From sound to brand. Proving the emotional power of radio

03/10/2023

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Background information

In this week’s egtabite, we showcase the latest German study from RMS, ARD MEDIA and Radiozentrale that was presented at the egta Market Intelligence Meeting in Milan. The experiment about a fictional chocolate brand strikingly demonstrates the emotional power of radio and the importance of creative audio elements in shaping brand perception.

German sales houses, ARD MEDIA and RMS, collaborated with trade body, Radiozentrale, and research company, September. Together, they devised an experiment with three different radio spots for a fictional new chocolate bar, Macanu. The three companies professionally produced spots that were totally identical in the copy text, but completely different in terms of the creative design – speaker’s voice and tone, music, sounds, etc. The goal was to showcase the different emotional effects and sound branding produced by each spot, by using quantitative and qualitative research on a sample of radio listeners. Each spot triggered the imagination of its listeners, creating images in the “theatre of the mind” and generating different emotions and brand attributes. As a result, the brand image of the product differed vastly depending on which version of the spot the participants had heard.

One copy – three different spots

The copy text for each version of the spot was identical, introducing the new chocolate bar: What is it? This – is the new Macanu. Just crunchy, hand-harvested macadamia nuts, coated in creamy caramel, in a coat of organic dark chocolate. The taste is quite simply incomparably indescribable, and does good. Macanu. The new chocolate nut bar. (English translation)

Each participant only heard one version of the spot. Through the completely different emotional appeal of the audio elements, the spots succeeded in creating three distinct brand and product images, as the research revealed.

Those listeners hearing the first version of the spot associated the Macanu brand mainly with seduction (attributes like sensual, seductive, noble, passionate). The second version created an emotional frame of belonging (alive, happy, sportive, powerful), while the third version was mainly associated with inner peace (idyllic, relaxing, healthy, harmonic).

Brand image of the product

Furthermore, the research showed that the power of audio can dramatically shape the exact brand image created. For example, listeners imagined the brand as passionate and extravagant in the first spot, young and hedonistic in the second, and conscious and responsible in the third version.

The power of the various audio elements went even further: the different brand images generated by each spot were reflected in the design and packaging that listeners imagined for the chocolate bar. For the ‘seduction’ spot, it was a combination of noble and restrained simplicity with exciting, high-quality details that created an expensive look and feel. For the ‘belonging’ version, it was a colourful design with a tear-open wrapper. Finally, the ‘inner peace’ version accented the sustainability aspect with a textured surface and natural colour.

Finally, the spots also succeeded in virtually transporting the listener to the potential shopping locations where they could expect to find the product (like supermarkets, pharmacy or petrol stations). The various spots even conveyed different price points (the sales price participants would expect for the chocolate bar), and all three managed to trigger a high level of product interest and desire to give the new product, Macanu, a try.

This research clearly demonstrates that radio is a strong medium for brand building. The “theatre of the mind” that radio evokes can help brands generate the desired brand image. When focusing on creativity and taking advantage of distinct audio elements, radio spots can strongly build and shape a product’s perception in any way a brand manager may desire.