Marketers and agencies who overlook sound as a creative tool are often missing out on a crucial dimension of branding, a new report suggests.

In Tuning in to sound, research agency Neuro-Insight notes that “branding impact can be strengthened by the mere addition of an audio element”.

It demonstrated this by working with an audio branding expert to develop a sonic device for a brand that didn’t have one, Unilever. The resulting sound – “a subtle combination of rising, harmonic notes” – was then edited on to the visual branding at the end of a Colman’s Gravy advert.

When consumers were exposed to the original and edited versions of the ad, researchers found that brain response at end branding was higher across all key metrics – engagement, emotional intensity, memory encoding – for the version of the ad with the sound ident.

“Although the ident was entirely new, and so could not have any existing equity in the brain, its mere presence meant that the branding impact of the ad was strengthened,” said Neuro-Insight.

The way in which the sound is delivered can have a huge impact too, it added, citing research projects looking at the impact of sound quality. The higher quality audio in one study elicited a 66% increase in likeability over the standard audio; in contrast, enhanced video quality resulted in an uplift of only 2%.

Sound can also be a crucial part of the creative – and not just in terms of a song adding to the mood of an ad: synching the soundtrack with the tone of an ad helps to reinforce long-term memory encoding.

And deft use of sound can also draw attention to key parts of the message. A pause in the soundtrack can create tension, which makes the brain more receptive to what follows, the report said, while music rising to a crescendo can build emotional responses and, again, create a feeling of anticipation in the brain.

All brands can benefit from sound, the report concluded, and the growth of audio streaming content and voice technology will only make it more urgent that marketers think about this topic and ask themselves questions like: Does my brand have a sonic signature? How aligned is my brand’s visual and audio experience? Does my brand have an audio personality?

Sourced from Neuro-Insight; additional content by WARC staff