From the lion’s roar appearing before every Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, to the iconic Nokia ringtone, sonic branding has proven incredibly powerful. Pandora and Mastercard have also recently developed their own sonic logos.
Ad recall research published by market research giant Ipsos suggests that ads featuring sonic branding are 3x as likely to be higher performing. Consumers are more likely to remember the ad and to remember the brand.
Ipsos reviewed 2,015 video ads from the US across categories including healthcare; pet food; durables, such as consumer electronics; financial services; digital services; beauty; beverages and food.
These ads were then served to target consumers in a distracted environment amongst competing content with sound on to simulate real life conditions. These consumers were later asked if they recognise the ad, and if so, to name the brand. The recognition and brand attribution scores were then combined and reported as “branded attention”.
Finally, the researchers grouped the ads into a high-performing and low-performing group based on branded attention, and compared the presence of various brand elements within those ads.
Components of a sonic brand
This is probably what we usually think of as a brand’s audio identity. This is a short 2-3 second-long tune which usually accompanies the brand’s visual logo. It encapsulates everything that the brand stands for. A good example would be Intel’s jingle.
These are audio signals that guide users through their interaction with the product at particular points in that journey. Examples include the Microsoft Windows 95 startup sound, error tones, and even the sound effects used by Siri and the Google Assistant to notify you that they are waiting for your command after your say the wake word.
Navigational sounds are meant to be both evocative of the brand and functional. Because navigational sounds are experienced far more regularly during the course of using a product, they can be as, if not more, familiar and iconic as a sonic logo.
A brand anthem is a long-form composition (but typically under 2 minutes). Unlike just a catchy jingle (which is the marketing world’s pop music), a brand anthem is meant to be rousing, emotive, and convey the brand’s story and values. This is much like a national anthem rallying and uniting an entire country.
When used in an ad, a brand anthem is usually accompanied by voice over narrative. And you need to experience great brand anthems to understand how inspiring this is, so do watch the videos below.
This is also known as sound design and can be used as background track to a physical space (like a retail shop), or as waiting music prior to a company’s product launch or keynote speech.
The purpose of music is not just to fill dead time, but to evoke feelings in the audience. How do you want your audience to feel at that particular time? As this depends on the situation, it may be worth your company having multiple soundscape to choose from.
Developing your own sonic brand
Conduct a sonic brand audit
It is important to take stock of where you are in order to plan for the future. A good understanding of the current situation, the brand values you stand for, and your desired outcomes would prove useful when briefing a creative agency.
Often times, your company and product are already generating sounds that your customers experience. Some of these (such as the snap when opening a Snapple bottle) could be leveraged, nurtured, and turned into a distinctive brand asset. Others, you may decide, should be replaced.
Take a holistic approach
A sonic logo on its own can often be meaningless because it lacks context. An anthem can provide a more complete story, but this too can seem isolated if not supported by other sonic and visual brand elements. Seek to develop a complete brand.
Like with good visual branding, sonic branding should be unique, recognisable, and an embodiment of the brand’s values. This also has to be appropriate strategically for the company – never lose sight of that. After all, sound and music are not just tactical, they serve a strategic purpose.
A brand is an asset that requires investment and maintenance. This needs to be consistent across your company’s marketing communications. Use your sound as often as you can, and across as many media channels as you can. Consistency is key to building a brand, and getting it to ultimately work for you.
Prioritise and invest
Leadership is needed. Branding is sometimes seems as a nice-to-have, or a needless expense, or something which a company is delusionally obsessed with.
As a leader, you need to decide the degree of sonic branding you can afford at any particular time, and at the particular stage that your business is in. And then invest in it in a balanced way – being serious about it, but overdoing or overthinking either.
Are you looking for branding support to take your company to the next level? I would be happy to discuss this with you. Get in touch today.