The author is CEO of Benztown.
Every great audio brand tells a story, and makes listening to a radio station an experience far beyond just accessing a format. In this age of countless choices in entertainment and audio jukeboxes in the form of digital and on-demand music services, radio imaging is more critical than ever to creating an experience and world that listeners want to spend as much time with as possible.
Audio branding and imaging reinforce a station’s story with detail, nuance and frequency, identifying and differentiating the brand from its competitors in a strategic and engaging way. Imaging is the character or vibe of a radio station that everything else is built upon, the nucleus of the brand that communicates brand personality with the audience more often than when the mic’s open.
That said, audio branding, radio imaging and sound design are highly abstract, artistic and subjective areas. So how do we evaluate such a complex, intangible medium? What is the difference between a good audio brand and a great audio brand? Would it help if we could see sound?
“Seeing Sound” is a blueprint for Benztown’s creative team. It is a five-step process developed over the years to deconstruct, understand and create world-class audio brands and to transform good audio brands into great audio brands.
This process is characterized by the visualization of sounds, and allows imaging directors to visualize their brand and define it for their program directors, general managers, and production team.
It is not a one-size-fits-all recipe for sound design. Every station has a unique market, format, positioning against web competition and other differentiating factors that need to be evaluated individually and as a whole. But it all starts here and helps drive the tremendous success we have building great audio brands that listeners love with our station clients and partners.
Step #1: Know who you are, what you do and for whom you are doing it.
Define the core values of your program and brand characteristics by developing an on-air positioning statement. Are you optimistic or informative? Is your goal to be an opinion leader or a friendly neighbor? Great audio brands are useful to the listener, as well as being entertaining and fun. Audio branding has your station’s values at heart, and those values drive every audio expression of the brand.
Once you know who you are as a brand, develop a core listener profile by identifying who is currently listening and whom you wish to reach. That is where reliable research comes into play and informs the process and your brand strategy.
You also need to know the competition and market dynamics. Be as specific and detailed as possible in your descriptions to draw a clear visual picture of your brand and the listener landscape. The clearer you are, the better your brand will be. This step is essential to creating an audio brand that hits the mark and resonates with listeners.
Step #2: Translate these values into sounds.
Use sounds to effectively tell your brand’s story, creating a visual image in the listener’s mind. This is where the art of sound design comes in. It is key to not only understand the music, but the demo and lifestyle of listeners; to speak to them directly through jingles, custom imaging and promos that tell the story through effective and original use of sound; and build upon that story, week after week.
Step #3: Compile all these values into a world-class audio brand identity and an outstanding sound logo.
Deconstruct and define how your sound will be produced in relation to genre, instrumentation, mood, rhythm and tempo (it never hurts to do research to guide your decisions). These choices should be reflected in all station-related audio, including jingles and voiceover artists.
Step #4: Identify your station’s touch points with listeners through audio branding. Every interaction is an opportunity to make an emotional connection with your listeners and create affinity for your brand.
For example, our client Hitz Malaysia has 20 interactions with the listener in an average hour on air (see graphic). Those 20 interactions are 20 distinct opportunities to connect, cut through the noise, get the message delivered successfully and reinforce the brand.
Don’t forget to consider all the non-linear touch points your audio branding has with your audience, including online, on demand, and at events.
Step #5: Create a world-class audio brand!
Strategize your audio branding and imaging by defining its boundaries and style, and creating a vision that fits all the core values you have identified through research. The more thought you put into it, the more successful you will be in creating a great audio brand that listeners love, remember and choose to spend time with.
Benztown is a radio imaging, production library, programming, jingles and voiceover services company. See benztown.com.