National Public Radio (NPR), the media organisation, is seeking to use sonic branding elements to make sure its content is recognisable whatever platform it appears on.

Meg Goldthwaite, NPR’s chief marketing officer, discussed this subject during a session held at SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas.

“With the advent of podcasts, and voice-first technologies like smart speakers or Siri … being able to meet our listening audience where they are has become very important,” she said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: NPR tackles the sonic branding challenge.)

The shift to new distribution channels has brought undoubted opportunities, as it means NPR can reach millions of ears, on-demand, using devices including Amazon Echo and Google Home, and through its website and via social media platforms.

But as some digital content providers start to aggregate news from different sources into a single package, it runs the risk of losing control of many sonic branding elements.

“There are certain companies that are playing around with aggregating audio news. And when we heard samples of it, we heard NPR news slam right up against a piece of Vice News. That can be jarring,” Goldthwaite said. “As our content gets disaggregated, my challenge … is trying to find a way to brand our audio.”

In greater detail, Goldthwaite revealed that her aim is to “make certain that people understand that what they’re about to hear is good quality sound; the sound that has made NPR most loved and most trusted for nearly 50 years … Trying to do it in a way that people know that it’s NPR content is tricky”.

Conversations are now occurring inside NPR’s four walls, she explained, to try and identify the “different sound cues” that can reinforce the brand’s aural impact.

These indicators do not have to be classic audio-marketing fundamentals, like sonic logos (e.g. the iconic “bong” signature from tech giant Intel), a slogan (embodied by the “I’m Lovin’ It” tagline used by fast-food chain McDonald’s, or an introductory insignia (as demonstrated in the static-meets-choral opening to shows on cable network HBO).

But the goal is still to use sound in a content stream to help foster a vital association between content and a brand in the consumer’s mind.

“What is the sound that people can hear that will put it there?” Goldthwaite asked. “That is actually a question that we are discussing right now, and trying to figure that out. We don’t want to be annoying and have it constantly putting out there that it’s NPR.”

Sourced from WARC