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Are you Wired for Sound? If not, then listen up | #PredictionsMonth

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If you ask anyone in my family to identify my mum, they’ll refer to the jingle jangle of the mass of gold bracelets on her wrists. That metallic cacophony to me, more than a look or smell, is the truly evocative sound of home, and of love.

So what on earth does my mum’s jewellery have to do with the future of creative and the ability to bang out cracking work that engages? Just listen up....

In the world of excessive visual stimulation from what seems like an endless army of a screens, the power of sound and the earworm has not diminished. It has not gone gentle into that good night. In fact, it’s getting louder. And this is the very reason why the power of sound is on our Signals list for 2023.

Think about the rise, rise and rise of the podcast, the explosion of sounds, audio clips and music used as a shareable base in Tik-Tok, Just Eat’s Katy Perry track, the emerging zing of sonic branding and of course Teamspirit’s very own Pension Attention campaign with Big Zuu, where we used a catchy Grime track and addictive rhymes to tell people - Pay your pension some attention - sound is where it's at.

Sounds fill our days, and music anchors our life experiences to unique times and places. From sweeping up in the kitchen, sitting on a bus, working in a busy office or at a social soiree, the soundtrack to our lives is versatile, engaging and deeply personal.

For me, the fascination with the power of sound to interest, engage and frankly sell, started early in my career. My first creative job was as a writer for a news and talk radio station in Cape Town. (Shout out to 567 CapeTalk!)

There I learnt the phrase THEATRE OF THE MIND – that special magical power that radio gives you.

You’re beaming your sounds, voices, music ideas and emotions right into the head of a listener.

And as someone who worked with brands to advertise, the prolific use of well-known voices, jingles, musical idents, gongs, honks and SFX in radio made it an auditory wonder land to play in.

Sonic branding

Fast forward decades and we’ve heard and fallen in love with McDonalds “ba da ba ba ba” I’m loving it jingle and the Netflix “ta-dum” sound on starting a movie or show on its platform or app. Sound has emerged as equally powerful and recognisable as any golden arch logo. Brands that use sonic are now cleverly infesting our brains.

Yet, the idea of sonic branding still feels in its infancy – reserved for the largest brands or those that work closely with forward thinking branding agencies.

Some may have a piece or music they use regularly but very few have dedicated sections of their brand guidelines devoted to the audio landscape they create in user’s minds. Brand logo, colours, graphics, TOV, photo libraries fill guidelines around the world - audio branding elements? Few and far between.

And then there is the area beyond the conventional vocal or musical – mental sound. The rollicking ride in your head of the rhyme and repetition of words in headlines, campaign lines and brand lines. Just as addictive to readers, consumers, users, watchers and listeners.

After all, when every brand is pelting you with image after visual after video after graphic, it’s no surprise that the smallest sound can niggle its way into your brain- and stay there. And that opens up opportunities for brands to get noticed and stay noticed. 

An Ipsos study found that across more than 2000 video advertising pieces of creative, sonic brand cues were 8.53 times more powerful than visual brand assets tested in terms of performance . And subconscious reaction to sound is responsible for 86 per cent of our decision to engage (or avoid) an associated experience.

A recent Ascential’s report also reveals that people react to a new sound up to 10 times faster – about 30 milliseconds – than they respond to a visual stimulus.

So sound gets there faster and hangs around longer!

It’s a shift we all need to start thinking about BEFORE we brief and while we strategise.

Think about what the sound is to your campaigns, the repetition of words for your headlines, let your writers have more fun with rhyme, play with words and be braver in having sound lead the way. 

So Ear Ear! Let’s hear it for earworms, sultry familiar voices and old fashioned jingles – that let’s be honest, never really went out of fashion. The future for brands is to be (apologies to Sir Cliff) Wired for Sound.

By James Maxwell, ECD at Teamspirit

Header image by Xavier McIntosh

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