Who decided April would be the gloomiest month of the year? Sure, we all know that the gray and rainy skies of April will eventually give way to the colors of May flowers. Being loved around this annual obligation is no small task, but one feisty North American company – TaxAct – found a way. By employing a holistic sonic branding strategy developed by Sixieme Son, TaxAct had discovered a cheerful and cheeky way to engage more deeply with customers and prospects.
TaxAct does not operate in a vacuum. In fact, theirs is a market crowded with well-known brands and competitors. These companies have more marketing might and bigger media buying budgets. To further complicate matters, many consumers imagine the company’s name is part of a government agency or policy. Standing out and addressing this confusion became a key goal for TaxAct when it engaged Sixieme Son.
“Tax season is so unique,” said Alicia Chrapaty, CMO, at TaxAct.“For most of the year, people aren’t thinking about their taxes. And then, BOOM, they’re on everyone’s minds. For us to capture some of that mindshare and business, we knew we needed to make an impression, and sound has become one of our strategic advantages, thanks to Sixieme Son.”
To drive awareness, TaxAct recognized it would need something that would immediately grab a customer’s attention to the name when it came time to file taxes. Working with their creative agency Hawkeye, TaxAct was drawn to the idea of sound as a differentiator. Its larger rivals hadn’t considered the deep application of sound via a holistic sonic brand strategy. Working with Sixieme Son, TaxAct managed to outflank the competition.
The sonic brand developed for TaxAct went far beyond the campaign-based approach employed by some companies that integrate sounds sporadically and inconsistently. Sixieme Son worked with TaxAct to create a complete sonic identity that could be used in a wide range of customer touchpoints, including logos, intros, outros, hold music, social, and other beds of music.
“Sound can be used as a strategic asset,” said Michael Boumendil, founder and president of Sixieme Son. “Too many very smart brand marketers ignore the power and potential of sound, treating it like a nice to have rather than a must have. Alicia has shown an appreciation for all of the ways sonic elements can be used to tell and reinforce a brand’s story and value proposition.”
Sounding Better All the Time
At the core of the identity is a sonic logo [link to sonic logo] that draws attention to the brand by playing on the word “TaxAct.” Many elements of this approach propelled the logo into an expansive and memorable sonic territory.
The unexpected combination of sounds, for example, automatically grabs people’s attention. The repeated T-T-T syllable conveys TaxAct’s energy and overall positivity. The whistling communicates cheerfulness, simplicity, and ease. The rhythm provided by the sound of jingling coins reinforces the brand benefit and the magical possibility of more money coming back into taxpayers’ pockets.
These sounds and sonic cues tie in and reinforce other parts of TaxAct’s advertising campaign, which uses a visual effect of cash falling from the sky. The sounds created by Sixieme Son go far beyond the sounds of coins, rustling bills, or cash registers ringing. An ownable and flexible system of sounds was created that reflects the brand goal of converting the burden of taxes into the magic of possibilities.
Implementation and Impact
Before this all becomes too abstract, it is important to describe just how concrete these sonic elements are within the broader TaxAct strategy. In 2022, TaxAct introduced its quirky new spokesperson, April Showers. She enters people’s lives to alleviate the burden of taxes and shower them with cash from their refunds. There’s a fun and feisty energy at play, and the sonic money cues help create a magical feeling.
In 2023, the sonic identity continues to be woven throughout TaxAct’s TV advertising campaign. The branded music adds to the energy of the spot and makes a strong and memorable impression. That impression is extended and reinforced by other uses and adaptations. For example, the sonic identity serves as the brand anthem.
Its flexibility also allows its use in many variations and situations. During the College Bowl Season, the identity was imbued with the sounds of college football, including the bright brass and booming drums of a college marching band. It was created to create a more authentic experience for football fans across the country.
Another novel use has been as part of the company’s call center hold music. Each year, nearly half a million people call for customer services. They range from prospects to existing customers looking for help. Needless to say, many of these people are confused, agitated, anxious, and harried – especially as April 15th tax filing deadline approaches. The music bed that was created helps reduce the sense of wait time and frustration and improves overall satisfaction.
These varied applications are thanks to the flexible music library Sixieme Son developed. The sound beds are designed to be looped or cut and repurposed, providing a flexible range of TaxAct-branded music for every occasion. The assortment of moods ranges from the more background needs of tax educational videos to the more inspirational tone required for television advertising or recruitment videos.
The outcome of this strategy has been profound.
In the 2022 tax season, TaxAct ads featuring the new sonic identity were the most viewed tax prep ads online. According to a study by AcuityAds, TaxAct ads took the No. 1 spot – beating out all competitors including TurboTax and H&R Block.
Whether it is reminding people of TaxAct when they hear the logo, creating a more favorable feeling towards the brand, or serving as a memorable earworm that burrows into people’s brains and consciousness, the identity is a sonic success.