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Why Insurance Brands Depend On Smart Sonic Branding

By Paul Suchman, Chief Marketing Officer, Audacy

What comes to mind when you see the words Liberty, Liberty, Liberty … Liberty? Or Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is There? (Which, by the way, was written in the 1970s by Barry Manilow. Yes, I’m a fanilow.)

If you’re like most of us, your mind goes right to insurance brands. They get in your head, they stick, and you recall them. Hopefully, fondly. It’s a proven and effective industry strategy. Sometimes they’re referred to as earworms (gross) or more technically, as involuntary musical imagery (too clinical for me). In the Audio world, we refer to these attention-grabbing moments of sound inextricably linked to specific companies as sonic branding.

So….why are they used by virtually every consumer-facing insurance brand?

This industry is one of the most active battle grounds for consumer attention. They’re a high volume, high churn, transaction-dependent, big spending category—nearly $10 billion total last year. And that’s up $3 billion in the past three years.1 They know that people are multitasking and oversaturated with advertising messages all day long. They know that they must capture share of mind (and wallet) in every medium, across every channel where content is consumed. And they know that insurance is a transactional purchase, with little emotional connection. That people need, but don’t necessarily want.

We live in an increasingly distracted world. We’d like to think people are paying attention to our ad, but they may be looking down at their phones. So, they may only be experiencing our TV ad as an audio ad, so those audio mnemonics are super important in drawing that attention.

Taylor Byrnes
VP, Media & Marketing Technology at Liberty Mutual

That’s why companies like Liberty Mutual, State Farm, Progressive, GEICO, Allstate and Farmers Insurance—all mass, big budget advertisers who are challenged to differentiate themselves from each other amid the headwinds mentioned above—turn to sonic branding. It works. Done well, it gets in our heads and stays there. It drives high-recall. And when it’s time to make a purchase decision, the best ones are front and center in our minds. That’s why insurance companies—perhaps more than any other category—have become experts in sonic branding.2

Research proves out that a brand’s audio identity is essential to both brand building and demand generation marketing success. An Oxford University professor discovered finding just the right audio and visual mix enhances sensory experience by 1,207%. In television, the way an ad sounds is at least as important as the way it looks. Maybe more.

Remember, people are often multi-tasking when consuming media. Who among us doesn’t check their social feed while binge watching a series? The truth is no matter what you are doing or what you are consuming, only audio can break through. That is one of Audio’s unique superpowers.

And that’s why sonic branding is so important. Especially in crowded categories. Insurance companies understand savvy sonic branding is like a neurological advertising hack to break through the clutter. Sonic brand cues, on average, are nearly 9 times more likely to deliver a high performing ad. Using a celebrity only scores roughly 3 times more likely.

Over the next decade or two, what your brand sounds like is actually going to be an unbelievably crucial variable of success in a world that will be driven primarily by two things: voice and brand.

Gary Vaynerchuk
CEO at VaynerMedia,

Why? Trust. Audio is the most trusted media. It’s the trusted friend whispering in our ears. Trust triggers the brain to release the chemical oxytocin,3 which creates emotional associations, deep connections, and favorability. It’s the same chemical released when you get a hug from someone you love. It makes our ears – and brains – light up when we hear something impactful and memorable. Oxytocin makes us want to pay attention. We humans are just engineered this way.4

So the next time you hear an insurance company commercial, take a moment’s pause and raise a glass for Barry Manilow. The dude isn’t just a brilliant songwriter and performer. He’s a sonic branding genius. 

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