As we head into 2018, marketing executives are listening to every subtle sound, noise, or hushed whisper taking place in the world of audio. And for good reason: Streaming audio continues to expand and, with Spotify’s impending IPO, poised to grow even larger. Voice-controlled apps are morphing from device-centric software to apps that tap into the Internet of Things (IoT). They’ll soon empower users to control every system and IoT device found in a smart home.
There may even be evidence that reveals how audio may engage a consumer longer than any image, graphic, or video. For instance, according to Nielsen, people will listen to audio in places where they won’t or can’t engage with visual media, including in cars, on treadmills, or even in the shower. So, viewers are always listening to audio cues.
Audio branding should therefore be a critical focus for marketers. That’s why Veritonic has updated our ground-breaking Audio Logo Index.
Last year, when we introduced the Audio Logo Index, it was the first time audio logos were objectively measured and benchmarked. Since then, the Index has become an indispensable resource for those marketers, agencies, and broadcasters focused on audio branding. Veritonic’s software and contextual norms give branding executives a toolset for objective decision making.
This year, with the help of a panel of audio branding experts, we updated the Audio Logos included in the Index. We also included UK index, again with the guidance of an independent panel of experts.
This year’s findings reinforced some of the lessons we learned last year. But with another year’s worth of data, we were able to go even deeper than last year. We also developed some insights on the similarities — and differences! — between the US and UK markets.
Read on for the executive summary, or download the complete report.
- Marketing spend and longevity again play key roles
- In the US, Nationwide, Intel and Farmers Insurance shared the top spot. Each can tap into huge marketing budgets, but longevity clearly plays a role.
- In the UK, longevity and nostalgia were critical counterpoints, as the top two overall performers were Pearl and Dean’s iconic sound and Flash’s 2016 audio logo (albeit featuring an update of the Queen song “Flash” from the soundtrack to the 1980 movie Flash Gordon)
- Melody plays a very strong role in audio logo performance
- Differences across markets: In the UK, licensed music played a key role (Flash, A.O.)
- Similarities across markets: Top attributes in both markets were similar, and the role of MELODY, VERBAL and BRANDING was key.
- Millennials in both marketers respond better to audio branding than older demographics — especially on the critical Recall metric.
- Financial Services once again led in the US, closely followed by Automotive Parts and Tech. In the UK, QSR, Retail and Tech were essentially tied.
- Entertainment did surprisingly poorly, considering how frequently consumers are exposed to the audio branding.
- And once again… Automotive was at the bottom, in both the US AND the UK.
This year’s set of audio logos was curated by two “roundtable” panels of experts, one in England and one in the US, to whom special thanks is due.
In the US, participants were:
- John “Scrapper” Sneider, Executive Producer and Managing Partner, Storefront Music
- Steve Keller, CEO & Chief Strategist, iV Audio Branding
- James Alvich, Founding Partner and Managing Director, Music And Strategy
- Lauren Nagel, Group Creative Director, Pandora
In the UK, roundtable participants were:
- John Hale, Senior Creative Copywriter, Global
- Clare Bowen, Head of Creative Development, Radiocentre
- Keelan Doyle, Creative Producer, MassiveMusic
- Laura Grzeszczak, Client Services and Project Manager, MassiveMusic
We surveyed over 1000 panelists across the US and UK in November 2017. Panelists were carefully selected to reflect US and UK Census-representative distributions of age, gender, ethnicity and race. We also collected household income and data about a variety of other demographic and psychographic factors.
For comparison purposes, control or “ghost level” audio logos were included in the evaluation. These ghost levels consisted of professionally composed audio logos that were considered for major national and international brands, but were not selected and have never before been released to the public.
Panelists were asked to record their emotions as the audio logos played. They were also questioned about other feelings and associations the music evoked, including brands they may associate with the audio logos. Panelists were then contacted 48 hours later to test their recall of the audio logos, and engagement with the audio logos was tracked throughout.
All emotions and engagement were tracked using Veritonic’s patent-pending EchoTime™ technology.
