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How sonic branding can build trust and confidence

By Luc van Stiphout, Head of Music & Brands and partner at international creative music agency MassiveMusic

Over the past years we’ve seen banks doubling down on their digital services, and cutting investments on their physical presence.

Never before have clients been interacting with their bank on such a frequent level, yet with less human interactions than ever.

Covid-19 has not been beneficial to the feeling of closeness and human connections when interacting with your bank either.

Through digitisation, it has become a lot easier for brands operating in financial services to diversify their offering with insurance, insurance companies offering loans; the list goes on. On the other hand, it’s also more difficult for brands to stand out. Commoditisation lurks around the corner with consumers being able to compare services at the click of a button.

So, brand preference are more important than ever. Building and maintaining a strong, trustworthy brand is critical. Banks and financial institutions have an opportunity to build trust and drive recall to their brand by tapping into the power of sound and music. It’s another way of helping differentiate your brand and literally cut through the other noise; you can easily close your eyes to visual assets but it’s much harder to shut off your ears. Post Covid-19, financial services must utilise this unique moment of brand building to further cement equity and positive memory structures for their customers.

Brand building during times of crisis

Consistent research has shown that companies who invest in their brands will propel with accelerated growth out of a recession. Where many brand-building strategies might be in place, brand building with the power of music and sound remains largely untapped, and could provide a much-needed sense of assurance for consumers at this time.

Luc Van Stiphout

Luc Van Stiphout

For example, recent research from Ipsos found unique sonic cues are more effective than assets leveraged from wider culture, such as celebrities and licenced music. And, while less frequently used, audio assets are, on average, more effective than some visual assets.

As banking becomes remote, financial services should be looking to offer much-needed assurance and empathy with customers during this very difficult period. An audible reminder that the company is providing a needed and trusted service can embed loyalty in customers as well as building a sense of distinctiveness for the brand.

Sonic branding can provide consistency, recognition and recall – be that on the app, advertising, in branch, on-hold on the telephone or via a smart speaker. Mastercard, notably, last year unveiled its sonic logo to coincide with the revamp of the brand; a unique melody that plays when customers interact with the brand in-store (point of sale or payment acceptance sounds), online, or when customers use Mastercard on voice assistants like Amazon Alexa – another shift in how customers are engaging via different technological platforms and where the brand’s audio strategy is critical. In the work we have done at MassiveMusic for various brands in the financial industry, such as UBS, Tadawul, Deutsche Bank, ING, and CIBC to name a few, we’ve always seen the role of audio in closing the loop between communication and interaction for consumers and their chosen financial services brands.

Money indeed makes the world go round, but it also represents something very emotional. We spend so much of our lifetimes dedicated to earning, spending and saving money, and we place a lot of trust in our banks and other financial services to help take care of it. Therefore all interactions with these brands must support this sense of trust and confidence.

Practical applications of audio in financial services

When the majority of today’s money is digital and therefore abstract, communication and interactions between consumers and financial services must transcend the functional.

Extensive studies prove the power of music and sound in evoking full ranges of emotions, so it makes sense for financial services to add sound as part of their brand assets in order to better address and emotionalise these interactions for consumers.

For example, app notifications with sound elements can engage with customers on a fun and gaming level, while also assuring and informing them with a sense of security. Perhaps a sound notification that congratulates the customers for depositing into their savings account, that tells them when their money has been successfully transferred, or that sends them a sound alert when funds are low.

It’s not always about sounding completely different, but rather about deploying audio in a smarter way and personalising the way consumers interact with digital services. These sonic triggers are simple and functional but still rooted in the emotional engagement between bank and customer.

The way we experience money and how we feel about our transactions is central to our faith in those that look after our finances – and sound can be a growing influence in this sphere. As competition increases, banks and other financial services are becoming more agile, advanced and modern in the way they communicate and connect with customers. And so they must use every opportunity to build their brand, and sound can be an extremely effective part of that ecosystem.

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