Tips & Tricks

Audio Advertising Insights: The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Steve Keller, Sonic Strategy Director at Studio Resonate & Lauren Chesley, Head of Industry, Retail and Restaurants at SXM MediaNov 30, 2023

Welcome to Studio Resonate Showcase. It’s that time of year when holiday campaigns are everywhere—and the ads are making an impression. Looking ahead to 2024, let’s explore how brands can turn the year-end push into a year-round strategy to build consistent connections with consumers through audio.

We all have a friend or relative who only shows up around the holidays. Think about your relationship with them. Do they meaningfully appear anywhere else in your life, other than for holiday-related things like card-exchange and celebration-invite lists? How and where do they fit into your day-to-day life year round? Chances are that the answers to these two questions are “no” and “they don’t.”

Now, swap out the friend or relative in this scenario with your brand. We’re deep into the holiday season, and consumers are bombarded by brand messages everywhere they go, on every device they own. But come January, many of those brand voices will be heard less often or disappear entirely until next year.

Make Holiday Strategies Work All Year Round

Consumers are requesting relational, rather than transactional, interactions with brands, and it’s time audio advertising strategies answer that call. Rather than fight for attention solely during the heightened holiday season, brands would be better served by engaging consumers through comprehensive, always-on messaging that connects at key moments throughout the year.

This holds true, regardless of the advertising channel, but it’s particularly true with audio channels, since more time and attention is typically given to the visual components of a campaign. As a result, brands and their agencies aren’t thinking about ways that audio can be optimized to amplify brand efforts, driving attention, evoking memories, and connecting emotionally with consumers in a variety of contexts throughout the year.

Consider the Sonic Ecosystem

When thinking about audio in a brand context, advertisers generally focus on the role sound plays in commercials and advertising content. Audio advertising is no doubt effective here, but there is an entire universe of sonic touch points where brands can reach consumers' ears beyond traditional ads, including retail environments, experiential activations, user interfaces, on-hold systems, and product sounds.

We know that congruence and consistency are keys to building strong brand associations. It's why brands go to great lengths to build equity in their distinctive visual assets, developing style guides and legally protecting their visual identity. Yet, when it comes to the way a brand sounds, how many brands are working year round to ensure that consumers have a consistent sonic experience, whenever, wherever, and however their brands are heard?

Let’s focus on three audio touch points that can help your brand sing, even after the holidays are over.

Content: Unwrap the Power of Audio

As brands lean into marketing more heavily during the holidays, there’s a higher probability that they’ll consider audio channels as part of their marketing mix. But why limit your audio advertising to the holidays when consumers are engaged with audio content all year round? Think about it. Consumers spend 31% of their time listening to audio, with four hours and fifty minutes of that time solely devoted to digital audio. Yet only 9% of ad spends are marked for audio channels.

This 22% gap can likely be attributed to a common misconception—that branding is primarily visual. Ipsos dispelled that myth in a classic “compare and contrast” study, analyzing over 2,000 US audio/visual ads. While visual elements (like logos and colors) dominated 92% of the assets, audio elements, especially sonic brand cues, were more impactful. Audio assets were 3x more effective than visuals at producing brand salience, with sonic cues 8.5x more likely to create a high-performing ad. 

Still not convinced of the power of audio? A recent study from dentsu and Lumen Research demonstrated that audio is at least as effective as video, TV, social, and display. Audio ads received 50% more audience attention than the norm—with podcasts performing the highest—and audio ads exceeded brand recall benchmarks by +3% and brand choice uplift benchmarks by +4%.

Spaces: Get in the Spirit for Every Season

Your retail “sonic footprint” isn’t limited to traditional advertising channels. You can reach shoppers in stores, showrooms, and online shopping environments. We might pay more attention to the soundscapes of our retail spaces during the holidays, curating music and sound design that speaks to the season, but we should be just as concerned with how these environments sound year round. Sounds that consumers experience when shopping can influence their emotions, attitudes, and purchase behaviors— positively and negatively. 

These sonic experiences don’t just affect your customers, but your staff as well. They also give you another opportunity to lean into the power of sound to shape consumer perceptions about your brand. Remember, consistency is key. We said it before, and it’s worth saying it again: Brands should be working year round to ensure that consumers have a consistent sonic experience of their brand, whenever, wherever, and however they’re heard.

