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Best audio branding: Mastercard retains top spot as sound investment pays off

Best audio branding: Mastercard retains top spot as sound investment pays off

Global brands are increasing their investment in music, with consistent sonic cues giving a competitive advantage, according to new research.

New research by sonic branding agency amp, shows global companies investing in audio branding and bespoke musical assets are creating a demonstrable competitive advantage in their ability to communicate with consumers, in a year that has seen media consumption and interaction rapidly increase across digital and mobile platforms.

Amp’s third annual index of the world’s Best Audio Brands (BAB) shows evidence that companies investing in developing high quality and owned audio assets – such as sonic logos and music specially created for their brands – have gained significant ground on their rivals. This is creating a stark ‘audio advantage’ gap, whereby many brands are struggling to cut through the noise, especially those without any recognisable audio identity.

The Sound of Success

For the second year in a row, Mastercard leads the ranking, due to the brands growing use of its unique holistic and DNA-based sonic identity.

Consistently expanding the use of sound across all its global digital platforms and further growing its audible footprint at physical and digital retail services, Mastercard ranked highly across all key criteria measured in BAB.

Global brands creating an audio advantage

Overall, the top 25 brands scored highly against the five key criteria which amp uses to measure audio investment performance: customer recognition, customer trust, customer experience, customer engagement and customer belonging.

As a result, the top 25 brands in the index have opened up a clear lead over others. Many are now well placed to develop increasingly sophisticated use of audio assets, especially across digital and mobile channels, as consumers continue to favour these for brand engagement.

Many brands that dropped in this year’s ranking increased their usage of generic stock music. Google dropped 16 places and Amazon (scored as the overall brand including Alexa) dropped 12 places for this reason. They are losing important brand recognition in cluttered although fast-engaging digital channels and don’t build any brand equity in the audio space.

For example, Coca-Cola, jumped well up the index by spending a little more on bespoke music, such as its partnership with Tyler the Creator for a global campaign.

Michele Arnese, Global CEO, amp commented: “Making a brand heard is more important than ever before. The past 18 months have accelerated the importance of sound and voice as vital elements of the brand identity and customer experience toolbox.

Meaningful and purposeful brand communication takes advantage from a ownable and authentic sound ecosystem. With strong growth in app-based and contactless digital interactions and streamed audible content, marketers have shifted spending to boost digital storytelling that can be heard (and recognised). We’d like to congratulate this year’s leaders and highlight the opportunity for brands that are yet to truly invest in finding their voice.”

Björn Thorleifsson, Head of Strategy & Research, amp added: “This year has shown that those who were already embarking on their sonic branding journeys have increased their lead on trailing rivals – now clearly falling behind. Given the evolving ability of sound to reach consumers whatever the device or channel they’re on, we expect to see increased investment from brands looking to stand out amongst the online noise. There are already best practice examples from leaders, such as Mastercard, and we’d encourage those who want to improve brand recognition and even performance, to adopt a little less conversation on sonic branding, and a little more action.”

Key Best Audio Brands Facts 2021

This year saw five new brands jump into the top 10 (Audi, Mercedes, Netflix, Hyundai and Siemens) and the highest climbing sector was beverages with automotive not far behind. Since BAB’s inception, 12 brands on the BAB ranking have invested in personalised audio assets, a figure expected to grow in the near future.

The highest climbing brands were a trinity of financial services: HSBC, American Express and J.P. Morgan. This was owing to an increase in customised audio, and for HSBC the full roll-out of its sonic identity, created in 2019. Colgate, Goldman Sachs, and Danone saw the biggest drop in the rankings, owing predominately to an increased reliance on stock music across digital channels.


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