Campaign Trail is our analysis of some of the best and worst new creative efforts from the marketing world. View past columns in the archives here.
From bees humming to the sound of falling water, sounds of nature make up an integral part of our world's soundscape. Speaker developer Sonos is encouraging a deeper sensory connection to nature with a new 60-second video ad to visually and sonically explore the link between sound and nature — with voice-overs touting how "Every experience in nature is or can be spiritual" and "Music is everywhere in nature."
The spot grounds Sonos' "Wild Tracks" campaign, the new creative for its Roam smart speaker designed with portability and adventure in mind. Because certain destinations possess "an unmatched splendor that merits a soundtrack of its own," per Sonos, the brand enlisted 11 nature enthusiast influencers to curate playlists and give fellow outdoorspeople a soundtrack inspired by some of America's national parks.
The move follows a study commissioned by Sonos that found 74% of respondents choose music as their preferred adventure buddy — even over friends and select family members.
"The storytelling we're able to achieve with a campaign like 'Wild Tracks' helps to better contextualize the proof points of the Sonos experience we've been messaging since launch," said Nicole Gullaci, the brand's director of marketing for the Americas.
Excitement for travel and exploration is especially high this summer, following a period when most consumers were cooped up indoors. That desire for adventure inspired Sonos' creative team to tie the brand's newest device to helping people immerse themselves in their natural surroundings. Developed with agency M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment North America, "Wild Tracks" took less than two months from conception to launch, Gullaci said. The film appears as paid social and display ads.
To inspire immersion in Sonos' creative messaging linking sound with nature, the brand teamed with a group of nature enthusiasts to curate playlists designed to encourage listeners to seek their own adventure. The playlists cover a range of national parks across America and a state park in Canada. Sonos enlisted each person — like travel journalist Travis Levius, mountain climber Andrea Ference and Peloton senior instructor Emma Lovewell — to produce a list of songs inspired by their own experiences in nature. Together, the 11 playlists feature songs from more than 100 artists, spanning from synth-pop and rock genres to instrumental.
"We wanted to highlight a variety of creators doing great things within their space — be that wellness, adventure, travel, photography [or] sustainability," Gullaci said. "It was also important to us that we were selecting partners who had a long-standing relationship with nature and affinity for adventure in order for the campaign to be authentic."
Once Sonos narrowed down its list of influencers, the brand's team interviewed each one to examine their special connection with nature. Four responses were selected to feature in the campaign's anthem spot.
"In order to get them to share on such a personal and emotional level, we had the benefit of trust," Gullaci said. "While it was hard to only pick four [voice-overs], we found prompts like, 'What do you hear when you imagine your favorite place in nature?' and 'How do music and nature connect?' really helped to deliver the compelling narrative."
Tech aesthetic to Santa Barbara vibes
Centered on the audio experience, "Wild Tracks" is the latest chapter in Sonos' journey from repositioning itself as a technology company to instead place sound front and center. The brand in 2019 found itself resembling many other tech-focused companies in the industry, with monochromatic colors and minimalist designs. It unveiled a fresh look and design system that year, working to exude premium quality but with warmer hues that stand out and nod to Sonos' hometown of Santa Barbara, California. Sonos subtly reworked its brand identity and tone of voice within its marketing, swapping out a techy aesthetic and music-inspired cliches for a more welcoming brand oriented around sound.
That same year, the company teamed with home goods retailer Ikea on a table lamp and bookshelf — both embedded with Sonos speakers. Fast-forward to mid-2021 and the audio brand is releasing both its new Roam portable speaker and a campaign to promote the device.
"Wild Tracks" is notable for also being the first time Sonos has tapped a group of influencers for a full campaign. The brand has typically opted to make these partnerships as standalone stunts, but this time rallied around a "marquee marketing moment," per Gullaci.
"One thing we especially love about this campaign is that it really is evergreen, so the playlists will always be available for travelers to listen to during their adventures," she said.