To make your radio station stand out from the crowd, it’s important to have a clear concept and great branding. This can be done through elements such as the name of your radio, your logo, or even your color story. However, audio branding also plays a big part in creating your identity.

1. What is audio branding?
2. Benefits of audio branding
3. Audio branding for your radio
4. How to create effective audio branding?

What is audio branding?

Generally speaking, sight is the first sense solicited by a brand to distinguish itself. However, music and sound can make a person travel just as much as a beautiful visual and brings just as much emotion, if not more! Audio branding, (also known as “sonic branding”), is when you use audible elements to develop your brand. Essentially, it’s a marketing and communication tool that is used to reinforce the identity of your brand.

An audio logo

Put simply, you can think of it as a kind of “audio logo” for your radio station. It’s something that allows you to become easily recognizable to your audience just by sound. It may be something that you’ve never really thought of before, but many brands use this strategy. Here are a couple of brands that have implemented an audio strategy without you even realising:

  • McDonald’s: recognized around the globe thanks to its audio logo “ba-da-ba-ba-ba”.
  • Netflix: the famous “ta-dum” that you hear each time you open the platform.

Now that you have a clearer idea of what audio branding is, let’s see how you can use it for your online radio station. In the world of radio, we can replace the term “audio logo” with “jingle”, as it’s an audio element that is used multiple times a day to identify your radio to your listeners. As it will be repeated regularly, it should be short (around 10 seconds) and memorable, as you want it to stay in your listeners’ minds. In reality, audio branding goes much further than a simple radio jingle, let’s take a look step by step.

Audio branding vs visual branding

Just as a graphic logo helps your brand become visually recognizable, audio branding allows your brand to be recognized by sound. These elements go hand in hand, and you should include both when it comes to creating your brand identity.

It’s important that both elements align with each other and work cohesively to represent who you are. For example, if your visual logo is bright and colorful, then your audio logo should reflect that with upbeat sounds. Obviously, as a radio station, audio marketing plays a big role in your identity so be sure to use it to your advantage!

Benefits of audio branding

The world of audio has evolved rapidly over the past few years with smart speakers, online radio, and podcasts. Those who don’t take the time to develop an audio strategy could soon be left behind. Beyond being easily recognizable thanks to sound, audio branding also provides many other benefits.

Grab people’s attention

Gaining loyal listeners is a top priority when running a radio station, but with an ever-growing number of radios out there it can be difficult to stand out. There’s a high chance that there are other stations that exist with the same theme or concept as yours. Perhaps you have a similar name to another radio or use the same colors for your visual identity. This is where you can use audio branding to help differentiate yourself from competing radio stations.

Creating a catchy, attention-grabbing audio logo is one way to ensure that you stay in the mind of your listeners. It gives you a few seconds to show people who you are, and if you do it right, it can entice people to keep listening to discover more.

A clear message

It’s well known that music and sound have the ability to impact people’s moods. Upbeat music tends to evoke happiness and high energy, whereas softer music has calming and relaxing qualities to it. It’s important to keep this in mind when creating your sonic branding so that you incorporate sounds that reflect what you want your listeners to feel when hearing your brand message. When searching for the music to accompany your audio logo, think about the emotions that come to mind when hearing the sounds. If this emotion corresponds to the concept of your radio station, then it will be a good fit!

Be memorable

Studies indicate that music and sounds help better understand the message, and also enhance your verbal memory. Essentially, you want your audio branding to get stuck in your listeners’ heads! It’s often said that “repetition is the father of learning”, so by hearing your audio logo multiple times your audience will quickly remember it, and automatically associate it to your brand.

As your sonic logo is something that your listeners will hear multiple times a day, make sure that it’s easy on the ears, and not “annoying”. Bear in mind that it’s something they will hear early in the morning, in the afternoon, and also late at night, so don’t make it too disruptive or aggressive.

