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The Screenless Web Is Coming – Using Audio Branding to Create a Voice-first Strategy

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In the last year and a half, audio branding has become more pertinent than ever, as we continue to careen towards an online world that is truly screenless.

As James Vlahos points out in his book Talk to Me, a PC or laptop with a screen, keyboard and mouse, won’t go away. But voice assistants like Alexa, Siri, Bixby, Hey Google, and many others on the horizon, will become the predominant means for searching online and conducting business. Just consider these trends compiled by SEO Expert:

  • 76% of smart home speaker users conduct local searches at least once a week—with 53% performing daily searches (Source: BrightLocal Study)
  • 58% of consumers have used voice search to find local business information within the last year
  • 27% visit the website of a local business after conducting a voice search
  • 22% of smart home speaker owners have made a purchase using their device (Source: Edison Research)
  • 2 of 5 adults perform a voice search at least once a day (Source: Location World)

But just like computers in the 1980s and 90s, we’re still in the infancy of a screenless web, where its sophistication and consumer expectations are only set to increase. For businesses, this means the use of voice assistants will only grow both in their prospect’s personal lives and in work, so developing a voice-first strategy is crucial.

Using soundscapes to convey your brand

Soon, in order to be effective, voice searchable sites will need to use soundscapes, music, and voice to distinguish themselves, convey their brand attributes, and build emotional connections with their users, just as visually driven websites currently do with graphics, colours, typefaces, fonts, and their overall approach to imagery. Theses soundscapes will also help brands reassure their customers that they have reached the right destination, ordered the right products, and concluded the transaction. Words, of course, will still be involved, but the voices sounding the words will need to be equally considered and chosen to convey the core brand attributes.

Just like with visual branding, marketers will soon realize that these sounds need to be consistent with the music supporting other elements, such as old-school commercials, online B-roll and bumpers, and radio. In fact, the strategic use of using sound to build your brand should be employed not just on the screenless sites – you may even be able to integrate them into your actual products.

Creating your brand’s language

When applying an audio language, it should be consistent and recognizable across all sound-enabled touchpoints for your brand, including social media, apps, live events, ringtones, advertising, customer service on-hold phone lines, and even products themselves. When it comes to the brand expectations for a product or service, customers and prospects do not differentiate between one platform and another. Consumers want them to feel coherent, connected, and authentic.

Meantime, your audio soundscape needs to express the heart of your brand, so it is seen as being relevant and meaningful.  Just as numerous audio brands (also sometimes referred to as sonic brands) achieved.  For example, listen to the audio brands for companies like the French railway system SNCF and Michelin.

Why should you start a voice-first strategy now?

When it comes to disruptive technology, it’s better to be a leader than a follower. And the results can be just as immediate and dramatic. Mastercard, for example, took two major steps in brand management in 2018:

1) They revised their logo, removing the name from it, to make it more visually web friendly

2) They launched their audio brand and for its announcement, they wrote: “Wherever consumers engage with Mastercard across the globe – be it physical, digital or voice environments – the distinct and memorable Mastercard melody will provide simple, seamless familiarity.”

The result? According to Interbrand’s Best Global Brands 2019 report, Mastercard’s brand value grew by 25% this year, the fastest growth of any brand in their top 100.  Contributing factors for the growth, as identified by Interbrand, included Mastercard’s new audio brand, which assisted them in retaining their “recognition in an increasingly digital world.”

So, it’s time to get started. While I can’t promise that you’ll enjoy a 25% in your brand value within your first year, your increased brand awareness and recall will make you glad that you made the “sound” decision to strengthen your brand through an audio approach.