ABOUT THIS REPORT

The Best Audio Brand Ranking has been developed by amp as the first global audit of how the world’s leading brands are using audio to engage with consumers and boost their brand.

The list of 100 brands analysed within the report was drawn from Interbrand’s highly respected Best Global Brands Index, which we felt provided a recognisable and credible selection of brands to study from an audio perspective.

However, despite the existence of the Interbrand ranking, and others like it, audio has never been given the in-depth analysis it deserves. Sonic branding is one specific aspect of brands’ activity and relationship with people that deserves a far higher level of understanding as it becomes a vital aspect of brand reputation and communications. Our research aims to do just that, subjecting the audio strategies of the world’s leading brands to rigorous analysis.

By assessing their overall audio brand performance against a series of key “pillars” which comprise a holistic audio identity, we have been able to pinpoint how effectively brands are leveraging their audio assets and identify key areas for improvement. 

Our findings revealed that, despite the industry “noise” around audio, even the best performing audio brands globally have yet to employ a truly holistic, and efficient, audio brand strategy. With audio set to be an increasingly important asset for brands to engage consumers, it has never been more imperative that they do so.

 
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_WHY SONIC BRANDING ENHANCES BUSINESS PERFORMANCE.

The importance of brands and branding in enhancing the performance of companies, has been understood for the better part of a hundred years. Today brand performance is universally recognised as intrinsically linked to business performance.

When we think of brands, we think of logos, products, advertising and digital services. But the power of brands is also consciously and subconsciously driven by the music and sounds we associate with them. This has always been important – academic studies show that brand engagement is far stronger when audio is treated as an equal and essential aspect of the brand. Sound and music have a far more direct influence over our subconscious, decision-making mind.

Today, we can hear brands and expect to hear them more and more. Smart speakers, apps and digital service interfaces increasingly determine our experience of brands – good, bad, memorable or forgettable. In this environment, brands need a coherent audio brand identity.

A clear brand purpose and authenticity are also important elements that influence how well a brand engages with people. In this sense, sound is one of the most powerful tools in a brand’s arsenal. Not only does it build an emotional connection with consumers, sound is also able to significantly shape the customer experience, building brand loyalty, recall and trust over time and with repetition.[1],[2]

Moving towards a future where screens will not always be the most prevalent medium, brands will find that a coherent audio strategy which compliments their visual, social and cultural equity, is essential to establishing or maintaining their competitive advantage.


[1]Müllensiefen, D., & Baker, D. J. (2015). Music, Brands, & Advertising: Testing What Works. In K. Bronner, C. Ringe, & R. Hirt (Eds.), Audio Branding Academy Yearbook 2014/2015 (pp. 31–51). Baden-Baden: Nomos.

[2]Vijaykumar, K., Kellaris, J.J. and Aurand, T.W. (2012) Sonic logos: Can sound influence willingness to pay? Journal of Product and Brand Management. 21(4): 275–284.

 
 
 

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_AMP FOCUSED ON THE TOP 100 BRANDS AS DETERMINED BY INTERBRAND IN ITS INFLUENTIAL BEST GOBAL BRANDS RANKING.

_WHAT DOES A GREAT BRAND SOUND LIKE AND HOW DO YOU ACHIEVE IT?

To fill this knowledge gap, we’ve analysed the performance of the world’s top brands to create a benchmark for sonic branding globally. amp’s Best Audio Brands Ranking provides insights into the world’s best audio branding examples and identifies where there are opportunities for improvement. Our analysis embraces the full spectrum of audio touch-points brands can use: from music used in audio-visual productions, to sound in physical brand spaces and voice interactions through smart speakers.

To ensure that the Best Audio Brands Ranking includes the most useful selection of brands in its overview, amp has focused on the top 100 brands as chosen by Interbrand in its influential Best Global Brands Ranking. In this way we hope to add another essential layer to the understanding of brand performance.

