• Transform magazine
  • May 26, 2024

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Sound is the key for brand differentiation amidst Saudi’s wave of transformation

Julia Dos Santos Cropped

Julia dos Santos, director of partnerships MENA at MassiveMusic, explores the difficulties brands have differentiating themselves in Saudi Arabia at present, and explains how sonic branding can help break down these barriers.

As Saudi Arabia approaches the Vision 2030 deadline, it has entered a golden era of branding. Not only are record numbers of home-grown brands emerging through government and PIF initiatives, but brand building is also essential for spreading and maturing the new DNA that runs through modern KSA.

But, in a landscape where all brands are operating under the same vision, and compete for the same consumer base, it becomes much more difficult to build distinction and brands face tougher competition for audience attention.

Luckily, this time also represents an opportunity for strategic brands to unlock higher differentiation, higher attention and a stronger connection with their audiences by using the right tools at the right time.

Saudi’s era of identity

Brands are the medium through which visions, ambitions and KPIs are transformed into shared purposes, values and behaviors. With Saudi's shifting landscape, identity has become central for every brand operating in the Kingdom. The current brand scene can be loosely broken down into three key categories:

  • The Architects: Brands whose primary remit is to establish, communicate and signify what the modern Saudi identity is to nationals, the region and the world. These are the tourism boards, cultural authorities and so on.
  • The Navigators: Brands that are finding themselves amidst a transition. They may have been established for many years and now find themselves needing to quickly evolve how they connect with consumers. This group also includes foreign brands that are new to the Saudi market, and are navigating the constantly evolving landscape.
  • The Pioneers: The brands building new ways of being, forging new cultural symbols and trailblazing new industries. A great example of this is Aroya Cruises - Saudi’s first ever Cruise Line. With a bold mission to transform the meaning of holidays in Arabia, it is bringing the cruise industry as a fresh addition to KSA’s tourism sector of the country. Other brands include many mega projects, like NEOM’s The Line, and the myriad of entertainment projects under construction.

As stewards and ambassadors of the new Saudi DNA, brands in Saudi must have distinctive identities themselves. This is where the current landscape presents a significant challenge.

Sound: Your powerful ally

Research shows distinctive sonic assets are actually eight times more effective than a visual logo in creating branded attention. Despite this, few brands utilize sound to their advantage. Sound is more flexible and sensory than visuals, allowing brands to express their essence in unique ways.

Let’s do a quick exercise. If I ask you to imagine a beach you may think of images like the sea and sand. Now, if I were to play tropical deep house, bossa nova or maybe even the simple sound of ocean waves, these distinct cues all successfully evoke a beach-like feeling. That’s the power of audio.

In the Saudi context, tapping into sonic branding allows companies to explore, calibrate and represent the nuances of their essence, even amid a rather homogenous tide of transformation.

A holistic approach to a brand’s use of sound can also be the key differentiator in creating memorable brand moments and experience - with custom soundscapes for physical spaces, to app interaction sounds and tailor-made melodies for customer care lines - there are often untapped opportunities to infuse the brand essence across touchpoints in a way that feels native to the interaction.

Just the beginning

As Saudi Arabia rides the waves of change, we're entering a Golden Era for branding. To make an impact, sound is key to creating brands that resonate now and will echo for years to come.