Dialogue Content and Brand Director Ryan Battles talks to music strategist Arnon Woolfson

Audio branding is a term used to describe the use of audio within brand communications to further develop a brand identity.

As the explosion of media channels force brands to evaluate and differentiate themselves even more amongst the marketing noise, audio branding is providing new opportunities.

Among others, we’ve recently seen Lykke Li collaborating with WeTransfer, FKA Twigs with Nike, Stormzy for Adidas and JD Sports, Lady Gaga for Tiffany and Co… the list goes on.

In our inaugural content marketing podcast ‘A Dialogue With…’, Content and Brand Director Ryan Battles talks to music strategist Arnon Woolfson about how brands can use this space effectively, what are the pitfalls and what are the routes to success.

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How to use audio branding effectively

Arnon Woolfson has been a Director of Brands and Agencies at Entertainment Media Research and Director of Alliances at Sony Music, Partner and Global Head of Entertainment at Synergy/Engine and now acts as a consultant, speaker and advisory board member for various organisations.

Whether it’s a 3 minute song, a simple jingle or something more indepth, music infiltrates our lives like never before thanks to the number of channels it occupies – and its importance is going to become more pronounced as the likes of Alexa and Siri usher in a new world of audio search.

So far, the charge seems to be led by digital brands, who are using sounds as highly-effective brand assets. Twitter, WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams, Apple and Skype have also created unique sounds for their brand's notifications on features such as pay and start up. 

And it seems that there's a particular approach that is used: one that sound designers call 'neomorphic', something that mixes real life with the abstract and virtual.

It makes sense therefore that other types of brands will want to increasingly operate in this space too – especially since 60% of consumers believe music used in marketing is more memorable than visuals.

We’ve also recently covered how a selection of automotive brands are exploring the music sponsorship space in car campaigns – including Skoda with Paloma Faith, Alicia Keys with Mercedes-Benz.

Naturally, as we edge towards the metaverse and all that that entails, we're going to see this area of 'brand sounds' and the need for sonic brand experts evolve, if not explode. 

Of course, as with any type of brand connection, there’s a need to act strategically, commit and play the long game:

Arnon says, 

'The approach all depends on the needs of the brand. If it’s looking to build the equity of the brand up that’s a very different discussion to selling product.

‘What I do see a lot is brands flitting in and out of music and not being as effective as they could be in doing so: the most effective strategies I’ve seen are long term when a brand really does commit to doing something.’

As the digital world evolves, there's likely to be more than one sound necessary, but more a portfolio of 'earconography' - yes, that's now a term - that can help guide any user through their online journey with the brand.

It is however an area fraught with challenge as the music industry is a complex rights business – something that can be bewildering to organisations outside the sector.

‘The music industry is incredibly fragmented. Unlike the film world where you have one rights owner to talk to for licensing, the rights structure in music means you have to talk to a multitude of people in order to secure the music, the image rights and so on.

‘A piece of music for example, has a minimum number of two owners, one is the masters side – the recording itself – is traditionally owned by the record label and then you have the lyrics and the melody which are controlled by the publisher – and there may be a number of publishers depending on how many writers there are. Before we’ve started to talk about merchandise, live rights and everything else, just from the side of the music itself, you have a potential headache for a brand.’

The audio branding podcast is the first part in a series of ‘A Dialogue With…’ podcasts with thought-leaders and specialists in the world of content marketing and branding.

Listen to all Dialogue podcasts

If you would like to get involved, ask any questions or give us any feedback, please connect with us on Twitter with #ADialogueWith.

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