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It could be argued that maintaining a vibrant audio brand—a distinct musical identity that expresses a product or service's promise, personality, and values at each touchpoint—is, in and of itself, a marketing best-practice. Yet, most US marketers haven't tended to their audio brands, whereas their European competitors—Peugeot, Michelin, AXA, SNCF, and others—have been doing so for years.

It's not too late, however, to catch up to the Europeans.

At the beginning, cultivating a vibrant audio brand is all about defining your brand essence and values. At the end, it's about providing clarity and discipline to your marketing efforts.

And, in between, it's about progressing through all of the key touchstones of any responsible branding initiative: competitive analysis, touchpoint analysis, audience analysis, strategy development, concept explorations, creation, evaluation, and refinement.

Following this branding process will lead you to a distinctive audio identity: a system of sounds and music that will perfectly express your brand values and personality—and evoke a meaningful customer experience at each touchpoint, driving greater sales and profit.

But there are dangers along the way. Here are three common ones:

  1. Personal bias: People might choose music that expresses a strong-willed team member's or boss's tastes—or their personal tastes—rather than the sounds and style that convey the brand's essence and values.
  2. Copycatting: People like to give solutions even though it's more helpful to have them identify problems. So, one might hear, "I want to get music like this piece. How close can I get to it without infringing on their copyright?" The issue? Chances are the example is a popular piece that will soon go out of style. But if the piece becomes a classic, the result will be that you won't be communicating in a distinctive voice.
  3. Predictability: This one is a real gotcha because, disquietingly, the wrong research can actually hurt you. People like music with which they're familiar and they may say positive things about an option that's got a comfortable sound. But a brand may be better off with music that is unexpected—a sound that will break through and become truly "own-able."

The best way to steer clear of those traps is to hold to a clear process for developing your audio brand. Experienced audio branding agencies have developed rigorous methods to keep the team from going off track and to keep everyone focused on the core of the brand and its values, as well as the marketing problems the solution needs to solve.

So what is the process?

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image of Colleen Fahey

Colleen Fahey is US managing director of Sixième Son, a unique audio branding agency with clients across the globe. She is also a contributor to The Get a Job Workshop: How to Find your Way to a Creative Career in Advertising, Branding, Collateral, Digital, Experimental and More.

LinkedIn: Colleen Fahey

Twitter: @Sixieme_Son_USA

image of Laurence Minsky

Laurence Minsky is an associate professor in the marketing communication department at Columbia College Chicago. His most recent book is The Get a Job Workshop: How to Find your Way to a Creative Career in Advertising, Branding, Collateral, Digital, Experimental and More.

LinkedIn: Larry Minsky