Sonic boom or soothing duet? What does your brand sound like?

The Team, creative brand design agency, internal communications agency, employee engagement agency, customer engagement agency, sonic branding

What is sonic branding?

You may or may not have heard of sonic branding, the sounds that we associate with brands, but it’s an aspect of marketing that surrounds us every day. Just think of the McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ it” jingle!

Sonic branding is often overlooked. Which is odd considering our appetite for video. Radio is ever-present in our cars, kitchens and workplaces. Ad-funded podcasts are popular and businesses are investing in experiential marketing. There is also the rise of voice-enabled devices.

Sound can set a product or service apart. It can enhance recall, evoke an emotion and improve other senses. Food tastes better, perfume smells sweeter and a car door feels sturdier. Sound generally enriches an experience.

The SBT (Sonic Brand Trigger) of Intel inside. The chime of Apple computers starting up. The droplet that introduces TED Talks or Coca-Cola’s soundscape, the bottle opening, bottle cap noise, ice cubes clicking, the sound of pouring, fizzing, then the “ahh” of satisfaction.

All these examples demonstrate the value of sonic branding. In an ever-competitive commercial environment, musical stings can be an effective way of cutting through the noise.

How does sonic branding work?

In order for an audio ‘mnemonic’ to become synonymous with the brand, it needs to be employed across all communications and added to brand guidelines. With audio, the element of repetition is key. Children learn nursery rhymes and use melody as a way of committing information to memory, our brains are designed to look for patterns in sound, and music is a great shortcut to creating an inherent connection between listener and brand.

The high production levels of TV commercials have previously provided an opportunity to invest in sonic branding. However, new products and services are being promoted without TV advertising. There’s a shift away from marketing to brand experience. Paying attention to the quality of an interaction, providing more touch points, more direct channels, more content, better customer service, events and sponsorship.

Brand managers should be cautious to replace or reinvent their sonic branding too often. It can take time for ‘ear-worms’ to bed into our subconscious. It’s been nearly 30 years since British Airways first used the Flower Duet, a piece of elegant music taken from the opera Lakmé and now intrinsically linked to every touch-point of the airline.

How is sonic branding created?

The process of creating branded audio is much the same as traditional logo development. Brand owners brief an audio producer at a music house, who through a stage of investigation and research pulls together a creative treatment for the development of the sonic branding. This treatment includes notes on the proposed instrumentation, tone, genre, duration, cadences, etc., as well as existing references and justification of the musical choices. Several rounds of internal reviews, presenting and development will follow until a final sonic device is agreed upon. Then it’s the brand guardian’s job to ensure it is rolled out across all channels, built into scripts and given the time to become synonymous with the brand.

An audio identity cannot be overlooked, it’s a powerful tool in a brand’s arsenal.