“Against All Odds” – Will sound be the key to future winnings for betting and gaming brands?

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Max De Lucia, Co-Founder and Client Director of specialist sonic branding agency DLMDD.

There are few brands and businesses across the world that haven’t been in some way affected by the current global climate. But as lockdown restrictions are eased and marketplaces begin to return to their “new normal”, betting brands and their marketers now have an even greater issue to navigate.

With momentum gathering in the UK Parliament for a “total ban” on all gambling advertising, brands need to think fast about the role they play in consumers lives and how they can communicate if traditional media channels are further plastered with red tape.

However, as many of you reading this will know, these aren’t new challenges. A ban on gambling advertising during live sport came into effect in the UK from August last year, restricting advertising within a “whistle to whistle” period beginning five minutes before the start of a match and ending five minutes after. These limitations will have already forced marketing departments to think very carefully about how to gain competitive advantage and win attention in these moments. However, and somewhat surprisingly, no brand has dominated when it comes to sound.

Think about it – I can reel off the names of every betting and gaming brand out there in the market, and you’ll instantly be able to tell me what they look like; what colour the logo is, what the slogan says and which celebs they use in their ads. But what do any of them sound like? Well, nothing.

This seems bonkers to me. Earlier this year, Marketing Week highlighted a powerful learning from IPSOS’ marketing study ‘The power of you’. Put simply, the research shows that the use of distinctive sonic cues can have 8.5x the power of visual stimuli. So why is sound so untapped across the sector?

Let’s be frank, underneath the visual brand and the corporate slogans of any betting organisation are odds and chance. You might get slightly better odds and slightly better chances by shopping around but at the end of the day, odds are odds.

As punters, we make our choices on the brands we associate with based upon how we feel about them. And music and sound offer the world’s most powerful shortcuts to human emotion if we know how to handle them right. If expertly managed, they can fulfil every part of our pleasure and reward psychologies garnering effects that can only be rivalled by good food, love and drugs.

What is particularly unique about betting and gaming is that their audiences want and demand to feel something about the brand they’re playing with. This is quite unlike most other sectors and industries. Do I want to feel something about Shell? I’m sure their Brand Director wants me to but no, quite frankly I just want to fill my car up with petrol from the nearest station to me and get the hell out of the forecourt as quickly as possible.

Conversely, emotion is at the forefront of the experience of all bettors and gamers and it’s the responsibility of the brands and their audiences to manage and control how that emotion manifests itself in a safe manner. If all parties get it right, music and sound have the ability to heighten the entire consumer experience at every moment that an audience interacts with their chosen brand.

Historically, the betting and gaming industries have looked at sound through a fairly primitive lens; famous psychological studies have highlighted the use of music and sound in slot machines that reinforce the sensation of ‘winning’ with jubilant sound effects, flashing lights and winning coins dropping down on metal surfaces.

It doesn’t take a genius to work any of that out and along with questionable morality, this doesn’t exemplify the true power of music and sound. When it’s done right, we allow music and sound into our minds. They can stay with us forever and evoke our emotions at the flick of a wrist.

In a world and an industry where the way the consumer feels is the difference between them choosing to play with brand X over brand Y, the first player in the market who can cement their identity in music and sound will have the odds sounding firmly in their favour for many more moons to come.

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