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The Psychology of Sound in Brand Experience

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Ben MacKinney

Audio Services Manager

Alford Media

Sean Baxley

Vice President, Production

Freeman AV

Leverage audio science and best practices to boom audience engagement today

We live in visual times. Video streaming and memes are a main currency for successful marketing online (with or without cats). The era of eye candy extends to brand experience as well, where virtual reality displays, mobile LED screens the size of houses, and hypnotic 3D projection mapping can transform a regular event into an immersive experience. 

But we can’t forget the importance of sound! Beyond mic feedback and volume levels, sound design can have a significant impact on your brand experience. Adding the right sound content to visual content can radically increase audience engagement and elevate your brand above the loud noise of a competitive industry. 

Here are a few tips and tricks from sound science and psychology you can use today. 

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The soundtrack of audience influence

It’s no secret that harsh sound can break glass, and at the very least annoy your eardrum. On the other hand, sound can affect moods, and recent science reveals that the right sound frequencies can even kill cancer cells

Sound is powerful stuff. This is the reason why, even if we might hate them, laugh tracks scientifically work, and why many television shows don’t skimp on clapping tracks. This is also why movies spend on conductors like Hans Zimmer (the talent behind such ardent soundtracks as Inception, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Dark Knight). I mean, what would the movie Jaws be without the haunting score of John Williams? 

It’s obvious the proper audio effects and music elevate film and television narratives. But what does that have to do with brand experience? As trends reveal, today’s successful event marketers tap into storytelling to create lasting emotional connections and brand loyalty with attendees. Your event is the story of your organization and its vision. Being mindful (or earful) of audio can augment your storytelling. 

What’s more, it’s widely known that sound is an effective way to influence audience behavior. Jewelry stores play classical music to get customers in a lofty and comfortable state of mind where buying expensive wares is seamless. Research reveals loud music tends to make people go through a store quicker, while slow tempo pop music causes higher impulse purchases

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Setting the perfect tone for brand experience

As with anything else in your event toolbox, audio content should first and foremost conform to your marketing objectives and event theme. You shouldn’t play Star Wars “Imperial March” right as your CEO takes the stage to give a keynote, just as you shouldn’t blast Nirvana if your attendees are mostly senior citizens. As you research your audience, sponsors, and even company stakeholders, feel free to understand their musical tastes if you don’t already know this information. 

Beyond formulating the right audio (or audio effects) for your brand experience, consult with your audio visual partner on the right audio for the right mood (and they can also tell you of any copyright issues). 

With audio also comes the usage of audio. Background music may set the mood, but something as subtle as lowering the volume as house lights drop can capture the attention of attendees even before a session begins. Audio cues that encourage the audience to look at a certain part of the stage or punctuate a presentation are also appealing. 

Even the way you market your sound can make a difference. As an illustration, silent party tech makes all music custom for audiences at dances or parties of an event — all through radio frequency (RF) wireless technology and multichannel headphones. Calibrating music at a virtual reality presentation, depending on participant demographic, could create more memorable sessions. 

In short, you need to be both the director and conductor of sound in your event, and align it to the storytelling of your brand.

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Best practices for best hearing

Knowing how to use sound as part of a brand experience atmosphere will likely underperform unless you provide the best possible sound system in the right environment. This doesn’t mean having to purchase Coachella-quality speakers. Just be aware of basic physics. For example, to ensure sound clarity to an audience, a basic AV rule with speaker application declares that if you can see a speaker, you can hear it. Mundane objects like a screen or a drape blocking a speaker can potentially disrupt sound quality. 

Another tip is that, whenever possible, fly your speaker arrays for best coverage. Be aware of your room design — as exposed steel, curved walls, cement, and windows can wreak havoc on sound through reverberation — and always test sound systems as much as possible. In the end, your AV partner should be able to optimize your sound system depending on your location, even if it’s something seemingly rudimentary like placing down carpet (which negates sound vibration). 

If you just have to make sure every member of your audience hears your content equally and clearly, consider investing in recent innovate audio tech that leverages real-time location tracking of performers and presenters on a stage. In brief, sounds follow the visuals on a screen in relation to the attendee, almost like if it were live content. This type of “smart sound” and a new generation of audio systems not only distribute music equally and in perspective, but they also minimize listener fatigue and increase audience attention. 

Lastly, keep in mind that audio is also your event flow partner. As examples, a translation service during presentations with sizeable international attendees or continual, valuable announcements on session occupancy can go a long way in serving audiences. 

Regardless of how you harness sound, know that audio should be part of a holistic ecosystem that stimulates all attendee senses to fire up a personal and unforgettable experience. Then audiences will loudly share your brand story since you have brought value into their lives while causing a desired action.   

Your turn: Share your thoughts! 

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