As the Amazon Echo leads the way with audio technology and streaming services monopolise the music industry, the opportunities for leveraging sound as a marketing tool highlights an impending shift towards voice activated tech. And more importantly a new focal point for brand building. 

What does your brand sound like?

Sound isn’t something many brands will have given much thought to…yet. However, US public service broadcaster NPR and Edison report found that of the 16% of Americans who own a Smart Speaker (39 million people), 71% now listen to more audio at home.

For now, forging emotional connections via interactive audio is still in its early stages, as audibly unbranded opportunities currently limit creativity within the parameters of Alexa’s voice. But as Google Home, Sonos One and Harman Kardon Invoke enter the smart speaker market the opportunity for future development in this area creates a space for marketers to think about what they want their brand to sound like. 

Audio marketing revitalised 

Though radio has led the way in advertising for decades, Spotify’s new self-service Ad Studio will revolutionise radio’s linear model and give smaller brands access to the service’s 157 million active users worldwide. Unlike radio, brands are now able to utilise Spotify’s user-behaviour data to create personalised  ads crafted to specific audiences based on based on age, gender, location, activity and musical taste. 

For International Women’s Day 2018, Smirnoff worked with Spotify to address the imbalance of female artists hitting the top tracks streamed in 2017 (not one reached the top ten) with the launch of ‘Smirnoff Equalizer’. Crafting a tool which analyses your music choices over the last 6 months, users could see how many male vs female artists they listened to on average. Fans could then adjust percentages and be presented with a personalised playlist based on previous music preferences, weighted in the favour of female artists (or 100% female, if you felt so inclined). 


With 24 million people tuning into digital audio each week, brands should look to direct advertising budget towards the podcast playground. A new report by Global and DAX outlines an unpresented shift towards digital audio over the next 12 months. And with 68% of marketers planning to create ads for voice-activated devices in 2018, the largely untapped opportunity of podcasts are at the very forefront. Podcasts have evolved into a key platform for advertisers looking to target commuters and otherwise ‘unreachable’ or ad savvy individuals (who pay for Spotify Premium and enable ad blockers) with carefully crafted and relevant messaging. Unlike passive forms of advertising, marketers suggest that people actually listen to ads placed strategically within podcasts rather than skipping through. The key is a creative approach which fits with both the values of the host and the interests of the audience listening. 

The High Low Show – weekly news, pop-culture and current affairs podcast hosted by London journalists Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton is a key example of matching hosts with brands whose narrative fits seamlessly within the episode topics. Averaging 60,000 weekly listeners from 26 different countries, the High Low have partnered with brands such as Pop Chips and Papier – offering quirky products which will likely resonate with their educated, millennial female audience base. 

From Spotify to the realm of podcasts, Smirnoff’s audio marketing game has gone from strength to strength. Partnering with Will Young and Chris Sweeny in their LGBT themed podcast Homo Sapiens, Smirnoff were able to target high-value LGBT individuals with their “We’re open” inclusiveness campaign.Through embedded ads which fit seamlessly with the values and beliefs of the hosts, Smirnoff were able to raise awareness of their commitment to making nightlife culture more inclusive and open-minded. 

Voice search and the audio revolution

As interactive audio, AI and targeting tools develop, paid search platforms are likely to adapt in favour of voice search optimisation tactics. With Comscore predicting that 50 percent of all web searches will be voice activated by 2020, the goal for brands is to ensure their webpage provides the answers to any questions consumers may ask their virtual or home assistants.

As this audio trend continues, one thing is for certain – audio marketing strategies targeted to a person’s interests and location emphasise a trend of creating a highly personalised and immersive brand experience. Ads are disruptive by nature and successful brands won’t fall into low value, poorly executed traps which may afford other programmatic ads.  Messaging delivered to the right person, in the right voice, on the right device, has never been more important.

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