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What do the crunch of a chip, the popping of a salsa jar, the hum of an electric vehicle and the chime of a mobile payment have in common? All are examples of sonic branding—brands using sound to make distinct and memorable connections with consumers and help them stand out. While 2022 was a big year for sonic design, the industry is just getting started. As we evolve into an even more audio-first world with podcasts, voice assistants, TikTok-style videos and metaverse UX, 2023 could be the year of the sonic boom.
Sound has become a valuable tool for marketers, with more brands across industries looking to create a unique and distinctive audio cue. We know consumers think about what they see but feel what they hear, and brands are looking for that level of emotional connection with their customers. And in a year when marketers may be looking to play it safe with tried-and-true marketing strategies that deliver results, sonic branding can deliver strong ROI for the long term.
Today we can identify a Tesla backing up or a credit card at a pay terminal just by the sound it makes, before we even see it. Especially for new technologies, sound is critical to making us feel comfortable around our devices and can be used to humanize our interactions with them. Think about the sounds your Roomba vacuum makes—its “voice” has a personality that’s intuitive, relatable and, most importantly for its manufacturer, iRobot, distinct and on brand.
More brands will look to a similar model of creating bespoke sounds that can be paired up with their own identity, seizing an opportunity to create a completely ownable sonic asset that can only be associated with that brand experience. Here are some of the key areas where sonic branding will show signs of growth in 2023.
Expanding sonic logos through the marketing toolkit
Once seen as a hook or jingle for advertisements, brands today are understanding that sonic identities are most successful when used for holistic connection, throughout the entire marketing ecosystem. Putting a branded sound to actions or experiences is a way to tie everything back to your brand—you can always close your eyes but not your ears. This is especially important as marketers look for measurable ROI. A study by Sentient Decision Science found that sound can influence a person’s desire to engage or avoid a brand by 86%.
As we are increasingly working in an audio-first world, sonic branding can be used as the glue between ads, podcasts, social media, retail locations, call centers and any other brand touch point. How can your sonic logo be deployed on TikTok? Can your app’s UX suite be designed with your sonic identity in mind? Is your brand theme your next on-hold music? Wherever sound can show up, so can your brand.
AI will become commonplace
There’s been much discussed about the promise of AI in marketing, but 2023 will certainly have AI become more commonplace. For sound in particular, the opportunities center on voice.
Apple of course defined the preeminent sound of the voice assistant with Siri, whose primary voice is one the world’s most recognizable brand assets. But as the technology becomes more advanced, brands can expand their sonic IP toolbox with a brand voice powered by AI, like a new virtual assistant, chatbot or mascot. It will become a more common option since it is cost-effective but allows for the brand to compensate the original voice actor. Take note, though, that as the conversation about AI grows, brands should continue to deeply consider representation and diversity in voice for their talent and audiences.
Music and the metaverse
The opportunities for music and sound in the metaverse are vast; with musicians hosting concerts in Fortnite, Roblox and beyond, music is a core component of how users connect in Web3. As more people flock to the metaverse for entertainment, brands have an opportunity to use sonic branding to identify themselves within these worlds.
Brands like Nike and Ferrari have launched online worlds that expand the consumer-brand experience into the metaverse. And while visual assets can easily travel along with you in Web3, the opportunity lies in adding branded sound to these digital environments, adding a layer of immersion we’ve not seen before. A bespoke soundscape that takes users through the world, perhaps, or a sonic experience that literally puts fans in the driver seat of a car brand. In the metaverse, sound will be the key to deepening emotional connections, no matter what universe they’re exploring.