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030 - Finance Digest │ Financial Literacy │ Financial PlanningBy Ed Trotter, UK Head of Business Development at MassiveMusic, a global leading agency for all things music and sound

The financial services (FinServ) space is full of striking, creative logos. Think Natwest’s interlocking red cubes or Lloyds distinctive black horse – both are iconic and have great recall.

Designing effective visual logos, however, doesn’t automatically mean that your audience is listening. As mentioned in The Power of Sound in Finance report, there is a disappointing lack of market penetration from financial brands embarking on sonic identities. Mastercard is a perfect example, ranking in the top quartile for effectiveness – yet languishing in the bottom quartile for attribution.

Financial institutions are finding it increasingly challenging to make themselves heard. Increased competition – partially driven by the sector’s rapid digital transformation – is to blame. Online challenger banks such as Monzo and Starling Bank have ripped up the playbook and are knocking on the door of legacy institutions which have dominated the scene for decades.

Brands must broaden their horizons and embrace new marketing strategies or risk drifting into obscurity. Building brand affinity and equity have always been long-term goals. Differentiation should also now be prioritised – and music is key to achieving this.

But why should finance brands invest time and resources into developing sonic brands, and how can these strategies cut through the noise?

Stop being tone-deaf

Sonic brands aren’t one-hit wonders – they have been used for millennia. Paulinus of Nola, a prominent Roman senator, used church bells in 400 AD as a sign that it was time to pray. More recently, radio advertisers in the 1900s turned to jingles to push their message across.

Music and sound – when leveraged correctly – are effective tools for building brand awareness. But high-profile consumer brands in the FinServ sector continue to struggle to gain traction. A Veritonic research study found that in the wider tech space Microsoft Teams, Mastercard and Slack all heavily invested in their sonic brands – yet none of the respondents could correctly identify their audio logos.

Audio’s rich symbolic power can solve the FinServ sector’s traditional pain points – namely, brand awareness and reach. But hearing a sound is situational and the logo alone won’t be enough to trigger positive emotions within your audience. There has to be sufficient advertising support to get the sonic brand off the ground – and this means building on your core traits.

Most banks and financial institutions stress that trust and integrity are at the heart of their businesses, driving operations. Investing in a sonic brand which reinforces these characteristics offers an opportunity to develop an image that the audience can relate to – and builds brand equity.

Sonic branding can also be financially rewarding. Implementing the right audio across multiple touchpoints is the catalyst to increasing your marketing budget’s ROI. Visa’s research into the power of audio uncovered that 83% of consumers believed that sound cues would have a positive influence on their perception of the brand.

Improving purchase likelihood, enhancing memorability – sonic brands are power assets. But smash hits aren’t built in a day – they take time.

Not to sound like a broken record…

There has been a paradigm shift in the FinServ sector post-pandemic. And brands that fail to appreciate the new status quo will quickly lose ground on their competitors.

Sound is more important than ever. Brands must navigate countless audio-rich platforms. TikTok, YouTube, Instagram Stories – all touchpoints that provide an opportunity to build relationships with prospective consumers.

Financial brands must carefully plan how they want to be perceived in these sonic-rich spaces. But doing this on your own – without the necessary expertise, tools or data – will only cause problems. Enlisting the help of sonic experts is key.

The need for flexibility is apparent – and we work to ensure that brands can pivot their strategy to accommodate shifting consumer behaviours and expectations. Our scientific, evidence-based approach to audio provides us with an in-depth understanding of its business impact.

ING has provided financial services since 1762. Its message – for people to ‘do their thing’ – reinforces the company’s desire to make everyday banking activities seamless. MassiveMusic was tasked with developing a holistic sonic identity that would resonate across global audiences. ‘The Sound of ING’ was produced following in-depth research into every ING market. This bespoke audio package included tracks that could be implemented across ING’s above-the-line (ABL) campaigns as well as a comprehensive global music library.

Don’t play it by ear

Natwest and Lloyds may be household names and their logos may be easily recognised. But this doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. Consumer habits, and the way they are consuming media, are evolving. Building a solid sound and music strategy is crucial to standing out in an increasingly noisy landscape.

Competition in the FinServ sector is fierce. Disruptor banks are forcing brands to reevaluate how they connect with their audiences. It is time to face the music. Brands must change their tune and invest in sonic branding – or see themselves tumble down the charts.

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