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Image by Daniel Schludi

Do people ‘trust’ your sonic identity?

Every brand wants to be trusted. Trust is the bedrock of any lasting relationship and without trust it is all but impossible to build a strong one.

But trust is earnt, it is not gifted or bought and while this generally applies to all brand assets, it is particularly true of music.

Ask yourself what is the most trusted music you know? It’s not an easy question. But try and identify one and then ask yourself why you trust it. Chances are that you can’t think of one. But if you do it will be because of the trust you place in the artist/band, or that it was played at your wedding (the foundation of what I hope is a very happy marriage) or some other occasion where you feel a strong emotional connection with someone or something you associate with the song.

Following that line of thought, can you think of an untrustworthy piece of music? Me neither. Music does not ‘do’ trust in any meaningful way. When we ask our three million consumers to rate new music on ‘Trust’, without revealing a brand or artist attribution, the results are pretty much random.

While music is phenomenally good at triggering emotions, ‘trust’ is more of a feeling and is rarely absolute. I may trust you absolutely to stop at a red light but not to perform brain surgery on me. When there is no context to what is being trusted, for instance music in isolation, we struggle to register a feeling of trust.

Trust does not reside in the brand asset. It is derived from the association that is built between the brand asset and the brand itself. If the brand is trusted then the music will, over time, become a trusted label/signal for the brand.

People trust brands, not logos

So why is it, on just about every project we run for some of the largest organizations in the world, one of the key brand attributes that the client sincerely wants the sonic logo/anthem to communicate and be tested on is ‘trust’? In the context of a brand new musical composition this is simply not going to happen. Not only will they be disappointed with the results but it’s also a wasted shot from a research perspective because they could have chosen another attribute that did not make the cut as a result.

If you test a piece of music with a brand affiliation (eg a logo) then we do then get meaningful trust scores – but that’s because people are principally rating the brand on trust rather than the brand asset.

How to test for ‘Trust’

However there is a scenario where the associative benefit of a sonic asset to trust in the brand can be quantified – and that is in implicit (system 1/subconscious) testing. By testing the same brand visual asset with alternative sonic backgrounds and then asking people to rate the brand (rather than the music) for trust on each combination it is then possible (with some clever data science analysis) to measure the subconscious impact that alternative music options are having on the level of perceived trust in the brand itself.

So my advice is don’t try to find music that people will trust. Go find music that will subconsciously impact the level of trust they already have in your brand.

And the answer to the question in the title?


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