Sound Strategies

Companies are adding sonic branding to their arsenal of recognition tools.

Remember when you could recall a brand just by hearing a jingle? The effect of sound on brand recognition is experiencing renewed interest from companies now that consumer technologies such as Alexa, Amazon Echo and Google Home Assistant are making their way into homes and work places across the country.

Sonic branding, the use of a sound, song or simple melody to reinforce a brand’s identity with consumers, is the latest trend for companies whose services can be accessed through digital technologies. Examples of longtime audio “logos” include Intel chimes and the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” ditty.

Ad Week reports that Visa, after learning that sound elevated consumers’ feelings of safety and security during transactions, released a chime that plays when transactions are made with Visa-branded cards.

Advertisers on the music-streaming app Pandora are also putting audio at the forefront of their marketing campaigns, morphing visually driven ads into audio-first spots.

The push for sonic branding in the digital marketplace may soon give rise to a new adage: “If it sounds good, buy it.”


Breaking The  Business Card Mold

Entrepreneurs give the traditional networking tool a creative facelift.

In the world of business cards, it’s no longer hip to be square—or, rectangular, as it were. Entrepreneurs are using the traditional tool in new ways for networking and self promotion to showcase their creativity and individuality; and in some cases, their flair for the dramatic.

Business cards originated in China in the 15th century as calling cards used to announce a meeting between individuals. A few hundred years later, Germans were printing their names on woodcuts and distributing them as greetings. Fast forward to the 21st century, and business cards today are made of paper, wood, plastic, metal, and even edible materials (a beef jerky card, anyone?).

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal spotlighted a few trendsetters and their unique cards, which the purveyors rely on to stand out among the competition. Among them were a business-development advisor who hands out cards shaped like puzzle pieces, and a former hacker who now specializes in IT security training—his business card is a lightweight metal piece that transforms into a set of lock-picking tools. Brick artist Nathan Sawaya prints his contact information on LEGO® pieces.

Business owners who like the look and feel of paper cards, with a twist, are finding there’s more room in the stack for their one-of-a-kind designs. Moo. com offers cards in varying sizes and shapes (their mini cards are almost half the height of traditional cards,) and extra-thick, textured cards.

Traditional cards with block lettering and basic contact information remain popular among certain professionals such as attorneys or financial experts, and the old standbys are appreciated in Asian cultures, where exchanging cards in ceremonial fashion is an integral part of business interactions.


FIVE MINUTES WITH Taek J. Sung, senior vice president of sales and marketing, iClick

Courting Creativity

iClick focuses on bringing unique, patented tech products and accessories to the promotional market.

The promotional product industry’s top-selling products remain popular for a reason—t-shirts, bags and pens are functional and fashionable marketing tools that carry messages to multiple users. But the growing tech category is in the running to become a major player for years to come, in part because suppliers like iClick (PPAI 254537) are dedicated to seeking out tech products that stand out from the rest. 

Taek Sung, senior vice president of sales and marketing for the Seattle, Washington-based supplier, spoke with PPB about his team’s approach to providing original products to the promotional market, and how iClick plans to stay on top of tech trends.

PPB  How much time do you and your team dedicate to sourcing or developing unique and innovative products for your catalog, and what characteristics must a product have to be considered truly unique or innovative in the marketplace today?

Sung iClick has been known by many to be the best USB company in the industry. Our USB drive, named the iClick, is where we planted our roots, and where our success truly began, in 2001. This year, however, we were discovered by thousands of new clients as the industry’s authorized supplier of PopSockets [a patented phone accessory for hands-free viewing]. We are also introducing a new iClick, one that is focused on helping us become the No. 1 mobile tech partner to the industry. To live up to this moniker, we have dedicated an enormous amount of time to developing unique and innovative products, such as our new patented Spinnit Pen [a hybrid pen and fidget spinner]. 

In addition, we have hired experts specifically focused on sourcing, patented product development, creative [development] and supply chain management. We are excited to roll out a full suite of technology solutions over the next few months that we believe will lead the industry.  

