To gain advantage on this leveled playing field, there’s one powerful branding tool that has been generally overlooked — or perhaps undervalued — by most marketers: sound. With of our increasingly audio-enabled media environment, the strategic use of sound can play an important role in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust, and even increasing sales.
Called audio branding, sonic branding, sound branding, or acoustic branding, cognitive studies show that relevant sounds and musical cues can truly influence people in ways marketers want. According to research presented at the 2012 Audio Branding Congress, congruent sound cues can increase the speed of a visual search for products (a key for success in both online and retail settings), as well as improve the perceived taste of food and wine (PDF).
Some marketers have long employed sound and music as part of their brand experience, including the familiar chime of an Apple Computer launching, the pop of the Snapple lid, and the aggressive howl of a Harley in rev mode.
A few years ago, at the beginning of Lady Gaga's ascent in pop music, I was at the gym with a friend. I found myself mindlessly singing along to one of her songs. My friend pointed this out to me. I didn't own any of her albums, didn't own the song, had never seen the video for the song and yet her sonic presence was so ubiquitous that I had managed to learn all the lyrics of the song totally unconciously. That kind of earworm quality is what makes sonic branding such a powerful tool that few people are utilizing.