Experiential: Make Gift-Giving More Consistent

We’ve used the word “experience” a few times. Our perception of the world around us is shaped by our senses. Our experience of the seasons, and certainly the holidays, involve sights, and sounds, and smells, and flavors, and textures that all evoke familiar holiday memories and emotions. Brands can lean into these sensory cues to create memorable experiences, too. 

As you think about the experiences you’re providing for your customers this holiday season, expand your focus beyond December. What are other ways you can make experience an inextricable part of your brand? For example, look at how brands harmonize with our El Pulso live shows, show community support with our fashion mixer powered by Target, and how Magnum Ice Cream layers some live-event flavor in their campaign strategy. For attendees, the experiences live far beyond the moment, rooted in their memories, social posts, anecdotes shared with family and friends, and emotional associations with your brand.

Make Your 2024 Audio Strategy a 360° Experience

At this point in the season, your 2023 holiday planning is in the rearview mirror, and you’re no doubt deep into planning for 2024. Here are some ways to elevate your sonic identity and audio strategy all year long.

Fuel Your Full-Funnel Branding 

As a retailer, getting folks to shop in stores and online is critical. However, there’s a temptation to focus all your efforts on lower-funnel tactics, even though studies have demonstrated that winning the bottom part of the funnel is improbable without owning the top. It might be useful to reimagine the funnel in a way that more accurately reflects the actions of building brand memories, nudging brand associations, and connecting buyers when they’re ready to make a purchase. Audio, with its unique ability to shape our perceptions and behavior, outperforms every other channel (i.e., TV, display, social media, video), no matter what part of the funnel is under consideration.

Because audio can be adapted to a variety of touch points and formats, it’s a cost-effective way to increase reach and amplify your brand impact—from memory building (with sonic logos, brand themes, brand voices, in store experiences, and events), to nudging (dynamic audio campaigns and immersive storytelling), to driving connections (like host-read podcast ads with promo codes or digital audio ads with embedded links). 

Add Chapters to the Story

When thinking tactically, don’t limit your message to one 15- to 30-second audio ad. Find ways to tell a story over time, stay top of mind, and reach listeners wherever they are on their consumer journey. Sequential audio allows brands to develop a series of ads that use storytelling to create urgency while preventing ad fatigue (something that can really become an issue during prime advertising seasons). Through sequentially targeted audio ads, you can map out an entire storyline, triggering new messages based on whether someone has listened to or interacted with a previous ad.

Make Multicultural a Mainstay

Remember our opening metaphor about the guest who only shows up around the holidays? Sadly, when it comes to interacting with diverse communities, many brands exhibit the same behavior. Don’t limit your culture-specific messaging to Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, or Diwali. Nine in 10 culturally diverse listeners are proud of their racial roots and ancestry, and 65% of them think brands should represent the full spectrum of diverse communities.

If you want your brand to be invited into the everyday lives of AAPI, Black, and Hispanic consumers, their voices need to be regularly represented in your advertising. Not just in ads that are targeting these cultural segments, but in your marketing as a whole. Our research has demonstrated that a commitment to sonic diversity will result in advertising that is judged more favorably by BIPOC consumers, with no negative impact on favorability or effectiveness with other consumer groups. To earn trust, consider taking a stand for sonic diversity year round. If you need help hitting the right note with culturally appropriate messaging, our dedicated multicultural teams are here to guide you.

Ring in 2024, and Reverberate the Whole Year Through

Time to ring out the old and ring in the new. Resolve to make 2024 the year you take your brand-consumer connections to the next level, closing the gap between where consumers spend their time and where you spend your ad dollars. Whether it’s sonic identity, sonic strategy, audio production, or audio-first experiential activations, the all-things-audio experts at Studio Resonate can help you harness the power of sound to amplify your brand. If you want to make your audio advertising more consistent and effective, we're here for you. Year round.


  • 1.

    Edison Research Share of Ear Study Q3 2023

  • 2.

    WARC The Investment Gap: Understanding the Value of Audio, 2021

  • 3.

    dentsu and Lumen Research, with SXM Media and other participants, Audio Attention Economy Study, 2023

  • 4.

    SXM Media Cultural Pride Study 2023

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