Brands place great store by their visual branding but have neglected their audio branding, something that is becoming increasingly important, according to Global's Jo McChristie.

From a young age, we rely on our ability to interpret voice and tone to help us empathise, understand how other people are feeling and to judge the veracity of what they’re saying.

As soon as we hear people speak, we start to make assumptions about them, particularly when we can’t see them. We ask ourselves where they’re from, how old they are, what they do, and we might think about whether we like them.

If voices give people identities, what about brands? With only 17% of brands investing in audio branding, some of the UK’s biggest spenders have no distinctive brand sound or voice. 

Is it time you unmuted your brand?

Building a brand voice

Companies invest in marketing and design to ensure their business has a unique identity that resonates with consumers. Huge importance is placed on visual branding assets: the specific colours, fonts and logos carefully chosen to stand out. With the right design, words completely disassociated with a product can become recognised as part of a brand. Priceless.

But if we’re just as able to recognise sounds as we are visual branding, why are so many brands yet to find their voice?

Eighty-six per cent of advertisers have developed visual branding but fewer than one in five has invested in audio branding. Some of the UK’s top spenders in digital don’t have a voice and you may have never heard the way their brand name is supposed to be pronounced. This means the vast majority of brands are what we would call mute brands or brands characterised by a lack of sound.

It’s important to make a distinction between mute brands and brands that invest in audio but don’t have an ‘ownable’ voice. Many brands may have emotive music and a voice in their advertising, but that doesn’t mean it’s their voice.

Why creating a voice for your brand is so important

When it comes to verbal communication, it’s not just human beings with whom we interact now, even AI has started to find its voice.

Voice activation is becoming increasingly popular in everyday life. Studies show that by 2020, 30% of browsing will be without a screen. Devices like Google Home and Amazon Echo are becoming much more common creating a shift towards aurally consumed media. Studies from Radiocentre indicate 40% of UK households will have one of these devices by early 2018, making it increasingly important for brands to establish themselves in the audio space or face being left behind.

If your brand is mute how will it exist in a screenless future?

We’re seeing more people consume more audio on the move with 22.3 million people spending more than 10 hours listening to their favourite radio stations, music channels and podcasts on the go every week. By targeting people based on their demographic, location and interests, Global’s programmatic audio platform, DAX, has proven the benefits of digital audio.

In a world increasingly powered by audio, sound matters more than ever. Like people, brands should have an identity that goes beyond the visual. The technology is there for brands to spread their voice; they just need to find it.

For more on voice strategy, subscribers can read How to develop a voice strategy for your brand