Creativity Brand Strategy Audio

How brands in India are taking sonic branding beyond the demo stage

By Amit Bapna |

October 31, 2022 | 6 min read

Indian brands adding the power of audio and sound to their marketing playbooks could take the practice beyond the experimental stage.

microphone

Sonic branding can be rewarding – but comes with its challenges / Unsplash

Rajeev Raja is one of the pioneers of sonic branding in India. The founder of BrandMusiq, Raja is both musician and a marketer, “a combination that comes in handy to him in connecting the dots of the two ends of the diverse spectrum,” he says.

Now he argues the use of sonic branding is gaining serious traction with marketers. After the agency created a musical logo – or ’mogo’ – for Mastercard (now in use across 190 countries), BrandMusiq’s clients expanded to include Federal Bank, SBI Life and Himalaya. Most recently, the team created sonic identities for carmaker Toyota and Unilever-owned brands Vim and Bru.

The early years of Raja’s career were all about educating clients, with more meetings than business acquisitions. Now, he says, the tide has turned. Braver clients including Vistara Airlines and HDFC Bank became early adopters of sonic branding, eventually leading to BrandMusiq’s lauded work on Mastercard’s sonic identity. As the practice catches on, can Indian marketers establish a playbook for audio marketing?

Speed of sound

More Indian brands are embracing sonic marketing techniques than ever before. Consider Indian FMCG brand Himalaya, which wanted to communicate its strong heritage in Ayurveda, organic products and an innovative and progressive brand journey. The challenge was “to blend and put out the best of tradition and modernity,” says Raja, “so consumers start perceiving it as a caring yet innovative brand.”

Or Bharti Axa Life, a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises, India’s leading business group, and Axa, one of the largest global insurance companies, which recently unveiled its sonic brand identity as part of the overall brand proposition ’#dothesmartthing.’

Geetanjali Kothari, head of marketing, Bharti Axa Life, tells The Drum: “The brand’s sonic identity was created as an extension of its personality and to help drive recall for the brand across stakeholder segments including the customers, employees and partners.”

The brand is deploying the sonic identity across a variety of touchpoints including brand assets, transactions, customer caller tunes and ringtones. “The idea is to have an identity that stays in the memory, even from a distance,” adds Kothari.

Meanwhile, MG Motor has been deploying music as a crucial element in its marketing to help connect its customers to the brand. “This includes renditions of our brand anthem, a Sound logo and curated music, which eventually helped us evolve our sonic branding and association,“ shares Udit Malhotra, head of marketing at MG Motor India. To ensure that its audio strategy is adding to the overall brand strategy, the car brand has been closely working with the specialist agency Songdew.

Notes of caution

Even as the technique becomes normalized, marketers still face the challenge of developing a sonic identity that matches brand values and sounds coherent, says Divya Singhal, professor of marketing at Goa Institute of Management, India.

Singhal has designed a one-of-its-kind elective course titled ‘music and management,’ which is being taught as part of the curriculum at the Goa Institute of Management. “The idea is to connect music to life and management,” she adds.

Even as brands have started using sound and music in their advertising, they must follow a protocol of dos and don’ts to create a long-term impact, and also use music that matches the DNA of the brand.

In Singhal’s view, marketers should be careful not to deploy music as a complementary medium or select it based on their personal preferences. Instead, music should be used as a strategic tool, developed through a process that aims to achieve long-term impact, she says.

According to MG Motor’s Malhotra, the biggest hurdle in deploying sonic branding is that people mistake it for a one-time activation.

For it to be successful, sonic branding requires a concerted effort across various touch points – be it ads, building experiences in showrooms or extending the same experience to social media.

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