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Aural sculpture - Shaping the virtual sounds of the future

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In 2021, amp predicted a rise in investment in audio branding and audio-focused content. As many brands shifted to more immersive digital storytelling and e-commerce, the role of sound in branding across all industries has significantly changed.

New audio-only channels with many major social and music platforms now offering or working on Clubhouse equivalents, the continued rise of podcasts and the rapid growth of TikTok all further fuelled the importance for brands to have a more consistent approach on how to show up sonically.

As we step into 2022, we can't escape the conversations around the Metaverse. Although there is a long path from a channel-based internet to an immersive one and we can already see new opportunities emerging for sound.

Designing sounds for immersive experiences

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While Mark Zuckerberg plans to translate Facebook into the Metaverse, other brands will begin to consider how the leap from a channel-based internet to an immersive one will influence their business and relations with consumers.

The Metaverse is still some years away, but we expect brands to accelerate investment in more immersive connections with consumers. Expect to hear sound branding play a key role in immersive or virtual experiences that brands create.

For example, Louis Vuitton is signalling the path ahead, creating a virtual world game providing an experience in which beautiful sound design plays a pivotal part. As this trend continues, brands will need consistent and recognisable audio branding to maintain consistency and recognisability across channels.

Specialist services are emerging to help brands insert marketing into virtual experiences. At the moment, gaming worlds are the most prevalent scenarios, for example, ConsoliAds specialising in mobile gaming.  

Musicians are already experimenting with the fusion of music and virtual realms, for example, artist VNCCII created an intriguing world for her single "Take You Higher”.

Meanwhile, experimentation in virtual and real-world mashup experiences are gaining momentum. For example, this mind-boggling mixture of experiences from Hyper-Reality and Microsoft Mesh presents a vision of sharing information and experiences virtually. 

In 2022 brands will think seriously about extending their sonic brand strategies into virtual worlds, considering the role that identifiable and reassuring sound and music can play in virtual marketing, transactions and service provision.

Sound branding will embrace ‘phygital’

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We expect to hear brands embrace the concept of ‘phygital’ experiences, translating brand sound and music from digital channels (and ultimately the metaverse) to the physical world and back again.

Brands are beginning to explore the implications of the phygital world. For example, Pernod Ricard published a report Reality Remixed – The Future of Conviviality with The Face and Mixmag looking at the future of digital technology fusing with hospitality and clubbing. The concept of a phygital club, using live streams and VR experiences is considered a serious alternative to purely live experiences.

Innovation in this space is fusing different areas of business and entertainment, for example virtual concerts in Roblox and other gaming platforms.

Listen to Product Content Writer from Farfetch, Rose Coffey here discussing how AR filters and edited selfies posted by Generation Z onto Instagram can be seen as forms of dress of the phygital self. And describing phygital as a “phenomenon existing beyond conventional notions of time and space, through the merging of societal realms”.

These ideas suggest brands must start to consider phygital as a united realm through which brand marketing including their audio presence must work seamlessly.

Experiential marketing and events are a hotbed for phygital experimentation as is retail - the rollout of AmazonGo, is one of many examples of phygital becoming commonplace and cutting-edge 3D poster advertising in Taiwan is providing striking examples of how brand marketing can flow between advertising formats and channels and the physical world.

Sounds like an NFT 

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Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) are beginning to be seen by some as an important part of the transactional infrastructure of our digital lives. Using blockchain technology, they enable value and ownership to be attached to a digital entity, whether that’s an avatar, gaming properties or digital art.

They are also beginning to influence the music world. Individuals within the music industries have already sold NFTs, with for example 3LAU selling his NFT collection for £8.2 million. New platforms are emerging such as Song for Tunes which enables artists to upload music to be sold on an open market. Other NFT hosting platforms such as OpenSea, Rarible, NiftyGateway, and SuperRare, are supporting audio NFT files already.

The use of automated, AI-powered production technology could enable musicians to create unlimited unique productions of a song and this concept could give artists a way to take back control over their artistic output and sell music independently.

The idea that consumers could digitally own unique output from musicians as an NFT, signals interesting opportunities for brands. For example, allowing brands to work directly with artists themselves to create material to be used in marketing or promotions. Or brands might create and sell branded audio or immersive experiences.

Short context sound and music

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The rise of TikTok is indicative of how short-form music memes and hashtags are the currency of daily interaction with friends and family. People are using sound as a primary tool to virtually talk to each other and express their feelings. 

TikTok has established a powerful influence over the music industry with 15-second video segments of some songs registering billions of views. The social video platform is not only becoming critical to the promotion of new musical releases by artists, it is beginning to influence how we consume music and marketing. 

Analysis of the average length of singles over time suggests pop music is being condensed into tighter musical packages and a clear distinction is emerging between what is described as a “TikTok song” and full-length material.

Sound branding can make a brand stick out on TikTok in the sea of overused, familiar music and also evoke an intimate bond with their customers.

In 2022, brands will experiment more with short-form music and branded sound that works across 15-second format brevity will become increasingly important in a world shaped by people’s scrolling attention spans and desire for passing entertainment and stimulus. 

Sonic futures

The spectrum of opportunities for brands to engage with people is widening and not only crossing borders between physical and digital realms but also mixing different elements of our daily experiences. 

Music and branded audio experiences will play a pivotal role in enabling people to recognise, trust and enjoy brand experiences in emerging, immersive media and technology. 2022 will mark the start of an exciting period of experimentation in sonic branding and marketing.

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By Vijay Iyer, CEO North America at amp sound branding

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