Keeping up with the latest cutting-edge technology is part and parcel of being a tech ‘giant’. So it’s unsurprising when the likes of Meta and Google have said they’re integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) – the hottest trend at the moment – into their ad platforms.
But just like any other trend, there’s always the danger of over-saturation and before you know it, the thing that everybody loved for being cool and innovative is now out of vogue.
Sustaining the excitement around what AI could do to empower and improve the advertising industry should be the priority for everybody. But when everyone’s jumping on AI, how can we ensure it doesn’t turn into a bandwagon that consumers will tire of?
Looking at what we know about consumer behaviour and the power that music and sound have had in influencing behaviours, perhaps the secret sauce to standing out amidst the AI-generated sea of sameness is all in the sonics.
Embracing a sound-on era
Historically, visual assets have played a seismic role in shaping brand identities. And yet, is your brand still there if your audience closes your eyes? As our Songtradr colleague Shez Mehra would say, “When you close your eyes, most of the world’s brands disappear.” As we begin to step further into a sound-on world, with the exponential rise of platforms such as TikTok, brands are increasingly recognising the value of sound and music. Netflix, Moonpig.com, Flash, and Colgate are just a few brands that have recognised the significance of a sonic identity that transcends the limitations of a visual world.
In today’s digital landscape, not only is it important having a sonic identity that can work across TV and social media. We must also recognise that the rapid advancements in technology have opened up new avenues for brands to show up in – mixed realities (virtual & augmented), product experiences and digital events present unique opportunities for the strategic use of sound.
AI offers many possibilities, but businesses must define and maintain fixed brand assets that provide consistency while exploring new avenues. Visual and sound are often seen as separate entities, but consumers don’t disconnect them. There is a symbiotic relationship that exists between the two, where there is instant recall on both sides. If you have the sonic logo, you’ll automatically see the visual logo in your head.
Similarly, the other way round, you’ll see the visual logo out in the real world and, by default, you begin to hum or hear the sonic logo in your head. That’s a testament to strong advertising, having different touchpoints that work together to serve a brand. It should all be seen as one cohesive brand identity. And we must remember sound isn’t exclusive to any sector: the recent Music of Beauty report by Songtradr revealed music accounts for 15% of a brand’s performance, and their previous Music of Beer shows it accounts there for 30%.
The strategic use of sound in advertising can create subconscious human connections evoking emotions and memories that align with an overarching purpose and promise. Sounds can serve as a powerful instrument to bridge that gap and foster positive connections. Findings from the IPSOS ‘Power of You’ report, emphasises the importance of having unique and distinctive brand assets in enhancing creative effectiveness, as well as underlining that sound, on average, has more of an impact than visual assets.
The deafening silence of businesses on mute in certain digital arenas places them at a disadvantage. Being ‘heard’ on a platform is imperative when cementing a brand’s promise in a commercially-saturated climate.
Assert your assets
Striking a balance is essential. Leaning too heavily on AI for generated content can potentially compromise a brand’s messaging or identity, where the wrong colour or wording is used, turning it into an unsolicited rendition of the logo game. Studies have shown that nearly 80% of consumers can recall a brand through its signature colours, whereas less than half can remember the name, making it necessary for brands to have substantial brand assets.
Ensuring a brand’s values are accurately mirrored through generated content without a human lens is a gamble. To strike a chord with consumers, it’s crucial for the content created to drive recall – something sound can do effectively. Consistency is key, and consistency of recognition of assets is fundamental to any brand development. Without a consistent theme tying the brand promise together, consumer recognition can easily get lost with AI recreating branded assets.
This further underlines the importance of having different owned advertising touchpoints for customers to engage with, ensuring the persona and spirit of a business doesn’t veer off track.
Introducing the new co-creators
Although generative content as a whole faces copyright issues, the music industry stands out due to the major control music labels have over copyright. It’s great to embrace AI, but brands must bear in mind that there are risks with leaning on AI-generated music, as the content created can be derived from catalogues owned by music labels.
Creators need to establish guidelines and ensure that there is a human lens to mitigate these risks. Coca-Cola’s recent advert (below) using AI-powered tools, for example, is a perfect blend of AI-enhanced transitions and human creative input. While AI can creatively enhance a campaign, it’s important to anchor these AI tools with human insight, allowing brands to maintain a sense of authenticity. Seeing AI as co-creators removes the risk of branded content feeling one tone – beige.
Instead of turning a blind eye or futilely trying to boycott AI, it’s important to actively engage in the conversations surrounding it. It’s inevitable that technology will continue to evolve, and industry creatives should embrace the changes and learn about how it can enhance their work. For instance, it only six months ago we experienced the arrival of ChatGPT, and it has made waves, transforming the way creators operate and think.
By being a part of the dialogue, advertisers can influence the trajectory of AI and ensure that these tools are used effectively, preserving brand authenticity, sounding great while still promoting genuine human connection.
Gus Nisbet is senior creative strategist at MassiveMusic.