24 February 2019

Sounding out the competition

Expert comment
Voice-shopping is set to hit $40 billion by 2022.

Podcast ad revenue grew around 1,000% in the last five years.

And in the next five, 40% of homeowners are expected to have a voice-controlled assistant. If the numbers are anything to go by, it sounds like the beginning of something big for the world of audio.

It seems strange to talk about audio as a new revelation, when recent years have brought us virtual reality and cars that can practically drive themselves, but in terms of branding, this market has largely been left untapped.

Advertising has predominantly focused on the importance of forming a visual identity for so long, that – with the exception of a few global giants, including McDonald’s, Apple and Nike – a solid audio strategy is yet to be explored to its full potential. But with agencies like Wunderman Thompson highlighting audio branding as a key trend in their Future 100 report, it’s clear there’s a real sonic shift on the cards.

Because this side of audio is still in its infancy, now is a great time for businesses to think creatively and separate their brand from the competition – and one key name that’s currently leading the way is Mastercard.

Following the release of their sonic brand last year – which has already been integrated at over 7.6-million payment points around the world – this multinational corporation is now taking the next step in their 10-stage audio initiative; they’re releasing their very own music single.

Chief Marketing and Communications Manager, Raja Rajamannar, said:

Audio strategy is no longer a nice thing to have, it’s just as important as brands visual identity.

This is all part of his plan to separate Mastercard from other financial institutions – and it’s no small project either. Alongside posting a full-time opening for a musician on their marketing team, Mastercard has hired the help of music stars like Camila Cabello, Miley Cyrus and Mary J. Blige to help produce a full album named after their famous ‘Priceless’ campaign.

Their first track named ‘Merry Go Round’ incorporates the unique sound their audience has familiarised themselves with over the past year; a sound composed to showcase their brand values in just a few notes – making the finished piece the first ever sonic-integrated music single.

The entire album is more than a ploy to create a multi-sensory brand experience, though – it’s a way of evolving with emerging technologies. As voice-assisted speakers and ad-free streaming sites become our first choice for entertainment, it’s getting increasingly hard for a company to be heard. So just as the door begins to close on TV commercials, Mastercard’s brand-new sound opens a new one; playing to people as they relax in their front room.

It’s a smart direction to take, and just one of many ways brands are using sound to stand out. One industry that’s already racing ahead with some exciting changes is the automotive sector. They’re taking the rise of the smart speaker as an opportunity to put a new kind of audio in motion – and it could open up some incredible prospects for other businesses.

Research shows around 86-percent of smart speaker users currently listen to music, podcasts and audiobooks, and a huge 54-percent of owners are also interested in obtaining real-time information like the weather forecast and traffic updates.

It’s clear there’s a demand for cars becoming ‘connected’ – so it’s no surprise household names like Nissan, Renault and Mitsubishi have partnered with Google, and Amazon is already working on the launch of Echo Auto; a smart device for your dashboard. And that’s before we even start thinking about the kind of data a moving vehicle could collect for future campaigns.

It’s an exciting time for sounding out where audio will take us, and watching businesses think up clever new ways to tune-in to their target audience in order to stand out from the crowd. As the world’s leading audio-branding agency, we look forward to being at the forefront of this movement.


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