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Building audio assets: Striking the right note

Marketers are leveraging sonic branding to strengthen communication in a fragmented media landscape

Patience is key in creating sonic assets since it often takes years to generate any kind of advertising returns, and therefore sonic branding is not for brands seeking short-term, immediate gains.
Patience is key in creating sonic assets since it often takes years to generate any kind of advertising returns, and therefore sonic branding is not for brands seeking short-term, immediate gains.

For many consumers who grew up in the Doordarshan era, signature advertising sound like the Maggi song, the ‘mango Frooti’ jingle or Titan’s unique ad tune (Mozart’s 25th symphony) form a vivid memory. Three decades on, with the rapid evolution of the media and advertising ecosystem and with digital marketing taking centrestage, brands across categories seem to have rediscovered the potential sonic branding to create a permanent space in the consumer’s mind.

Just recently, Fincare Small Finance Bank, which started its banking operations only in 2017, launched its new sonic brand assets for use across phone banking, mobile banking, ATMs, social media and mobile app, among others. The company’s chief marketing officer and COO, corporate services, Pankaj Gulati, explains that this is part of its pan-generation and pan-region brand building effort: “Once the campaign is fully executed, a brand survey shall be the appropriate check of brand salience. Increase in customer enquiries and branch footfalls shall also be an indicator of effectiveness.”

Indeed, over the last 4-5 years, several brands have unveiled their sonic identities. These include Himalaya Wellness Company, Zomato, HDFC Bank, Mastercard and Myntra. Rajeev Raja, founder of BrandMusiq, the company that created the sound for these brands, explains that brands are looking to add another dimension to their identity, and that is where the sonic assets come in: “The creation of a sonic identity is much deeper than just a jingle, and the process is not really different from the creation of a visual identity. A company’s sonic assets include the brand’s signature tune, a musical logo (or mogo) and even a mini-mogo that plays when a transaction is complete or to indicate a notification. Zomato’s zing sound to indicate your order is on the way is an example.”

The investments brands are making on sonic branding have almost tripled from about five years ago, says Raja. Indian brands today spend anything from `25 lakh to `75 lakh to create sonic assets, depending on the scope of work, says Niraj Ruparel, head of mobile and emerging tech at GroupM India, and emerging tech lead for WPP India. The timelines for these projects too can vary from about six weeks to 12 months. “About 27% of the global online population·uses voice search on mobile and as consumer expectation increases, technology has stepped up to meet the demand. From audio ads to conversational AI, brands should not neglect the customer experience. It is essential for them to create reusable and authentic sound assets that drive recognition across all touch points, and this becomes possible through branding strategy,” says Ruparel. 

Says Anisha Iyer, CEO of OMD India. “In advertising, we use this term ‘ad decay’, which refers to a situation where consumers may forget a piece of communication or advertising after a while. Sonic assets, however, if used effectively, have lower levels of decay and recall levels tend to stay high.”

BrandMusiq’s Raja notes that as businesses are becoming increasingly transactional, music can play an important role in adding an emotional layer to brand communication. For brands in the financial and banking segment specifically, sonic assets have become a business imperative, since they often serve to confirm the success of a transaction. While financial brands formed the bulk of BrandMusiq’s business until about five years ago, Raja notes that businesses across sectors are seeing value in creating their own unique sounds. 

Patience is key in creating sonic assets since it often takes years to generate any kind of advertising returns, and therefore sonic branding is not for brands seeking short-term, immediate gains. 

One brand that continues to effectively leverage its trademark ‘Schumann tune’ over several decades is  Raymond. Raymond has managed a creative amalgamation of both audio and visual elements. “The brand tune forms a strong salience for Raymond in the subconscious mind. Even if you’re a consumer that does not intend to purchase, it establishes consideration for the brand in your mind,” points out Sunil Kataria, CEO, Raymond Lifestyle. 

Most signature brand tunes from the 1990s became etched in consumer memory because there was less media clutter. “A lot depends today on how many consumer touch points you can leverage and where you will use the sonic assets. If a brand is omnipresent or if a consumer interacts with it daily, then sonic branding can be used effectively. Paytm’s signature sound is a good example – it plays every time a transaction is complete,” notes Vishnu Srivatsav, national creative director, 22feet Tribal Worldwide. Marketing mix is also important since spending on sonic branding makes little sense for a company that advertises predominantly on TV. 

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