During last week’s annual Association of National Advertisers “Masters of Marketing” conference, chief marketing officers from national brands spent three days talking shop with the 3,000 attendees. The Radio Advertising Bureau’s takeaway: “If you don’t connect in a human way with consumers, becoming a purposeful brand that is like-minded, empathetic and understanding, growth simply cannot be accomplished.”

Alicia Tillman, CMO, SAP, cited proprietary research that reinforced this message: “Today we live in an experience economy and what that means is that business is won or lost based on the value of the experience we deliver. We have a responsibility as brands to become more relevant – we have to understand the feelings of our buyers more so that we can model the experience before we serve it to them,” as reported by Tammy Greenberg, the RAB’s Senior VP/Business Development, on the Radio Matters blog.

Adding to that, Meredith Verdone, Chief Marketing Officer of Bank of America, asked, “Are you making your tech more human, or do you have humanity? We are building brands and brands are very emotional things. At the end of the day you have to connect rationally, but also in the heart,” according to Westwood One in its coverage of the ANA gathering on the “Everyone’s Listening” blog.

The importance of a sonic strategy was also front and center at a number of presentations. Target CMO Rick Gomez explained, “With our brand, we have a really clear point of view on how it shows up visually … so when you see a piece of content you go, ‘that’s Target’,” he said. “Part of that is casting and the lighting and the craftsmanship—but sound is really important, and we believe sound is going to be increasingly important.”

He said that creating a sonic strategy is “audio branding in a holistic way.” It’s not just about the audio in their ads. It’s what you hear when you walk into Target and the music you hear when you call the help desk, adding that the rise of voice search and voice shopping will make audio strategy vital for retail marketing.

Even though the Target brand is an established visual brand, the RAB asked Gomez what is the plan for the brand’s audio strategy in the increasing voice-activated world? His response: “I am smiling because we are having these debates right now. What is the sound of Target? Unmistakably, Target is our goal, sound is really important, and we think we have a real opportunity to think about audio branding in a really unique way that goes beyond a commercial.”

Meanwhile, Accenture Interactive observed, “Forward-looking CMOs recognize the growing potential of audio and interactive voice as a dominant medium, elevating the importance of determining smart marketing strategies that can deliver brand messaging without a screen,” according to Westwood One’s report from Pierre Bouvard, Chief Insights Officer at Cumulus/Westwood One.

The RAB report noted how prevalent the radio industry was at the ANA conference, including a Westwood One hosted party featuring One Republic, an iHeartMedia dinner and the RAB booth. “Radio, across the audio universe (broadcast, podcast, streaming, voice, influencer marketing, experiential and more) was the buzz of the show,” Greenberg wrote. “A medium that always leans in to its listeners, serves the content listeners crave and provides the platforms that marketers need to remain relevant and drive growth.”

For the complete reports, see HERE for the RAB and HERE for Westwood One.