I’ve enjoyed talking with Sixieme Son USA’s Colleen Fahey since 2015 about the work she’s been leading in audio branding for B2B clients like the city of Atlanta and B2C clients like Huggies. But it wasn’t until reading the just-released book she co-authored that I really grasped the clear implications for B2B applications. The book is Audio Branding: Using Sound To Build Your Brand, and it’s packed with case examples, supported by quantitative research that demonstrates the impact of audio branding.
After reviewing these results, it’s clear to me that, properly used, audio branding tools can result in more effective message delivery and also cost savings. For major advertisers with large budgets, the message effectiveness and cost savings make this a must-explore. And, on the B2B side, where budgets are often smaller, the proven applications include sales films, instructional videos, trade show booths, companywide meetings and customer service centers, among others. In fact, Sixieme Son has found that 50% of their business comes from B2B clients.
“B2B clients need audio branding the most. They typically have very narrow and limited budgets, and making their marketing more effective with sound that sticks just make business sense.”
After thinking about it a bit, and talking it over with Fahey during her May 2017 trip to Los Angeles, we identified two applications that most B2B companies can benefit from. Those are Companywide Meetings and Trade Shows, both of which have multiple examples. These “bread and butter” events are critical to get right, both for external audiences and for internal stakeholders.
Leaving Trade Show Decision Makers With the Right Impression
Trade shows present important business-building opportunities to meet new B2B partners, distributors and suppliers, and to further business agreements with existing partners, distributors and suppliers.
I recently attended the Natural Food Expo in Pasadena and talked with the leadership team of one attendee who had met a new major retail partner in Canada (Loblaw’s). Developing an attractive booth, bringing intriguing products and trade-show-specific marketing techniques are all important as we explored in “A Tale of Two Trade Shows,” the Vitamix case example. Much attention is paid to the visual graphics and design of the booth as well as to attention-getting giveaways.
Audio branding presents another opportunity to enhance this marketing and selling effort, as the Atlanta convention leadership discovered. The target for their trade show is convention planners who plan company meetings and industry meetings. These planners are B2B customers who then, in turn, must convince their corporate, non-profit, or industry group decision makers to move ahead with the destination that they recommend. One Sixieme Son USA solution in this case was to use Atlanta’s brand music to score the Atlanta convention print ads into short “film-like” audiovisual attractions in different sections of the trade booth.
Along with this example, it helps to consider a research study that showed consumers’ choices of wine migrated meaningfully from German wine to French wine depending on which background music (German or French) was playing in the retail store. B2B decision makers are also impacted emotionally by sound and music, whether they consciously recognize it or not. Carefully chosen audio branding leaves these B2B decision makers with the right impression, ideally an emotionally-positive impulse to move forward with the next logical business step.
Upping Your Game in the Next Companywide Meeting
We all know how important companywide meetings are to creating a sense of common purpose, meaning and a positive culture in the organization. Audio and music can enhance these events, amplifying key inflection points and leaving the audience on a literal “high note.”
Too often, companies leave it up to individual executives to choose their own music, or music is overlooked altogether in setting the stage. When individual executives choose their own music, transitions between speakers can be disjointed and jarring. Unfortunately, executives also often choose music that is personally meaningful to them, or was a major hit when they were younger. Fahey describes,
“For younger audience members, hearing this music can be like listening to ‘Bicycle Built for Two,’ and they often end up laughing at the musical choice, rather than feeling moved by it. There’s a lost opportunity to use music to help smooth over awkward points when the audience is assembling, build interest and set the stage for key speakers, and create an upbeat atmosphere when exiting. As a bonus leave-behind, some clients have even offered customized, downloadable ringtones for the audience to use.”
Audio branding opportunities abound in B2B settings, but it’s rare that any company considers the impact of sound in their marketing strategy. In your B2B firm, start with crafting a soundscape for trade shows and companywide meetings. And if you’ve witnessed any audio branding examples lately (good or bad!), I’d love to hear about them.