 

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_WHY EFFECTIVE AUDIO STRATEGIES DEPEND ON THE CREATION OF A SOUND DNA?

_BRAND LOYALTY INCREASES WHEN MORE THAN ONE SENSE IS CONSISTENTLY APPEALED TO. [1]

Before describing the methodology and analysis of the Best Audio Brands Ranking, it is important to first provide an overview of the history and craft involved in sonic branding.

Sonic Branding uses sound strategically to shape brand experiences and communication.

Put simply, a sonic identity is the acoustic equivalent of a visual identity – something that all brands invest in, without question. As such, a sonic identity takes into account the brand values, tone of voice (personality) and overall purpose, to form a connected sonic brand identity.

Investment in audio branding should be focused on the long-term objective of growing and building assets that can be used flexibly across all touchpoints. However, thinking strategically about sonic branding is a relatively new concept.

There are many terms that relate to the discipline: sonic branding, audio branding, audio mnemonic, acoustic branding, sound identity system, and others! All of these connect to the same idea – creating an audio experience that will complement the visual one and enhance brand engagement.

To date many brands have approached the creation of audio assets on a short-term or tactical basis without exploring the opportunities and rationale for a strategic approach.

In the past, sonic branding was a synonym for the sonic logo – used to drive brand awareness across a limited number of TV or radio advertising slots. These are the “jingles” or shorter melodies we are all familiar with, used to enhance memorability in the era of broadcast media.

Brands have also experimented with “corporate sound identities”, using a set of static audio elements or single melodies, designed to achieve instant recognition.

However, this single melody approach falls short of achieving meaningful results in a world dominated by multi-channel media and a vast range of social- and service-technology platforms all vying for our attention. In such a complex and challenging environment, a far more comprehensive approach is needed to keep pace with tech and marketing developments and enable brands to build long-term audio strategies.

[1] Hollis, N. (2019). SMELLY BUSINESS The dollars and scents of brand building [Ebook] (1st ed., pp. 1-32). Millward Brown. Retrieved from https://www.millwardbrown.com/Files/Blog/images/ESOMAR%20fragrance.pdf

 

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_A COMBINATION OF CREATIVE FLEXIBILITY AND BRAND RECOGNITION IS THE SECRET TO A GREAT SONIC IDENTITY.

_CREATING A BRAND SOUND DNA:
At amp, we are convinced that an integrated and flexible approach to sonic branding is key to tangible success and a strong return on investment.

We have developed a tried and tested approach to creating a truly multi-faceted SOUND DNA. This strategy employs SONIC WATERMARKING to generate brand recall, whilst simultaneously providing the creative freedom to write and produce authentic branded audio assets. By continuously deriving audio elements from the unique SOUND DNA, the brand’s core sonic identity appears across all audible touchpoints, from soundtracks to app idents. Derivative elements are also created on-demand, in line with the brand’s objectives and needs at that moment in time.

Imagine a piece of music that is used in many different ways, not just edited in length, but broken down into its components and re-composed to suit all scenarios of the brand experience. This approach creates both unity and diversity. A powerful, consistent holistic audio experience flexes and flows wherever people hear and encounter it.

 

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_JAMES BOND: 60 YEARS OLD, STILL GOING STRONG.

_LONGEVITY AND FLEXIBILITY:
Consider the James Bond sonic identity. It has been more than 60 years since we heard the first James Bond soundtrack, but it still feels just as fresh and identifiable with each new interpretation. This is because the James Bond brand has invested heavily in its own sound assets, creating a core SOUND DNA and adapting it to the zeitgeist with each film. Brand recall, memorability and flexibility are powerful properties of this well-rounded sound identity.

By taking this approach, the James Bond brand has been able to ensure that every dollar invested in audio, is a dollar invested in building brand equity. As a result, it has been able to successfully communicate the brand for decades and scale the sonic brand across geographies and time.

 
 

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_DESIGNING AUDIO EXPERIENCES.

_OFTEN OVERLOOKED, SOUND ALSO PLAYS AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN PRODUCT DESIGN, creating truly immersive customer experiences.

