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Branding Volume: Turn It On

  |  May 25, 2004   |  Comments

There's a good reason why customers aren't hearing your message.

Two chief ways of communicating are sight and sound. Our eyes are bombarded with impressions. Flick through your TV channels, and you'll see news stations not only fill the screen with graphs, news flashes, a crawl, and pictures, but manage to tuck an anchorperson into a corner as well. Consider this, along with the fact that by age of 65, the average American has been exposed to some 2 million TV commercials. That's the equivalent of eight hours of television viewing daily... for six years! That's a pretty alarming statistic.

This proliferation of advertising is the brand builder's plight. There's a constant battle for attention. What more could we possibly do to squeeze another second of the audience's attention out when the screens are already so overcrowded?

Well, most Web sites are doing their best to keep pushing the visuals because they're strongly influenced by TV advertising. As a result, most brand Web sites are a one-way street to nowhere. They continue with the misguided conviction more visual content crammed onto the screen will improve exposure and increase uptake.

As is so often the case, the answer to harnessing consumer attention may lie in defining an opposing trend. Google's solution is adopting simplicity. It was so successfully achieved, simplicity became the Google brand. What a lovely foundation, especially in an overcrowded branding world.

I'll bet one of the first concepts a consumer would associate with Google is "simplicity," in stark contrast to Yahoo and other competing search services that make the simple more complex. Simplicity is probably a concept most marketers are at least aware of. There's another, unexplored path not many brands have discovered.

Turn on your computer's speaker system and check out any Fortune 500 Web site. Unrelenting silence will make you wonder if those speakers are working. You won't hear a peep out of most of them. Of the 500 Web sites I've examined over the past three months, only 41 made use of sound. That's less than 10 percent!

What's a film without sound? What's speech or radio without sound? Sound plays a vital role in society and communications. Sound is an integral function of most computers. But for some reason, brand builders have never really exploited it. History offers the most likely reason. In 1995's World Wide Web, sound cost too much in disk space and download time. But this is far from the case today. Sound should be treated as a component as essential as visuals.

Check out some Asian hotel sites, such as the Mandarin Oriental and the Banyan Tree. You'll notice by hearing just a couple of well-chosen notes, you're instantly transported into the brand's universe. Strange that with such strong evocativeness being so simple to achieve, most brands are still on silent mode.

Do me a favor: Turn up the volume on your brand. It may just help customers hear you better.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom is recognized as one of the world's primary on- and offline branding gurus by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He is the author of several best-selling branding books including his latest, "BRAND sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound," published by Free Press. BRANDsense.com details information about Lindstrom's "BRAND sense" and the BRAND sense Symposium, a branding conference running in 51 cities in 31 countries.

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