Wayne Flemming, founder and managing partner at Brandtruth//DGTL, says that in our digital world, video has once again become the star and is great when you’re at home watching YouTube content on your iPad or scrolling through IGTV on your phone. Where does audio fit into this visually saturated world of marketing?

Images help to tell a story when you are reading an article online or stops your thumb when you’re scrolling through social media. In both cases, your eyes are locked on the screen. Audio is different. People wake up to a tune, get ready for work while listening to the news, drive or commute to work while listening to podcasts, exercise to the rhythm of music and relax and unwind to audiobooks.

We respond to sound much quicker – even faster than touch and a picture. And If a picture is worth a thousand words, where does audio fit into this visually saturated world of marketing? The answer is ‘everywhere’, even places where video and pictures can’t reach.

‘Audio as a medium will grow, and as it grows, it will give rise to ‘earfluence’,’ said Jennifer Kavanagh, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Media at the Philadelphia Eagles. People spend more time listening instead of watching because it’s more convenient. Audio is always on.

Not only that, audio has a strong link to emotion. Neuroscience studies have shown that audio stimuli and emotional responses are encoded together in the auditory cortex centre of the brain, meaning the subsequent exposure to a sound will trigger the same emotional responses.

Sound can express a brand’s values and beliefs in an emotionally direct way, which is why a brand’s sonic signature is so important – it is the audio equivalent of their name. From smart speakers to connected cars, the audio content sphere is booming. According to Edison Research, podcasting has been on a steady rise since 2006, growing by an impressive 300%. Juniper Research predicts that by 2022, Americans’ use of voice-assistant-enabled devices across smartphones, tablets, PCs, speakers, TVs, and cars will increase by 95%.

So, what are some of the elements to consider for your sonic brand strategy?

First up, remember that there’s more to audio branding than a single jingle. Every sound that plays during a customer’s experience with your brand, is an element of audio branding. From the music you play in a physical store to the theme track on your TV commercial, to the short notification sound that pops up on your app and the call centre experience — you need a consistent approach to audio branding.

Secondly, remember that sounds make us think and feel a certain way. It’s a highly emotive sense. While some sonic signatures are romantic and seductive, others are fun and carefree. Do you want to be dramatic and exciting? Gentle and welcoming? Fun and family-friendly? Make sure your audio matches your brand identity.

Thirdly, your brand voice is a critical part of your identity – the way you sound is part of what makes you unique. While you can convey aspects of your voice through your content marketing and visual media, you’ll need to also ensure that your tone is reflected in your audio branding.

Here are some current and future audio advertising opportunities to consider:

1. Podcasting

Findings from the IAB and Edison Research indicates that 65% of podcast listeners are more inclined to consider making a purchase of a product or service that was promoted via audio. According to Spotify South Africa, 42 percent of 18-34 year-olds listen to podcasts at least once a week, and the percentage is even greater for parts of the next generation (aged 12-17). Spotify also highlights that 35% of South Africans listen to podcasts: 88% do so at home, and 20% listen while they are on the move.

2. Programmatic audio

The decline in the popularity of traditional radio has made way for online and digital-radio broadcasting. Programmatic audio uses technology to automate the selling and insertion of ads into digital audio content, delivering targeted campaigns in a brand-safe environment.

3. Voice search optimisation

Ever considered using an audio version of Google Adwords? You should! Smart speakers like Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa are not only used for listening, but also for shopping and research. Brands will need to learn to optimise their product pages on search engines to rank as the best answer for voice searches.

4. Voice-enabled advertising

Voice-enabled ads take a voice command from the customer and act on the ad by saying something like ‘Order Now’ or ‘Play Now’ to perform that required call to action. Previously, Google Express (now Google Shopping), was the only option for this service, but earlier this year Spotify launched voice-enabled ads on mobile devices in a limited US test and Pandora confirmed it would begin testing interactive voice ads later in 2019.

5. Connected cars

Brands should start investigating the potential marketing opportunities presented by connected cars and autonomous vehicles. Long-form content will work really well in this environment – as long as it adds value.

6. Streaming services

Although some streaming services are ad-free, there are a number that are rapidly growing their ad-support. From music to video services, there are various ways to connect with audiences through digital audio adverts. As these services become more technologically advanced, they can deliver personalised ads based on the available data points. In today’s world, where we can geo-target audio messaging to coincide with Out-of-Home advertising, brands have the opportunity to create some truly remarkable multichannel audio experiences.

Ultimately, audio branding isn’t just a great way to get people to remember your brand; it’s also a fantastic way to improve the way they feel about your brand. Remember, it’s the consumer that decides who they want to listen to. Your job is to turn up the audio.

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