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Guest Post: How travel brands can unlock the power of music and sonic branding

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Guest Post: How travel brands can unlock the power of music and sonic branding

Emerge from the crisis making the right noises and with a stronger brand identity, says MassiveMusic’s Luc van Stiphout

We’re seeing industries all across the world facing big impacts caused by the global pandemic, with travel being one of those hit the hardest. Businesses are now starting to plan for a new reality and reimagine their offer in a world where COVID-19 still exists. Travel for consumers has come to an almost complete standstill during lockdown, and understandably there will be reservations about returning to normal travel behaviour. But there are effective ways of rebuilding trust, confidence and assurance through strategic marketing, and music can play a powerful role in this.

For some brands, this situation has provided an unexpected time of reflection and the opportunity to look at ways they can adjust spend to help the brand succeed in a ‘new normal.’ Consistent research has shown that companies who invest in their brands will propel with accelerated growth out of a recession. And while other brand-building strategies might be in place, brand building with the power of music and sound remains largely untapped. In a recent report by Ipsos, the global market research specialists, that looked at the effectiveness of distinctive brand assets, it was recommended that brand assets, such as characters and sonic cues, are more effective than assets that are leveraged from wider culture, such as celebrities and music. And, while less frequently used, audio assets are on average more effective than some visual assets. This creates an opportunity for some travel brands to seize the opportunity and look to stand out from the crowd.

Technology: Travel becoming contactless

We are now going to see digital transformation across the travel industry accelerate at an unprecedented rate. Consumers are going to be demanding services that are more contactless and voice-activated. Whether that’s booking, checking-in, picking up tickets, etc. User interface feedback needs to be more than just visual and this is where audio can play a very powerful role for the brand. The infrastructure to develop sonic branding via technology has already been created – it’s in all devices, but what remains largely untapped is the bigger brand-thinking that sonic branding can work for.

The goal is for sound to become an emotive part of the brand identity and a recognisable signature. But this must work closely with the visual identity and look of the brand, elevating each other at each touchpoint. With a fragmented multi-channel media landscape, this can really help create a powerful and consistent sound.

Restoring trust and confidence through sound

There is understandably a lot of worry amongst people across the world as travel restarts – whether that’s international flights or public transport in a town or city. Travel brands have a responsibility to instill feelings of trust and safety to customers using new social distancing measures and clear communication – and music and sound can play an effective role here. With the proven effects of how music can impact the human stress response, it already plays a role within the travel industry. With 20-30% of people scared of flying, calm, slow music is often played whilst boarding takes place to help passengers feel at ease and comfortable before take-off. In 2008, classical music was played in the London underground to try and reduce antisocial behaviour and make those travelling feel calmer. Similarly, travel operators and industry bodies can use music and sound to transport people to faraway lands at just the click of a button – even something as simple as a carefully curated Spotify playlist can ignite powerful memory recall.

Building a new voice for your brand

There has been a huge rise in aggregator sites, such as Sky Scanner or Google Travel, which have become more prominent in travel bookings as brands and the number of people travelling has increased. So in a marketplace where people can very easily compare and share data, it’s vital to build brand preference with customers. As sound and music play an integral role throughout the customer journey, from researching to booking and then travelling, having a sonic strategy in place will help to stand-out and drive brand salience. Over the past six years, MassiveMusic has been working on bringing the sound of the KLM airline brand to life. From advertising, to the on-board experience, to all communications where sound can be relevant and engaging.

By working on a sonic strategy now, brands can start developing a new voice that the core values they hold and also the sound of the future; a future where travel is once again possible. This can be implemented across touchpoints, building recognition amongst customers and injecting energy, passion, assurance, trust and consistency.

It’s also another way in helping differentiate your brand and literally cut through the other noise. Our eyes and ears are being diverted in so many directions and attention spans are getting shorter so it’s a much more competitive landscape. Music and sound can be a great way of standing out, and staying in someone’s mind; you can easily close your eyes to visual assets but it’s much harder to shut off your ears.

If you are in the position to plan, don’t waste this opportunity. Short termism isn’t a viable option at such an uncertain time – instead prepare where possible in ways that can help you emerge making the right noises and with a stronger brand identity.

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