Why Insurers Will Turn to Sonic Branding

Building sound and music into digital services and marketing will make brands recognizable, reassuring, trusted and appreciated.


What makes a consumer choose a particular insurance product? The scope of the policy will certainly be important; the price, the recognizability of the brand and its perceived reputation will be factors, too. How findable a policy is, how it compares with rivals, how easy it is to purchase. All of these issues will matter. Ultimately, the customer will want to feel reassured that they have bought the right cover and that they can trust the brands to deliver should things go wrong.

In a world where technology dominates our lives, a customer’s experience of researching, finding, purchasing and using a product or service become critical determining factors in how that person feels about the provider and whether they will return to the brand in the future or recommend it to others.

Of all the financial sectors, insurance has perhaps become more immersed in digital than others. As such, it has seen wave after wave of change, from the delivery of policies via online and mobile to the arrival of aggregators and comparison sites separating brands from consumers still further and the entry of insurtech players offering new forms of cover, data innovation and streamlined business models. 

If the insurance industry has become a focal point for experimentation and innovation, the consumers are, at least in part, the driving force of change. We are in many ways becoming an expectation-based economy where the ability to meet or exceed expectations determines success.

In parallel and to a degree underpinning these changes is the rapid evolution of the way we access, use or consume information and services. Smart and innovative technology is atomizing around our senses. From screens, we are expanding into virtual experiences, screen-free voice-based technology and cloud-based platforms that will surround us as we move through the day and from place to place. The interactive, multisensory brand experience will be our new normal.

Building emotional audio connections

Within this evolution, the need to build emotional connections that transcend the tech is widely recognized by user experience designers and marketers. For example, building sound and music into digital services and marketing is seen as a powerful way for brands to be recognizable, reassuring, trusted and appreciated as humans react faster and more deeply to audio stimulus than visual information.

The speed of change is illustrated by the tremendous growth of smart speakers. In the U.S., 33% of households own a smart speaker, a number that is expected to grow to 66% by 2022. 

Younger, tech-savvy consumers already rely on the online community to choose the brands they want to help them through life. More than 27% of millennials said they learn about an insurance provider through digital engagement. So, to reach the new wave of potential customers, brands must tune in to their emotions as well as practical needs.

The sound of a brand’s DNA

There are signs that some insurance brands are beginning to recognize that a more robust approach to sonic branding is vital to compete in a complex space. Strategic investment in sound to create a holistic, recognizable experience across customer touchpoints is a critical element.

The critical step is to create sonic intellectual property (IP) owned by the brand and designed based on a brand’s values in the same way that a visual identity is produced and used repeatedly in many different contexts. A sonic strategy that fits the purpose in today’s world is not the same as a jingle or simplistic sonic mnemonic – think Intel or McDonald's. In fact, we’ve found that, across all sectors, the use of simplistic sonic assets is declining.

See also: Underwriting in the Digital Age

Brands are increasingly using progressive sonic branding that works across the multichannel digital world. For example, a flexible Sonic DNA can be used in brand advertising, where advertisers can commission any desired amount of brand-owned music that can be endlessly edited to fit the context. The music is rooted in brand values while remaining instantly recognizable. 

This can be augmented by licensed music if the fit between brand and artist is clear. However, stock library music that is neither owned nor adds any tangible value is least attractive.

How do the world’s leading insurers sound?

To understand how insurance brands are currently using sound, amp assessed the top 26 insurance companies, including AXA, Aviva and Legal & General, and ranked them based on how well they are currently using sound in marketing.

The data and analysis were drawn from our yearly Best Audio Brands Index, which assesses the way the top 100 global brands (as judged by Interbrand) use sound and invest in music within their branding strategies.

We found that just nine out of the 26 insurance brands had what could be called a sonic logo or identity and that these brands are using that sonic identity in approximately 40% of their marketing output.

Six insurance brands have invested in owned brand music, and just three have a sonic identity that has been integrated with the music.

AXA and Aviva are notable in that they are developing their sonic brands to a place where they can now take ownership of the way they sound in many different contexts on a strategic level.

However, we found that more than 60% of the insurance brands we looked at are still using stock music in most of their marketing channel output, so clearly the sector has a huge opportunity to improve the way it sounds to consumers.

Brand recognition and trust are critical to consumer choices, so we expect the insurance sector to become a hotbed of sonic innovation.

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