Increase trust

Creating a strong, authentic relationship with your audience is key to gaining their trust and loyalty. Remember that trust is built through consistency. This is why it’s important to take your time with creating your sound and make sure that you get it just right, and avoid changing it a few months down the line. Your audio branding should become a familiar element in your listeners’ daily lives and should become part of their routine. By creating a consistent sound, you give your audience a sense of safety and belonging, which will help build loyalty toward your radio.

Audio branding for your radio

You may think that audio branding for your radio station is limited to creating a great jingle, but it goes much further than that. You need to create a complete and coherent sonic universe for your radio station! Let’s take a look at the various elements that will be a part of your audio branding.

Essential audio elements

Every sound that is broadcast on your radio, (outside of the music content you play), is part of your brand identity. This can refer to:

  • Jingle/Sweeper: a short, pre-recorded sample that is used by radio stations as a transition between songs. Generally, they include the radio’s name or short promo to help identify the station.
  • Music Bed: an instrumental (no voice) that is used as background music during a radio program in order to fill in any blanks, and help create a specific atmosphere.
  • Host & DJ voices: the voices of your radio DJs and hosts is also part of your audio branding! Make sure that you align the tone that you want to use on your station (formal, casual, serious, light-hearted…)
  • Sound effect: an artificially created or enhanced sound. Decide which effects can or cannot be used on your radio station.

Remember that the idea is to create a unique audio universe that reflects your radio station, so ensure that all of your elements are cohesive.

Consistency is key

One of the keys to successful audio branding is consistency! Once you have established your sound universe, you must apply it at all times in order for your strategy to be effective. Just like you would create a graphic charter for your visual elements, create an “audio charter” that explains your audio branding strategy. A radio team can be made up of many different people, some appearing more regularly on air than others. By creating a guideline for your audio universe, you ensure that everyone respects the rules and maintains consistency.

How to create effective audio branding

In order to create effective audio branding, it’s important to take into consideration various steps.

Define your brand adjectives

The first step to creating your sonic universe is thinking about who you are, and what you want to reflect onto the world. Start by brainstorming the adjectives that describe your brand to ensure you have a clear vision of what you want to portray to your listeners. In short, the strategy for a brand that defines itself as “upbeat” and “dynamic” will be very different from a brand that associates itself with the terms “relaxing” and “comforting”.

Don’t hesitate to ask friends and family if they feel like the words you have chosen accurately represent your radio. Once you have defined the adjectives that best fit your radio station, you can move onto the next step.

Find sounds that reflect your station

Take the adjectives that you have just defined into consideration and search for sounds or music that reflect them. The more your audio branding reflects your radio, the easier it will be for people to remember and associate you with that sound.

Two aspects allow an audio logo to be unique and identifiable:

  • Melody: this can refer to the distinctive sequence of notes that characterizes your jingle. No matter how many variations there are, it remains the same, in order to keep the brand’s identification.
  • Sound: the instruments and voices that create the melodic line. They should be chosen match to the image of the your radio brand.

You can create these melodies and sounds yourself, or use existing ones (with the necessary rights of course). Websites such as Freesound, Free-Loops, and Sound Bible can be a great place to search for specific sound snippets to use in your audio branding.

Think about your target audience

When starting a radio station it’s essential to define your target audience in order to create a strong listener base and attract the right audience. You’ll need to keep your target audience in mind when creating the audio universe of your radio station.

If you choose to use a voice in your audio branding, should it be young or old? Male or female? Think about who or what your audience will relate to most and use this knowledge to create an audio branding strategy that will attract that particular public.

The takeaway

As we’ve seen, audio branding is an incredibly powerful tool, especially for radio stations. Not only will it help you stand out from competitors, it will help create trust and familiarity with your audience. Remember, in order for your audio branding to be effective, it must be consistent! They main points to keep in mind when creating your audio strategy are:

1. Make sure that your message is easily comprehensible
2. Audio branding goes much further than a simple radio jingle
3. Your audio universe should reflect the concept of your radio
4. The key to a successful audio branding strategy is consistency
5. Don’t forget to keep your audience in mind when finding your radio’s sound.

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