What Does Your Brand Sound Like? — An Audio Branding Primer

You may not realize it, but audio branding is everywhere. It’s in the solid sound that a car door makes as it closes so you have a feeling of security. It’s in the melodic tones produced by modern appliances, so chores feel like accomplishments to celebrate. It’s integral to creating a sense of expectancy as your favorite shows come on. When you hear it, you feel it. But what does this have to do with healthcare?

Birds on a wire: Audio Branding, Music, Sounds

What comes to mind when you think of your company’s brand? If it’s a logo, graphic standards, taglines or positioning in the market, you may be running the equivalent of a silent movie. Brands go beyond these visual and strategic components. Brands are feelings. And one of the best ways to create a feeling is through sound — especially music. We call this “audio branding.”

What Is Audio Branding?

You may not realize it, but audio branding is everywhere. It’s in the solid sound that a car door makes as it closes so you have a feeling of security. It’s in the melodic tones produced by modern appliances, so chores feel like accomplishments to celebrate. It’s integral to creating a sense of expectancy as your favorite shows come on. When you hear it, you feel it. But what does this have to do with healthcare?

Marketers view brand awareness and associated goodwill as a savings account. You build it up over time in anticipation of cashing it in when consumers enter the market for services. But people usually don’t want to think about healthcare unless they have an immediate need. This instinctive shunning of the subject matter makes it hard to build up that awareness and preference ahead of time. Music — or an audio signature — is one way to overcome that psychological barrier.

More Than Just Jingles

Some brands will license expensive music, using a song that was popular during the target audience’s formative years. The brand essentially piggybacks on the nostalgia or popularity of the song. But unless there’s an obvious connection between that well-known piece of music and your brand, the positive association is short-lived. And, song licensing renewals are often costly, which tends to discourage the ongoing use needed for branding.

A more cost-effective approach is to develop an original piece of music on a buy-out basis. You can do this through your agency, with instructions to use freelance talent and a set budget. Or, you can hold an open contest and review submissions. Remember, you don’t need to create a piece of music as long as a 2 to 4 minute song, but rather much shorter tracks of 3 seconds, 5 seconds and a variation with up to 60 seconds of extended instrumentals. These short tracks will give you what you need for typical advertising intros and exits and use at public and internal events.

Once you have your audio signature, use it as a brand unifier across all of your healthcare services and products, year after year. The reluctant consumer won’t remember the words in your service line ads, but the music — and feelings — will linger. And that’s a brand.

Author: Michael Crawford

Michael Crawford became interested in healthcare listening to the conversations around the patio table as his parents and their colleagues talked about work. For the past 30 years he's used his marketing expertise to help medical groups, hospitals and health systems connect with consumers, physicians, employers, brokers and health plans. He advocates for a strategic approach to marketing, audience-based communications, coordination between marketing and customer service functions, and early inclusion of the marketing discipline when planning services. His work has earned more than a dozen awards over the past few years. He’s no stranger to healthcare reorganizations or healthcare reform, from the failed effort during the 90s to the implementation of the ACA to today’s efforts at repeal. His blog, Healthcare Marketing Survival Guide, offers advice for B2C and B2B healthcare marketers trying to chart their course during uncertain times. Connect with him via LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @health_crawford.

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