PPB What is your team’s approach to educating distributor clients on the value of offering such items versus something that’s merely trendy or “a dime a dozen”?

Sung iClick’s goal is to make selling technology easy, but we are not here to simply sell. We are here to educate, provide solutions and make distributors look like experts when providing mobile and technology solutions to their clients. iClick focuses on products that are suitable for our ReadyShip Line, that can be produced in 24 hours and that adhere to the highest of quality standards. For example, our Spinnit Pen was in research and development for the past year before we launched it in January, after many rounds of focus groups and iterations. 

PPB What are the challenges associated with offering patented products such as the PopSocket?

Sung As the exclusive provider of arguably the hottest single SKU in the industry in 2017, it was inevitable that we would have to contend with imitators and knock-offs spreading into the market. iClick and PopSockets, LLC, did a great job curtailing these issues and informing violators of infringement of the patent. Another challenge is the pricing associated with a patented product. Clients are starting to understand that there is a high cost associated with taking an item that is very popular at retail and offering it to the promo industry. 

However, there are many advantages to being the only supplier of a certain product. It allows us to hit economies of scale and provide a solution that is unmatched in the marketplace. It has also allowed us to seamlessly move millions of units in the past year. I can’t think of another solution where 10,000 custom-designed units can be produced and shipped in less than 10 days. Because of this success, we are making another foray into this patented category with the Spinnit solution, among other innovative products in development. 

PPB What should suppliers and distributors do to ensure the products they offer their clients do not infringe on trademarks, patents or usage licenses?

Sung Work with reputable suppliers and distributors. You have to question the ethics of a company that is willing to sell a counterfeit item to its customers. It’s not always about a fast buck or quick sale, as these unlawful practices can do more harm than good. Beware of deals that are too good to be true.


Catch Phrase

Viral quotes and quips are being mined for marketing gold.

In the good old days, brands purposefully created slogans to boost brand recognition and plastered them on merchandise to extend their reach. Wearing a t-shirt, ballcap or button was the original way to make “Where’s The Beef?” and “I’m A Pepper” go viral. Now it’s become society’s self-appointed duty to spot those quotable quotes popping up on Twitter feeds and Tinder tales, and make marketing magic with them.

Some catchwords and phrases are self promoted by the individuals who coin them; case in point, the founder of Twitter page “WeRateDogs” frequently sells out of merch emblazoned with phrases from his tweets, such as “They’re good dogs, Brent” and “Puppers Before People.”

Others, however, are created out of a total stranger’s online adventures. When Missouri State University student Hayden Moll accidentally rejected a fellow MSU student named Claudia on Tinder, he sent out a message to every woman at the school with the same name who had an account on the dating app. 

The message went viral, and clothier Five Pound Apparel saw an opportunity to get in on the action. Tweeting an image of a shirt that said, “I’ll be your Claudia,” the company offered to pay for the couple’s first date—if they could connect.

The digital fates brought the two together for a brief meeting not long after Moll’s message went out, and if the sales of the t-shirt are any indication (as of press time, two out of four sizes were out of stock), it’s definitely a match made in marketing heaven.


Reel Appeal

Brands buck the trend of shrinking ad spots with animated content.

While many marketers are hoping to avoid consumer ire by trimming their television spots to as few as six seconds, some big brands are sticking with longer ads—but with a cartoon twist. 

Animated ads are on the rise, according to brand consultant Howard Belk, because they elevate stories above product pitches. Belk told Ad Week that swapping traditional content for animated vignettes is how major brands hope to connect with audiences and drive engagement.

The format is ideal for viewing on digital devices, too, because users are comfortable watching short-form content on phones and tablets. Taco Bell hopped on the animation train with a cartoon spot to celebrate National Taco Day. The 100-second spot, which also honors company founder Glen Bell, has had more than 100 million views on YouTube. 


Jen Alexander is associate editor of PPB.