A few weeks ago I didn’t know what an audio style guide was. Then, I interviewed Colleen Fahey, U.S. Managing Director of Sixieme Son, the largest audio branding agency in the world. She shared this: Audio branding brings life and continuity – so when you hear the brand, it sounds like the brand – making every touch point a relationship-builder.
An audio style guide starts with understanding the true essence of your brand, uncovering where it stands within the competitive set, and narrowing down a strategy that will build brand value. All of this must come before finding the musical language to express it with precision. This applies to large brands, corporations, small business brands and even personal brands.
I’m going to speak with a focus to small business, entrepreneur and solorpreneurs here. That’s my focus area and we small business owners can gain so much in learning from the practices of larger companies.
Branding Comes First
Before you can get to the “right ears at the right time,” you must have the right message. Do the heavy-lifting in unearthing your brand by knowing what your clients come to you for, what benefits you provide to them and what their perception is of your brand.
Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director of Orbit Media, does a fantastic job in providing 23 Questions to Inspire Your Content that clearly identify your brand story and the messaging you would like to communicate. Even though his post is intended for bloggers, the questions he asks are great questions to begin the process of understanding what is at the core of your brand – your unique promise of value. And, knowing that is a foundation first step to creating your audio brand.
Your Audio DNA
Fahey shared that even from the womb, we’ve heard sound. Sound evokes feelings, triggers memories and can tap our emotions sometimes even faster than any visual reminder can. Our sound for our brand taps into the very core of our brand DNA. Sadly, the deciding factor for the audio to use at an expo booth or to include with a video on YouTube is driven by cost, ease of access or a favorite song we have, for the moment. When a presenter takes the stage, the music in their entrance sets the tone and the cadence for their presentation and it reflects who they are – their brand.
The following are some of the commons sound touch points for small businesses. How well can you answer these questions?
1. Does the outgoing sound on your mobile phone really mirror your brand?
2. How about your hold music?
3. Or, the sound coordinated with your latest Powerpoint presentation, YouTube video or even expo display?
Savvy brands create a coherent voice by bringing their audio identity to a wide variety of touch points: websites, on-hold music, sales videos, advertising, retail outlets, app opening sounds, and even ringtones
Ask yourself, what five adjectives would you like people to use when they describe you or your business?
Does the sounds and music you use reflect those five adjectives?
Now, ask five customers or connections, what five adjectives they would use to describe your business. Listen to their answers. What words are missing? What new adjectives have shown up? Is there a disconnect with new or completely different words used to describe your business or is their confirmation and consistency in the adjectives used? Are you sound touch points confirming those adjectives or conflicting with them?
Audio branding creates powerful influence with consumers. It’s not about composing a piece of music, it’s about building a brand.
During our interview, Fahey shared “do you ever just feel like something’s not right or a good fit? We hear that, too, and it causes us to question.” Even with two speakers who work within the same subject matter, personal branding, their focus differs. One works with personal branding for women in business while the other focuses on personal branding and research for the millennial generation. The audio brand for each would be so uniquely different, don’t you think?
By Maria Elena Duron