By Marijn Roozemond, Director of Creative Strategy at MassiveMusic, global creative music and sound agency
When you think about money, certain sounds automatically come to mind. The small ding from Super Mario collecting his coins, the clicking of old bank safes spinning their wheels, the iconic ‘Money’ track by Pink Floyd – all great examples. You probably heard one or more of those sounds just by reading this.
But how can banks use this to their advantage?
Choosing a bank account provider is not a decision to be taken lightly. After all, this company will be responsible for safeguarding your hard-earned wages and savings.
UK consumers are spoilt for choice in this department. They can turn to the Big Four (HSBC, Lloyds, Natwest and Barclays), financial institutions with years of experience in the bank. Then there are the digital disruptors, such as Monzo and Starling Bank, which have risen through the ranks over the last two years.
The banking and financial sector looks remarkably different post-pandemic. Consumers are demanding convenience. Smooth digital experiences are now the rule, rather than the exception – and the past two years have seen us accelerate towards a cashless world.
Disruptor brands have benefited from this shift. Research shows that these banks’ share of the UK’s personal current account market rose to 8% in 2021 compared to just 1% in 2018. The Big Four, on the other hand, saw their market share drop from 68% to 64% in the same period.
Consumers have a very personal and private relationship with their banks. Trust is essential – something legacy banks have traditionally built-up face-to-face in branches. Digital banks, operating either online or through mobile applications, don’t enjoy the same luxury.
So how can all banks evoke greater trust amongst their consumers, and what can digital newcomers learn from their legacy counterparts?
Facing The Music
Disruptor banks have already demonstrated their ability to cater to consumers’ demands for more convenience. But a lack of face-to-face touchpoints is causing issues in the pursuit for stronger emotional connections between brand and client.
Look at Lloyds who consistently use Eliza’s Aria as its unofficial sonic logo. Or HSBC’s ‘Opportunity doesn’t do borders’ ad, ‘The Great Escape’ theme running underneath. Both legacy banks use iconic sounds – coupled with a sense of ‘Britishness’ – to create an aura of dependability.
Legacy banks have successfully cultivated sonic brands, despite not owning the rights to the music. Audio can be leveraged to underpin banks’ core messaging and reinforce their unique identity. Brands who don’t understand this paradigm shift and adapt their strategies accordingly are going to lose business to those who do get it.
Yet there’s still further to go. SoundOut’s research identified the finance and insurance sector as a leading user of sonic logos – yet this didn’t translate into effectiveness. Legacy banks failed to appreciate the importance of multi-channel strategies. Consumers hear a lot of sounds everyday – and if they can’t pinpoint them back to the right bank, the audio is rendered useless.
And this is where disruptor banks can break new ground and begin reeling in their legacy competitors.
Winning Hearts, Minds and Ears
Increased digitalisation has allowed digital-oriented banks and financial services to become more competitive. And the financial industry has no problem embracing technology – it is the leader in this space. Research shows 35% of financial services (FinServ) organisations have already fully implemented their digitalisation plans, compared to 26% from other sectors.
Disruptor banks now need to go a step further. Branching out and implementing distinctive sonic assets across all platforms – such as mobile apps and websites – can trigger the right emotions and feelings. Mastercard’s research found that 77% of consumers believe that audio fosters more trust across transactions and retail interactions.
Bands have already taken this information and run with it. Visa released a unique sound effect that played after a digital or physical transaction was completed. 83% of consumers felt that this sound, which represented confirmation of a secure and speedy transaction, boosted brand perception.
Apple’s sound for Apple Pay involves a 1-second coin noise that plays after consumers complete a purchase. It’s become almost gamified and this positive association helps to reinforce the brand’s trustworthiness. As a little easter egg, also note how close it is to the actual coin sound from Super Mario!
Digital-only banks can use audio to negate the need for face-to-face interactions whilst simultaneously building a distinctive identity. Audio, irrespective of the length of time it plays, strengthens the brand and provides much-needed differentiation.
Digitalisation isn’t just about developing a premium mobile application or achieving fast loading speeds on a website. The entire user experience (UX) should be considered. Building trust has to be kept at the heart of all strategies – and sound can help disruptor banks tap into this niche.
Legal & General, one of the UK’s leading financial services groups established way back in 1836 – a few years before the first sound recording in history was ever produced –- asked us to scientifically develop a new mindful sonic brand that reflected the desire to offer something more meaningful to customers. Informed by the data we gathered, as well as L&G’s colour palette, we created a sound aesthetic that was modern, clear and considered, providing the consistency across its brand touchpoints whilst also strengthening the emotional bond between brand and customer.
The way we interact with money is changing – and so too is our relationship with it. Banks have an opportunity to utilise sound to reshare their interactions and engagements with users. Audio can effectively add value to the brand in a way that is unique to them.
What Does Money Sound Like?
Disruptor banks are gaining ground on their large-scale legacy rivals, but there is a long way to go before they compete on a level playing field. Up-and-coming digital brands won’t be opening their own local branches anytime soon. Establishing a different, equally effective way to build relationships with clients is a priority.
You don’t need to be sat opposite your audience to trigger the desired emotional response. Developing a set-in-stone sonic identity – be it using television commercials or in-app prompts – is a surefire way to strike a chord with your clients and build the trust that they are looking for.