Finally, scores were calculated using a proprietary algorithm that combines Emotional Response, 48-hour Recall, and Veritonic’s EchoTime™ data. Recall is weighted most heavily in the composite because of the importance of “breaking through” in the consumer’s mind.
Marketing Spend And Longevity Play Key Roles
This year’s findings reinforced our finding that marketing spend generally makes a big difference. In the US, the top three performers are all top 100 US TV advertisers. And two of the top 10 US performers are top 100 radio advertisers.
It’s also notable that the top 10 audio logos have all been in the market for several years, and in some cases for several decades. Longevity leads to imprinting on the brain, the so-called “classical conditioning” reflex.
“Audio logos that haven’t been in market for a long time benefit from repetition.”
Even audio logos that haven’t been in market for a long time benefit from repetition. Liberty Mutual’s audio logo debuted in 2016, and in last year’s index scored only a 48 (and a 43 for Unaided Recall). In this year’s index, however, Liberty Mutual jumped up to a 76, with an even more impressive jump to 86 for Recall. What a difference a year makes!
Longevity is also critical in the UK. In fact, splitting the top spot was the audio logo for Pearl & Dean, which controls the advertising shown before many movies in the UK. The audio logo was originally composed and launched back in 1968, which shows that even without a huge marketing budget an audio logo can break through.
Interestingly, the other top performer in the UK was Flash. Launched only in 2016, this audio logo features an updated cut of Queen’s theme song for the 1980 movie Flash Gordon.
One of the most striking results comes from looking at the structure and tonality of the top audio logos. Specifically: Audio logos that employ some elements of melody strongly outperform those that don’t. Conversely, those that utilize sound design and sound effects, like Ford and Audi, generally underperform. In fact, melodic audio logos scored an average of 74, while those utilizing sound design only scored an average of 56.
This is true in the UK as well as the US, where virtually all of the audio logos in the index utilize melody. Only the bottom performer doesn’t utilize melody, which partially explains why the scoring gap between melodic and non-melodic is even bigger in the UK, 72 to 50.
Melody is also a key driver of Recall, a critical metric for marketers to pay attention to. The average score for Recall for audio logos utilizing melody was an incredible 81 in the US and 80 in the UK.
Those without melody? In the US they scored a weak 49, and in the UK a 43.
“Audio logos that employ some elements of melody strongly outperform those that don’t.”
As Lauren Nagel, group creative director for Pandora, said, “this falls in line with the science and psychology of sound, and it’s really interesting to see how we as marketers, creatives and advertisers can use this data to perhaps refresh or reimagine what a melodic signature is without feeling that it is too… obvious.”
Licensing Makes A Leap
One notable difference between the US and UK is how powerfully some of the brands in the UK make use of licensed tracks for their audio logos. Flash, a P&G cleaning product (sold in the US as Mr. Clean), effectively rocketed to the top of the heap in the UK by licensing and remaking “Flash’s Theme”, the theme song to the 1980 movie Flash Gordon, by Queen.
Similarly, AO.com, a UK online retailer selling appliances and other items, uses a cut of the Ramones song “Blitzkrieg Bop” to great effect. As far as consistency goes, it’s intriguing to note how this excerpt of audio from a classic punk-rock anthem resonated with listeners across many different attributes. Most of the attributes, including Excited, Happy, Authentic, Likeable, Trustworthy, and Unique, scored in a very close range, between 70 and 76. More surprising still is how the intro for a rather defiant and rebellious punk rock song, which includes a reference to the Nazi air force during World War Two in the song title, can be used to evoke happy and trustworthy feelings.
Conversely, in the US, brands have largely relied on original compositions to power their audio branding. Some of this may be driven by licensing costs.
Ultimately, the decision may come down to decisions about intellectual property and marketing strategy: Is it more effective to leverage an established sound at a reasonable cost, or to own your own sound and apply it across experiences?
Key Attributes Similar Across Markets
In spite of minor variations, the US and UK markets perform similarly across several key attributes. As we already note, Melody matters in both markets. And both markets have Happy as the highest-scoring attribute (72 in the US, 69 in the UK), and both markets score the audio logos the lowest for Inspiring.
