When Message Means More

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Even with this great success, we knew we needed to transform the audio logo and make it mean something more to our audiences within our COVID-19 advertising. We wanted to convey our authentic empathy as a brand …The world needed something a little softer and more gentle during a complicated and trying time.
Jenna Lebel, Chief Marketing Officer, Liberty Mutual Insurance 

What makes for resonant brand identity? That it’s instantly recognizable? Projects the emotional value the company is going for? Hits you with that value immediately and sticks with you forever? All of the above. And audio, from its unique power to infiltrate your brain to its mobility, arguably builds that brand power better than any other channel or format.

As any brand marketer will tell you, consistency is a primary driver of that success; find what works…project it that way over and over again. That formula continues to make some of the most perennially iconic brands even stronger as time goes on.

But sometimes context changes that formula. Another non-mystery for seasoned marketers: serving your brand is not always about just playing the iconic tune or displaying the proper brand colors in the same way forever, across the board. Different scenarios — from a unique campaign to bigger, socioeconomic realities — obviously demand some modification. 

To say that the new Audio Logo Index (which came out this week) arrives at a unique time in history is a vast understatement. Putting aside the fact that Covid-19’s impact on the marketing world is among the less critical repercussions of the crisis, businesses have surely had a lot to figure out. What should their brands, sonic or otherwise, project now?

The new Index examines sonic brand effectiveness through multiple lenses — how major consumer businesses win people over with perpetually powerful sonic IDs, as well as with alterations to those brand sounds to be more sensitive to our current moment. Many companies have recognized that, for ads, in particular, the message means more now, and by de-emphasizing their standard sonic signature, they’re actually building their brand overall.

Several of the big insurance companies, which dominated the top of the Index, offer great examples of striking that right balance. The always-strong Liberty Mutual audio logo, driven by high frequency and longevity in the market, as well as repetition as a key mnemonic device, jumped six places to number one in this year’s report (Veritonic Audio Score of 88). 

Yet, as CMO Jenna Lebel’s quote above describes, when it came time to advertise during the pandemic, not only did Liberty create entirely new messaging, they deliberately downplayed that thing that people arguably remember about them the most. 

Similarly, State Farm’s classic mnemonic saw a 14-point jump in this year’s index (Veritonic Audio Score of 87), driven not only by longevity and frequency but the reintroduction of their brand name into their sonic ID. Yet, also like Liberty, State Farm changed things up for their COVID-related ads, softening their sonic signature, as well as actually altering their iconic tune at the beginning of those spots.

In both cases, consumer response was overwhelmingly favorable, with nearly 50% saying the alterations increased their positive perception of the brands.

When compared with pre-COVID ads, these and many other brands’ sonic ID’s scored lower. As stated in the Index:

The fact that these iconic companies’ sonic branding generated higher recall scores in pre-COVID ads makes sense; then, it was ok for your brand to be the emphasis. With a shift of emphasis to message and overall effect in the current climate, smart, forward-thinking brands are seeing their strategies pay off. They’re effectively saying “this is less about us right now,” but knowing that in the long run it will be very much about them, having demonstrated some humility when it really mattered.

Alterations to sonic ID’s made in the current climate of COVID, rather than just short deviations off the brand path, are likely the beginning of a more fundamental change. It need not be said that unprecedented times force re-examination at every level. As brands evolve (if not reinvent themselves) in the age of a crisis like the pandemic and expand themselves to mean more, brand consistency itself is bound to look much different going forward. 

Download the report here

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