The value of the Sonic brand

(Mike McVeigh) I have always been interested in the cycle of use of audio signatures, sounds, brands, logos, mnemonic sounds and advertising jingles on radio. We use jingles. We don’t use jingles. We take iconic audio signatures and change them however we want. We changed the voice talent we used for our radio presence because someone decided, “It’s time for a change.”

Sometimes the excuse is: “We need a fresh coat of paint.” This happens mostly when a new program director (brand manager or whatever you want to call the position) joins the radio station.

My experience is that very few people in content creation take the time to understand the value of audio branding. Little is known about audiences’ perceptions of voiceover talent, their assessment of the value of a station’s decades-old audio signature that is often updated in song form, or the strength of a highly identifiable musical audio signature.

I grew up in the greater Pittsburgh, PA area. When I was a kid, you could hum the KDKA Pittsburgh song without singing the words and everyone would know which radio station you were referencing.

Many brands outside of radio have used sound branding for decades. NBC and their bells have come and gone, only to come back with their streaming service Peacock. Netflix’s audio logo features a dramatic single-note chord. When visiting a theater, you’ll often hear THX’s “the audience is listening” sweeping sound blended into organ chords. ESPN’s “da da da da da da” is unforgettable.

I hear it on TV when I watch ESPN. on ESPN Radio. When sports news breaks, I hear it on my phone. The signs are consistent in where and how they are used.

Some songs are used as audio signatures. Rush Limbaugh purchased the rights to Chrissie Hynde’s “My City Was Gone” as his theme song. John Tesh wrote and sang “Roundball Rock,” which was used as the theme song for NBC’s NBA. Rumor has it it would return if the league moved to NBC. Fiona Apple wrote and performed “The Container,” which was used as the theme song for Showtime event. The audio images created by these songs, when used as audio logos, are similar to the sound of Pavlov’s dog ringing a bell.

The value of audio signatures, consistency in using the same voiceover talent, and embracing the use of advertising jingles is growing at a rate that matches the growth in competition for audiences. In the world of media, it’s easy for audiences to get confused about whose voice they’re listening to, or who they’re looking for for repeat listening, and using voice branding can help solve this problem. It’s all about making your content and broadcasts memorable.

It’s also important to understand the history of the station’s identity. If a station is successful, how you imagine it and develop your creative broadcast message is crucial. A legendary rock station in my neighborhood used the same voice talent for over 20 years. During this process, they decided the dub needed to be changed.

Classic rock stations on the market have found voice-over talent that mirrors the imaging of the now-extinct rock singer. This resulted in them stealing the traditional rocker’s image. A great move for classic rock radio.

I’m not saying change is a bad thing, or that you shouldn’t improve your imagery, creative messaging, or update your messaging logo. What I mean is that you should always acknowledge the huge impact of change. Make an effort to understand every aspect of your station, especially if it’s successful.

Before making changes, consider the connection between your most common users and the various imaging elements you have. Always remember that being number one in ratings or revenue is not your birthright. Thoughtful evaluation is always necessary. Change for the sake of change makes no sense.

Mike McVay Current President McVeigh Media can be reached [email protected].Read Mike’s Radio Ink profile here.

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