This is particularly important when today’s sophisticated interfaces allow for more fluid and meaningful interaction between brand and consumer. We live in a world where technology is increasingly integrated into our daily lives, and voice interfaces are changing the way in which we interact with brands. Indeed, by 2020 it is believed that nearly a third of all web browsing sessions will be screenless, with consumers choosing voice as their medium instead.[1]

In this environment, brands will need to identify and treat their audio blind spots, particularly when they cannot compensate with their visual identity.

For tomorrow’s consumer, audio is no longer a “nice to have” but an essential brand asset. SOUND DNA-based sonic branding can help brands create a cohesive audio environment in which voice and music are powerful tools to drive the customer experience and engagement.


[1] Levy, H. (2019). Gartner Predicts a Virtual World of Exponential Change. Retrieved from https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/gartner-predicts-a-virtual-world-of-exponential-change/


PROJECT LEAD

 
Lars Schalkwijk, Senior Strategist

Lars Schalkwijk, Senior Strategist

Bjorn Thorleifsson, Research

Bjorn Thorleifsson, Research

 

The poet and academic Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once remarked that “music is the universal language of mankind”.[1]

The idea that music affects everyone in some way or another is a universal truth - all human societies have been found to include music within their culture.[2] We use music as much as any other media, to express our individuality and as an extension of ourselves and so should brands. With the growing importance of interactive voice technology and a myriad of digital and physical touchpoints, brands are increasingly looking towards sonic branding to enhance their communication by building strong emotional connections and trust.

If employed strategically, audio has the power to express a brand’s personality while being instantly recognisable across all channels. To successfully leverage the benefits of sonic branding, brands need to be clear, differentiated and most importantly, consistent.

As an audio branding agency, we are often asked to identify action points and measure the success of sonic branding, as well as the return-on-investment for our clients. While there are hundreds of empirical studies that demonstrate the power of sound to increase likability, increase attention, build positive associations, improve brand perception, drive purchase intent or facilitate brand/message recall, to date there has not been a standardized system to measure the effectiveness of brands’ use of audio assets.

The Best Audio Brand Ranking 2019 is the first performance index of its kind and looks to establish an objective and comprehensive system to evaluate the use of sound, voice and music in branding. It includes a thorough analysis of strategy, quality, impact and a measure of efficiency in spending resources on music.

With this first report we aim to focus attention on the important aspects that brands have to consider when tackling the challenge of establishing a 360° sonic identity.

Sincerely yours,

Lars Schalkwijk Bjorn Thorleifsson
SENIOR STRATEGIST RESEARCH


[1] Longfellow, H. (1894). Outre-mer; a pilgrimage beyond the sea. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Co.

[2] Herndon, M. & McLeod, N. (1981). Music as culture (2nd ed.). Norwood, Pa.: Norwood Editions.


TEAM:

Lars Schalkwijk Senior Strategist and Project Lead

Lars Schalkwijk
Senior Strategist and Project Lead

Karolina Namyslowski Senior Creative

Karolina Namyslowski
Senior Creative

Bjorn Thorleifsson Reseacher

Bjorn Thorleifsson
Reseacher

 
Christoph Anzenbacher Researcher

Christoph Anzenbacher
Researcher

Alessio Miseri Production Supervisor

Alessio Miseri
Production Supervisor

Andrea Amedeo Rebecchi Sound Branding Consultant

Andrea Amedeo Rebecchi
Sound Branding Consultant

 

A heartfelt Thank You goes to thew entire team behind the project for the great effort and the perseverance in completing it. Special thanks also to Diego Santin, Patrick Kattoura, Ekatarina Panteleeva and Nora Gres.

Finally,thank you to Michele and Uli for their relentless diligence and vigour in pulling thru from the first ideas and visions to something that will be a tangible and evolving asset in changing the conversation from assumptions and bias about something we all dearly love to something quantifiable and more objective.