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Why Local Radio Needs Sonic Brands

Why Local Radio Needs Sonic Brands

Sonic identity is a buzzword in marketing, but radio stations are experts in the importance of sound and promotion. That’s why local radio stations should be at the forefront of audio branding. But the renewed attention on audio means the time is now to revisit how your station’s brand sounds and also to help clients with their audio signature. 

For radio stations and their ad partners, a routine, recognizable sound immediately announces your presence to listeners. Whether you call the concept sonic branding or audio signatures, as marketers struggle to break through an increasingly cluttered environment, sounds that identify a brand are increasingly important.  

Think about the three-dings on the NBC promotional spots or the catchy O’Reilly Auto Parts jingle that runs in all of its TV and radio ads. These memorable sounds communicate a brand’s presence and call it to the front of a consumer’s consciousness.

Sonic branding isn’t just the purview of big media companies and national brands; it is equally important at the local level. Radio listeners have more demand – and distractions – that ever before and they need to know when your station or advertisers are on the air. Sonic branding can be effectively established by anyone and very little cost.

Options for sonic branding

An audio signature signals your brand to a listener. For a radio station, it could be a jingle or a familiar voice of your well-known host saying the nickname, call letters or channel position. An effective sonic brand might be just a second or two long. It needs to be well-produced and then deployed frequently. Listeners need to hear it regularly to build association with your station.

“A sonic brand helps you get known,” Westwood One’s Chief Insights Officer Pierre Bouvard explained recently.

Similarly, when you discuss sonic branding with your clients, it is important that they develop a memorable sound and use it in all of their audio messaging. For clients, an audio signature could be a regular music bed, a jingle, a tone or spoken word. Before selecting the sound, your team should brainstorm with clients to see what kind of emotions they’re trying to evoke with their sonic brands and determine if it fits with their business and their campaign. A loud, upbeat sound might be right for a retailer or quick service restaurant, while a catchy jingle could serve a car dealer. Medical and legal advertisers, for instance, might want to sound a more authoritative tone and use spoken words or a few strong musical notes in their audio signature.

Why it works

Sonic branding is equal parts science and art. According to audio messaging research firm Veritone, consumers have higher brand recall and engagement with marketing that consistently uses an audio signature. You need to find a sound that is representative of your brand while creating positive associations for listeners.

Radio stations have the unique production and promotional capabilities to develop effective sonic logos for both their stations and their clients. Your most popular hosts are a great choice to create your station audio signature, and they could also be the voice for local businesses. If you’re a music station, a piece of music associated with your format could be a great option, as long as you can keep that consistent.

When assisting clients, you could similarly have you personalities voice sonic brand spots for local businesses or tap producers to select the right music or jingle to accompany their spots. In both bases, a sonic brand can be deployed on-air, on streaming and on podcasts.

Local radio needs to embrace every opportunity to attract consumers’ attention. As the original form of audio, radio is well-positioned to be experts on sonic branding and lead marketing partners into this emerging space on-air and on digital.


Written by Paul Altman