PH Media Group director of voice and music, Dan Lafferty, examines the psychology behind audio branding and how sound can influence customer behaviour in the hotel industry.
For many hotels, visual branding is high up on the agenda when it comes to implementing a successful marketing plan.
From signage to letterheads and website design to emails, effective visual marketing will tell potential customers what they need to know about your company and, if done well, will help to form a positive impression in the client’s mind.
But does your business sound as good as it looks?
Hearing is one of our most powerful emotional senses, so sounds have the ability to provoke strong feelings and memories within us that will endure. For example, a couple may refer to a music track as ‘our song’ because it reminds them of a particular moment spent together.
Yet the potential of sound is far too infrequently harnessed by businesses. It has a powerful effect on our subconscious, making it effective in grabbing attention and sparking brand recognition in a subtle manner – ideal as an ingredient in the marketing mix.
This is especially true for voice and music heard over the telephone. If an employee has an impolite manner or the music used on hold is inappropriate, it will immediately communicate the wrong image, creating a perception which is difficult to shake.
Therefore, it is essential to carefully select an audio brand that is congruent with visual branding, helping to reinforce company values, create a positive impression and provide a subtle sell on products and services.
Powerful effect on the subconscious
When it comes to choosing the voice and music of your company, it isn’t as simple as having an employee read a script or using a popular song as the track.
Taking existing voice and music and working backwards to try and make it fit – a round peg, square hole scenario – won’t work. Instead, reflect on what your existing branding says and work forward by considering what perceptions are created by different sounds and choosing ones that fit brand values.
Research by PH Media Group has found the most popular voice used in the hotel industry is male, aged 35, and friendly, informative and conversational in tone. A masculine voice is largely perceived as professional and authoritative, providing subconscious reassurance to customers that they are in safe hands.
In contrast, a female voice is more appropriate in situations where a soft, soothing welcome is needed, such as in veterinary practices.
Accents can even be used to appeal to potential customers. If your hotel has a strong regional presence, an accent can help reinforce its identity and help customers identify with the business and make them more likely to invest trust.
Complement brand values
Choosing a popular music track can be a gamble. Often people involuntarily attach feelings – positive or negative – to a piece of commercial music so how the tune is received is a lottery of a person’s previous experience.
By creating a bespoke music track, it ensures a blank slate with no attached preconceived emotions and ideas, while being unique to your business and perfectly complementing brand values.
Similar to when constructing a voice, there are a number of attributes to consider – such as volume, tempo and pitch – to help convey emotional meaning. Research has discovered that the hotel industry tends to opt for music which is vibrant yet corporate, helping to reinforce the sense of professionalism communicated through the voice.
Engage and entertain through sound
Listening to the same song on repeat can eventually cause sound fatigue and the same goes for audio messages. If the caller rings your hotel a few times and has to listen to the same on-hold messages each time they call, they will simply switch off and the messages become worthless.
Keeping your content refreshed and up-to-date ensures customers are kept engaged and entertained. With on-hold marketing, communications can be tweaked at any time, making sure activity reflects seasonal stay rates, new hotel amenities or even updated check-in times.
Given the powerful impact on the subconscious, businesses are well-advised to embrace the use of sound as an integral part of their marketing plan.
Dan Lafferty is the director of voice and music at PH Media Group, which supplies audio branding and on-hold marketing to a large number of hotels and B&Bs