The Sound of Business
Does your brand have a sound? Is the voice of your business female or male, formal or fun?
If you have produced radio ads, podcasts or video advertising, then you have probably thought about your brand in these terms. If not, then you are probably happy that you haven’t had to think through questions like these.
Well Clubhouse has changed all of that. When the founders Paul Davison and Rohan Seth launched the audio-only social media platform in March 2020, they probably didn’t know the perfect storm that was about to happen. Covid has had its wicked way with how we work, and in the background, it has had a significant impact on the digital transformation of how we socialise as well. Zoom and the rise of video-meetings, is far from the only change that little novel virus Covid-19 has wrought.
Now the big players want their land-grab in the new social media wild-west.
Clubhouse wouldn’t sell-up early, even when Twitter made a US $4 Billion offer to them in March 2021, when Clubhouse had only 60,000 users. So now Facebook has ‘Live Audio Rooms’, Twitter has ‘Twitter Spaces’, LinkedIn are building an audio competitor, Spotify launched ‘Greenroom’, Reddit has ‘Talk’, Slack has ‘Huddles’, and Discord has ‘Stage Channels’. All of these digital giants were rightfully concerned that Clubhouse would dramatically erode their audience, so they have all spent millions in 2021, either acquiring competitors or building their own direct challenge to Clubhouse.
So what’s the big deal?
In what seems so obvious now, Clubhouse discovered voice, the simple insight that humans generally socialise with voice and sound. We learn to talk and listen before we learn to read and write. We pick up nuance, emotion, credibility and so much more from the sound of someone’s voice, than in the limited context around their written word. Emojis are a poor emotional shortcut, compared to the tremor or earnestness in the spoken word, and we are all so much more attuned to unraveling meaning in what we hear.
When LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter launched their ‘text-based’ social media platforms in 2003, 2004, and 2006 respectively, it was for individuals not businesses. Facebook and Twitter actively discouraged brands getting involved, until Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook Ads in November 2007, starting the rise, and rise and rise of Facebook. Of course images and video made their way onto all of these platforms, but somehow ‘voice-only’ was forgotten or ignored. Enter Clubhouse and a surprise Covid-19 boost.
While businesses moved their remote working connect-ups onto ‘Zoom’, Microsoft ‘Teams’ and Google ‘Meetings’, the stuck-at-home world, especially those locked-down in the States, dabbled with the new Clubhouse. They heard the voices of others in their isolation. They could sit in audio rooms and hear discussions on just about any topic of interest. Most of all they could be heard, speaking, debating, moderating and hosting rooms and even setting up their own clubs and interest groups. The growth was truly exponential, in mathematical terms not just marketing hyperbole, reaching as many as 10-million active weekly users in the early part of 2021.
Where are we headed?
Clubhouse itself may not survive, can anyone remember MySpace. Use is down to around 2-million active weekly users and the platform has suffered from an early ‘Apple Only’ operating system and its own ‘invite only’ exclusivity that went on for far too long.
It has had other challenges as well. The usual rapid shifts and changes that early innovators need to make, technical issues, staff-shortages, growing pains and early trolling, have repeatedly harmed their following amongst certain significant user sub-groups. Not to mention the rise of intense competition from some of the most ‘cashed-up’ and aggressive digital businesses in the world.
So while Clubhouse days could be numbered, this format is not. It is being picked up by people who know how to monetise their offering, and also know how to bring businesses and brands into the party.
So if you haven’t thought about how your business talks, who it talks to, how it will sound, and what it wants to say, right into the ears of your most important audiences, then it may be time to start thinking about that. Like text-based social media, these conversations will happen with or without the stewardship or awareness of the subject brands.
In the emerging client brand work that CAPITAL-e are supporting, alongside more classic naming, logo, colour, visual, textual and messaging work, we are increasingly factoring in audio-brand considerations. How does the brand live and succeed in audio-only channels?
Commercial entry and opportunities in these audio-social platforms isn’t far away. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are spending tens-of-millions of dollars on these platforms to make them commercial. That means being friendly to the Brands who will pay to use them, and ensuring that there are commercial and strategic benefits to be gained for those who best answer the question.
What is the sound of your business?
Let’s use that other audio-only environment and talk about your brand. Talk to us at email@example.com