Another strong indicator of success in both countries was whether or not the audio logos are verbal (i.e. do they include lyrics or spoken words?) and whether or not they actually use the brand name in the audio logo. For instance, two of the top three audio logos in the US utilize both words and branding in the audio logo.
In fact, in the UK audio logos that use words outperform non-verbal audio logos by an average of 11 points (in the US, the average difference is 10 points).
Branded audio logos in both countries similarly outperform their non-branded counterparts. The difference is again 11 points in the UK and 10 in the US.
Millennials Respond to Audio Branding
Millennials scored the audio logos higher than older demographic groups: an average score of 74 in the US for millennials vs an average of 66 for the older group. This was also true in the UK, 74 to 69. A similar gap in scores existed in the Recall metric.
“Millennials may be more receptive to audio-based marketing than older demographic groups.”
What’s behind this response from millennials? These results suggest that millennials may be more receptive to audio-based marketing than older demographic groups. Marketers, ignore this at your own risk!
Financial Services Top Audio Logos In US
The top industry in the US was Financial Services, and specifically Insurance companies. With two of the top three spots taken by Nationwide and Farmers Insurance, this shouldn’t be a shock. This sector just slightly topped Tech, reversing the trend from last year. The difference-maker this year are the strong Recall scores recorded by the Financial Services entrants.
However, right in the mix with FinServ and Tech are Automotive Parts. NOT the automakers themselves, to be clear: we’re talking about AutoZone and O’Reilly Auto Parts, the auto parts and aftermarket accessories specialists. These two brands tick all of the boxes for powerul audio logos — melodic, verbal, branded — and their audio branding expertise shows.
QSR, Retail, Tech Top Audio Logos In the UK
In the UK, QSR, Retail and Tech were essentially on par with each other. Retail is paced, of course, by AO, while QSR is lead by McDonald’s. Of course, Pearl & Dean beats them all!
Entertainment Not So Engaging
One surprise in the rankings is the relatively low performance of the Entertainment sector. These brands — Netflix, HBO, Playstation, XBox — don’t rely on paid media impressions for exposure. Instead, viewers are “invited in” on a frequent basis via a streaming media, cable network or gaming platform. Yet their scores put them firmly below-average as a sector. Why?
One possibility is that these four audio logos precede other types of audio, which on their own may not allow them to score very well overall. For example, in the case of Netflix, viewers might be waiting to hear the introduction of one of their shows, such as “Stranger Things”. For a gamer, he or she might be anticipating the intro audio of a particular game.
This may be the reason that although these four audio logos from the Entertainment sector had at best just middling overall scores, they all performed well in the “excited” attribute. In fact, Netflix had a score of 76, the highest score with that attribute. HBO scored a 72. In both cases, one might make the case the listeners had an expectation of something more. It’s as if these audio logos have the quality of a punctuation mark, which means they need additional content to make them relevant or memorable.
It’s also likely because they don’t follow any best practices. As Lauren Nagel from Pandora, points out, “they have a ‘hybrid’ sound – as in, they use a non-tonal sound effect (HBO static, Netflix percussive beat) and then follow quickly with a single tone.”
Automotive At The Bottom
Where there are leaders, there must also be laggards. Once again, the bottom performers are all automotive companies. What’s intriguing to note is that automotive audio logos performed poorly in two distinct geographic markets: the US and the UK.
Download The Full Report
Register to download the complete report, including a scoring breakdown for all included audio logos.
To submit your audio logo for consideration in future editions of the index, or to see how your track compares, please contact us.
Veritonic is a ground-breaking audio effectiveness platform, helping brands test and measure audio in their TV, radio and digital ad content.
Brands like Pandora, Subway, and CBS rely on Veritonic’s pre-market creative testing and in-market creative benchmarking solutions to make data-driven decisions about the music, voiceover, audio logo, and other audio components of their advertising.
For more on Veritonic’s Audio Logo Index, visit these blog posts: