Humans have always been known to be highly visual creatures; in fact, 80% of the information we consume is via sight. In a world of Instagram feeds, metaverse excursions, and TikTok clips, there is certainly enough content to feed our hungry pupils. But the sense of sound (which is the runner-up for most information processing) is receiving more attention as brands look to stand out from the marketing crowd. After all, our sense of hearing begins in the womb, and according to neuroscientist Seth Horowitz, “You hear anywhere from 20 to 100 times faster than you see, so that everything that you perceive with your ears is coloring every other perception you have, and every conscious thought you have," so clearly this sense is not to be underestimated. In the pop-culture realm, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” tie-in with Netflix’s Stranger Things series made the singer $2.3 million since the Season 4 episodes aired, so clearly consumers are eager for anything making their eardrums dance in joyful unison. The huge success of ASMR content is one such example, with 77% of users flocking to the beauty category. While the initial hype around Clubhouse has lowered in volume, other audio pursuits are still proving fruitful endeavors for brands and entrepreneurs. Some are even coining audio as the “gateway into the metaverse.”
The likes of Spotify and even our own BeautyMatter podcast have been some ways of transmitting information auditorily, and brands such as Lush and Inara have been further harnessing its potential. Inara incorporates recorded meditations and soundscapes into its wellness-focused fragrance experience, while Lush launched its inaugural podcast, The Sound Bath: Conversations That Cleanse, hosted by storyteller and poet Aja Monet. “We were so impressed by her ability to bring attention to critical social issues from the perspective of love. She holds space for rich and complex conversations in a deeply radical way, and we knew there wasn’t anyone else who could facilitate this much-needed dialogue about personal, social, and environmental care quite like her,” adds Julia Hamfelt, Managing Editor for Lush Cosmetics North America. Episodes with the guests including award-winning journalist Naomi Klein and New York Times bestselling author Jason Reynolds unpacked disruptive ideas around self-care and mental, social, physical, as well as environmental well-being.
For Lush, which left social media due to its negative impact on society’s mental health, finding safer platforms to connect with its audiences has marked a new chapter of communication. “In the beauty and wellness industries alike, we noticed that the existing conversation about self-care wasn’t inclusive enough. It lacked diversity in the perspectives and life experiences most often heard, and wasn’t making the critical connection between self-care and care for our communities and the environment—at a time when that’s needed more than ever,” Hamfelt comments.
It’s also a clever tie-in for a company renowned for its bath bombs and other bathing items, a way to connect the product with a broader topic as a moment of clarity, focus, and presence. Not to mention audio formats allow for longer and more in-depth content than Instagram shorts or TikTok clips. “We see audio content as a key element in elevating the bathing experience and supporting wellness. The beauty of audio content is in its versatility and accessibility. Podcasts can be consumed anywhere, at any time–they enhance the experiences in our daily lives, rather than compete for our undivided attention,” Hamfelt notes. For other brands looking to engage in audio content, she advises them to “think about how the content could add value to your listeners’ lifestyle and elevate their experience with your products versus approaching a podcast as an ad for your brand.”
From earcons by Apple and Facebook to AI-generated music, there are certainly many technological advancements on the horizon. But above all, it is important to sync sound to brand identity and messaging in order to stand out in the sea of audio content. Sonic Strategy Director Steve Keller adds, “The sonic identity of a brand in multiple environments will be less about the use of a single audio asset, and more about a system of sounds optimized for specific user experiences: voice, soundscapes, music, functional sounds and a variety of other distinctive audio assets.” Incorporating human voice elements is another way to bring some echoes of reality to the tech spheres. “Whatever the desired outcome might be—brands have to interact with music to emotionally reach consumers,” writes journalist Thorsten Kirmes. “And, with virtual and real worlds merging together, it’s even more relevant to implement a sustainable sound strategy.” AR and VR will undoubtedly be a part of this sonic revolution. Aside from resulting in a shorter attention span, an increasingly digitally interconnected world has also made us more sensorially hungry than ever before. Whether to go the more tranquil route of simple human conversation or to burst full-throttle into a 360-degree all-senses-included experience is up to brand—just make sure it has a nice ring to it.
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