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Renaissance of Sound:

March 11, 2019

How Brands and Manufacturers are Reinventing the Sonic Space

In the world of advertising, we’re so often targeted visually. We see brilliant print campaigns, emotionally stirring videos, and dazzling websites. But it’s become clear that at SXSW2019, it’s what we hear that’s just as important. Sounds and how consumers hear them have led to one of advertising’s most innovative periods. Big brands are scrambling to create sonic identities, and hardware manufacturers are rushing to fill the demand for immersive sound experiences.

Sound is undergoing a bit of a rebirth in advertising due to the unprecedented ways in which consumers are absorbing information. According to Digiday, the never-ending “feed” that we scroll through accounts for 91% of our content discovery, and yet on Facebook alone, 85% of that content is being viewed without sound. Marketers are therefore being forced to approach campaigns with a feed-first mentality. We must understand that consumers will likely not hear our messaging, so other tactics must be employed to reach them. Visuals must be unique enough to stop the scroll, value propositions must be presented within 1-3 seconds, and if it benefits the user to view the advertisement with sound, then unique CTAs must be presented to encourage that listening.

With the consumption of sound seeing a gravitational shift, the audio we do hear is becoming invaluable to brands. Couple that value with the rise of smart speakers and other advanced audio devices, and it’s not surprising that big brands are rushing to create sonic identities. Take MasterCard for instance. Over the past few years, they have worked tirelessly to create a personality based entirely on sound. They began by creating a melody that is, in their own words, “neutral, likeable, and hummable.” This melody was then rerecorded using different instruments and performers to create unique songs for cultures and locations worldwide. The melody was also trimmed down to a “sonic signature” or “mogo” – a musical logo – that can be added to the end of commercials and consumer touch points with the brand.

Sound is even finding its way into the world of augmented reality (AR). When most people think of AR, they think of mobile games like Pokémon Go, dancing hotdogs on Snapchat, or maybe a headset experience on the HoloLens. Bose AR recognizes that the potential for augmented audio is just as vast as augmented visuals, and have produced a wearable called Bose Frames. While they look like a pair of sunglasses, they contain a pedometer, gyroscope, and directional speakers that shoot sound directly into the user’s ears.

While many current applications of this tech center around entertainment and fitness, it can also be used to solve medical problems. Someone who is hard of hearing in their left ear for example, could use Frames to increase the volume of sounds registered by the glasses to just that ear, providing equilibrium between the left and right.  No doubt in a few years we’ll see tech like the Bose Frames incorporate computer vision into their wearables, and the applications for that union are straight out of science fiction. Imagine someone with Alzheimer’s is suddenly given a pair of glasses that can recognize faces and remember conversations. Now when someone approaches them, they can be given a cue to remember who that person is and what they were speaking about last.

Sound is an element of advertising that too often falls by the wayside, but that mentality is antiquated and detrimental to campaigns. Sonic real estate is filling up quickly, and consumers are only going to get more particular about what they listen to. Now is the time to assess how your agency prioritizes sound in your projects, because tomorrow you may find that no one is listening.


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