The sound of salience: How Music Can Help Financial Brands Stand Out in a Competitive Industry

MassiveMusic’s Ed Trotter on why developing a sonic identity is vital to rise above the market noise

Sound has power. There was relief when the Windows 95 tinkle announced you wouldn’t suffer the blue screen of death. Apple’s ringtone is guaranteed to have everyone in the vicinity patting their pockets. In fact, technology tends to do an all-round brilliant job at sonic branding. It’s an example that finance would do well to follow.

There are some well-known sounds that are easily identifiable with financial brands – the Churchill Bulldog’s ‘Ohhh yes’ or the voice of Aleksandr Orlov, the Compare The Market meerkat, come to mind. But financial brands are still looking for that killer sound that makes every consumer’s ears prick up.

But why is sonic branding so important? Firstly, it doubles down on brand salience. While marketers tend to over-index on the visual, linking sound to a brand provides the anchor for that all-important brand recall. In a saturated industry like finance, where it is difficult to differentiate there have to be other factors that enhance consideration, preference and purchase.

Secondly, sound can reinforce trust. Adding even the briefest of sounds to a customer action improves perceptions and trust – the ‘whoosh’ that accompanies an email sending so you know it’s going to get to the recipient, or a sound that confirms a transaction has gone through, they’re brief but vital signifiers to the customer that the brand is fulfilling its promise. Research conducted by VISA suggests that having a unique company sound accompanying digital and physical transactions sparks a positive brand perception in 83% of respondents.

Not every brand can attach a sound to a transaction that reminds consumers of the important role it plays, but finance brands have an opportunity to bring sound into consumers’ lives. However, it takes more than just choosing a mobile alert or downloading a generic Spotify playlist.

Take our recent work with Legal & General, which was about more than just creating a sonic identity for a financial brand. It needed to reflect the company’s core values which, established way back in 1836, were built around giving back to society. So, any music strategy had to benefit employees and customers in a similar way.

Taking our cue from the company’s bright, calming umbrella motif, a motif that denotes its ‘inclusive capitalism’ concept, we helped the company build a music signature that was modern and vibrant.. A signature that strengthens bonds between the company and its customers.

But in addition, we helped the company build a sonic DNA track that would work across all of its sound-appropriate channels, including TV, podcasts, events and even internal communications. We also created a functional music EP, designed to help listeners focus, relax, sleep and calm, based on psychological findings from Goldsmiths University.

It may seem lofty to claim that a brand’s sound signature can go beyond pure marketing, and begin to impact customers’ lives in a positive, non-transactional way, but that would be to underestimate the power the right sound can have. Whether it’s birdsong on a spring morning, a parent’s bedtime story at night, or the doorbell announcing a much-anticipated family visit – people’s relationship with sound is elemental and it is absolutely core to building unshakeable connections with customers.

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