in the meantime the now-defunct business-only airline Silverjet had cheekily borrowed the song for their advertising campaign in 2007.

At that time British Airways had still not registered this soundmark but I have no idea why,” says Treasure.

4. A tune shouldn’t be intrusive

Some companies can inadvertently damage their own brands with product sounds that might sound appealing on a small scale, but can become annoying if the product becomes very popular. This was a hard lesson Samsung learnt with its distinctive five-note whistling ringtone, crafted by Samsung’s in-house sound design team:

An apparently good sound idea like this can hurt a company’s brand image and popularity if the association with this very intrusive sound is negative,” says Cornelius Ringe, a senior partner at the Audio Branding Academy – the industry forum for audio branding. Ringe has observed people being very irritated by this whistling ringtone, especially when someone is chatting on their phone and receives many text messages in a short space of time. And a quick Google search reveals that Ringe is far from alone.

5. Think about what you want to achieve and choose wisely

Background music or even soundscapes of birds and wind can be very effective at calming people, encouraging them to spend more or simply to mask other noises. But poorly thought out background music can have a negative effect. The retail outlet that plays mostly old Abba songs might appeal to fans, but it could drive others away.

Sometimes the effect of driving people away is actually desired. Pub landlords know that you can thin out an overcrowded room or drive away a group of undesirables by playing something that they find less appealing. Some keep a special collection of tried and tested ‘yob repellent’ music just for this purpose.

The technique is also used in the transport industry to address law and order issues in train and bus stations. Transport for London tested playing classical music at Elm Park station on the district line of the London underground in 2003, and found that it was so effective at removing undesirable people that they deployed the same technology to 65 stations where it is still in use today.

6. Get the technical piece right

But it’s not just the choice of audio brand sounds that is important. You also have to be sure that customers can hear the music you are broadcasting.

Far too often I observe bad sound design and noise management in public spaces,” says Ringe. “When I visit fast food outlets in the main station in Berlin I always wonder what kind of music is being played. I just hear additional noise from the ceiling. If I can’t really enjoy the music, why do they play it?