The Boom of Sonic Branding
4 min read by Abi Feltham
Sounds have the unique ability to transport us back in time. Have you ever been walking home from work on a summer’s day and heard the distant chime of an ice cream van? All at once, you are whisked back to childhood.
Sound is one of the most evocative senses, which is why sonic branding is so effective for brands. Simply put, it’s a holistic approach to a brand’s use of music and sound across all relevant touch-points. An audio logo, if you will. Short and distinct, it can either accompany a visual logo, strengthening overall brand recognition, or work alone on podcasts, streaming platforms, radio or apps. If done well, it will trigger connections and create associations, arousing a powerful emotional response in the recipient.
A great example of this is the Netflix ta-dum sound, backed by a masterful animation and visual identity. The moment you click play on a movie, when you hear the sound and have the ‘N’ come at you, it pre-frames you for the viewing experience you’re about to embark on. The sound has the feeling of a film score or trailer, conjuring up memories of dark cinemas, salty popcorn and seat-shaking Dolby Digital audio. The simple act of opening Netflix becomes an event. Similar to the experience you get when you go to the cinema, it’s almost as if you’re there with the protagonist of the film, eager to set out on an adventure with them. Perfectly, it sets the mood for what’s to come.
It is this type of audio identity that can make a brand stand out. All day long people are blasted by different types of media, so much so that many of them switch off, causing businesses to fade into the background. Engaging sound design will cut through the noise and grab the consumer’s attention. After all, people react faster to audio than any other stimulus since it only takes 0.146 seconds for a human to react to sound.
Sound is an extension of brand storytelling. It evokes crucial emotions that facilitate the journey a brand is taking you on, pulling you into their own unique word. Pleasurable sounds may lead to the release of neurotransmitters associated with reward, such as dopamine, and we don’t have to tell you twice about the importance of emotions in the purchase funnel.
Musical emotions and musical memory can survive long after other forms of memory have disappeared
As well as helping brands be heard, sonic branding can strengthen people’s mental recall. Just like the visual areas of brand design—logo, colours, typography and so on—sonic branding can ingrain itself in people’s memories, building familiarity, awareness and trust. This is particularly vital when it comes to the consumer’s decision on which brands to support. According to research by DLMDD and YouGov, one in three adults under the age of 35 (33%) feels more favourable towards brands with a sonic identity than those without. If you can enter their minds subconsciously, the likelihood is that you will stay there.
In a world that is full of communications, having an effective audio presence can be a real game changer. So, now you’re sold on all things sound, how can your brand create their very own sonic identity?
As with any consumer-based project, the first task is to conduct a review of your competitors. This will assure that you are creating something singular and allow you to avoid any crossover with other brands. Just as your story is one-of-a-kind, so too is your branding.
Find your audience
Consider your target audience. If you haven’t already, create buyer personas who represent the consumers that you’re talking to. What kind of sound would resonate with them? If you’re targeting the elderly, you probably don’t want to use any pumping bass. What platforms will your audience use when they engage with the audio?
Marketers that don’t understand the power of music will simply be left behind.
MARY DILLON, MCDONALD’S CMO
This—in our humble opinion—is the most important step. How do you want your customers to feel? This will depend on your brand’s personality, values and overall story. Do you want to evoke uncontrollable excitement in your audience? Or a sense of calm and serenity? Whichever feeling you’re going for, make sure it is one that represents your story.
Keep it simple
We’re not only going for originality here, but simplicity as well. If your audio logo is to be remembered, even hummed, then it will need to be effortless, catchy and stripped back. This can be challenging, finding the balance between exceptional and clean, but don’t worry. We believe in you.
In many cases, businesses treat rebranding as a purely visual experience, which is why getting organised about audio identity can put you heads above the rest. Branding, after all, has the potential to be a multi-sensory platform. The goal is to build an audio strategy that, just like a visual one, resonates with customers whenever it is heard. It’s about forming connections and associations, then provoking certain emotions that signal your brand has arrived, and you’re ready for action.