June 25, 2013 / MAKE IT PERSONAL
June 25, 2013
How unique is your sound? Have you ever thought about what other folks think about how you sound? How well do you think your sound fits with how you look? Do you really know what you sound like?
How people sound is a huge part of their make-up, contributing greatly to one’s personality, demeanor, and level of attractiveness. People are far more likely to elicit an emotional response through sound rather than looks. Whether it’s our accents, levels of audibility, mumbling tendencies or tones, voices play a huge part in defining each and every one of us. Yet when people walk into a meeting or head out for a social evening, they are much more concerned with their appearance. People collectively spend billions on their looks, yet virtually nothing on how they sound (not that it’s needed) but its power is undeniable and truly helps to make us individuals. While some may choose to wear an identical outfit to their neighbor, their sounds are never the same.
Voice is not the only sound that defines a person. Each person’s audio output contributes to how they are perceived—whether we’re aware of them or not—from eating noisily to tapping our fingers on the desk (especially musicians who are often unable to stop tapping on anything!).
Just as sound plays a primary role in people’s personalities, it also does the same for brands. Ninety percent of consumer-facing CMOs say they believe that sound, nearly always in the form of music, can strengthen their brands, but only a small percentage actually act and deliver.
The use of music as sound to reinforce a connection between brand and consumer can be vital, whether it’s using a sound logo (e.g. Intel), original music, or licensed tracks. But when focusing purely on music, brands ignore the power of broader sounds associated with their essence or directly with their product. There needs to be a mix of the two, and getting the balance is a skill.
Harley Davidson is a great example of a brand that uses both product sounds—in this case the distinctive roar of its engines (as a constant part of its identity) and music (but to a much lesser degree). Just as the music that people publically consume and share impacts the way they are perceived by others, so it does with brands. But while music tastes change, our personal tones, accents, dialects and volumes do so at a far slower rate. The same applies to the signature sound of a Harley. It’s a constant and arguably the most important component in setting it apart from its competitors. Music plays a different role, acting as an ambient backdrop that can keep the brand fresh and current.
Most brands ignore the importance of achieving the perfect mix of audio. Not only do they miss an opportunity to differentiate and connect by not considering the sounds that they already emit, they risk damaging their brand.
I recently sat in a fast food restaurant full of all kinds of sounds—from the chatter of families with kids loudly slurping Coke through straws, to the hiss of cooking and the horrendously overpowering soda dispenser’s cooling fan. Somewhere in the cacophony was the sound of Beyoncé belting out “Crazy.” But while the song and the playlist from which it came may have been carefully selected to appeal to the customer demo (although highly unlikely), the restaurant experience was not defined by the music. It was defined by a horrific imbalance of audio. The overall impact of the combined sounds had not been considered, and one had to presume that the same applied to its other 1200 restaurants across the nation.
Sound cannot be ignored. It’s integral to every brand and is a key defining aspect of building a unique personality. All brands must be increasingly conscious of how they sound today and how they could sound tomorrow. It’s the most powerful yet underutilized sensory bridge to the consumer. And it’s certainly never going to go away.
EXPAND YOUR UNCOMMON SENSE
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