Sonic Branding: The Science of Sound that finetunes brands

Sonic branding

In a crowded marketplace packed full of new ideas, innovative products, and exciting companies, branding is more important than ever.

For most marketers and business owners, the easiest way to imagine a brand is by visualizing logos, specific colors, and even popular marketing materials. However, there’s more to a company than how it looks. Sonic branding is about making sure that your organization is ‘heard’, as well as seen.

The power of sound transcends culture, language, and even the visual world. With sonic branding, companies connect with their customers on a different level. Anywhere in the world, someone can hear the tune of the “I’m Lovin’ It” and think of McDonald’s, without a single word being spoken.

While the process of distilling your brand into a few notes of sound can be challenging, it pays off. Your sonic logo can be just as recognizable as any other component of your brand. What’s more, it gives you a way to reach customers who are barely paying attention.

So, how do you create a sound strategy for sonic branding?

Ready for a tune-up? What is sonic branding?

We’re living in a world surrounded by sound. Whether it’s the little tune your smartphone plays when you turn it on or the alarm that plays to wake you up in the morning, we all spend our lives doused in noise. Every second of the day, we’re consuming a sound cocktail filled with hums, beeps, and melodies – and we don’t need to be actively listening to absorb the message.

It only takes around 0.146 seconds for human beings to react to sound. We automatically experience an emotional response whenever we hear certain tunes. The beeping at a checkout counter lets us know our transactions are going through smoothly. The click when you lock your car door lets you know that you’re safe.

Ultimately, every moment in our lives is affected by sound and music. Sonic branding is your opportunity to be part of the symphony of the modern world.

Otherwise known as ‘sound branding’, sonic branding refers to the sound of your brand. Specifically, unlike audio branding which refers to all the noises that your company creates, sonic branding refers to the creation of a single jingle or ‘sonic logo’ that represents your company.

If you think you’ve never heard a sonic logo before, think again. A sonic logo sounds like this for Windows, or this for McDonald’s, or even this for Nokia.

Though these tones sound like basic mnemonics at first, they carry huge amounts of emotional weight for your company. The right tune in your sonic branding helps to set the foundation of every interaction customers have with your business.

The benefits of working with sonic branding companies.

A compelling sound, just like the right logo or graphics, sets your brand apart.

Sound enhances recall, evokes emotion, and strengthens affinity with customers by appealing to different senses. Of course, the wrong sound can either come across as unrecognizable noise or worse – lead to the wrong feelings about your company.

Sonic branding companies are experts in working with audio. Through careful considerations of brand identity and image, a sonic branding organization can help you to find your business sound. Whether it’s the Coca-Cola soundscape of fizzes and satisfying sounds, or the droplet sound introducing TED talks.

Sonic logos must be meticulously crafted to represent a brand just as clearly as their visual counterparts. They work because they’re designed to help customers form implicit associations with a company in their minds. Working with sonic branding companies to create your sonic logo leads to:

1. Greater attention for your brand

Sonic branding helps to capture the attention of your audience and build brand recognition. In an environment plagued by information overload, attention is perhaps your brand’s scarcest asset. Adding a sound to your brand identity can help you to get the focus you need. Additionally, sound can penetrate your customer’s subconscious even when they’re not listening. While a visual logo requires someone to pay attention, a sonic logo flows through the mind regardless of where their focus might be.

2. Stronger loyalty

Sound triggers emotional responses far better than visuals. If you’ve ever tried watching a horror movie with the sound on mute, you’ll find that you don’t get scared anywhere near as often. On the other hand, just listening to a spooky sound can be enough to set your skin on edge. With sound, you can use emotion to tap into the loyalty and commitment of your target audience. You just need the right sonic logo.

3. Better brand recall

You don’t just want your customers to know your company; you want them to remember it too. There are plenty of brand assets that can help with that, including your brand photography and logo. However, according to studies, listening to sound or a piece of music can initiate the memory section of your customer’s brain, leading to better brand recall.

4. Conveying purpose and value

Because sonic branding resonates with your customers on a more emotional level, it can be a great way to convey your values and brand purpose. Music is emotive, and it has a way of communicating complex ideas in a way that’s easier for your clients to understand. The right sonic logo or audio identity can express what you stand for as a company and help you to deliver a clearer message about what you want to bring to your audience.

5. Boosting your personality

Sound, as an emotional vehicle, can humanize your digital presence and make it more appealing to your customers. Today, we rely heavily on websites and social media to communicate with customers. Unfortunately, while digital media is convenient, it lacks much of the personal nature of in-person interactions. Since people react faster to sound than any other media, the right sonic identity could help to give greater depth to your online personality, so you don’t appear as just another characterless corporation.

6. Enhance engagement and experience

Music and sound can be powerful tools for encouraging people to engage with your brand. A fun sound or jingle stays in someone’s mind. Have you ever found yourself singing or humming along to a company’s sonic logo without realizing it? A sound can even become a viral phenomenon or a meme in today’s socially-driven online space.

How to create your sonic logo: Top tips for success

As mentioned above, when most people think of logos, they think of visual assets.

While your visual logo is an important component of what makes your company different, a sonic logo can help to take your company to the next level.

Your sonic logo serves a similar purpose to a standard brand icon. It appears whenever you have a chance to connect with your customers through audio media. For instance, you’d play your sonic logo at the beginning and end of a podcast or logo. You might add it to your live streams and broadcasts on social media or put it in your television ads.

The question is, how do you create a sonic identity that speaks on behalf of your brand? What can you do to make sure that your customers hear the right message from your sonic logo?

1. Conduct a sonic branding audit

Before you can figure out where you need to go with your sonic identity, you need to determine where you are. A sonic brand is just like a standard brand. Whether you’re actively building your image or not, the chances are that you already have the beginnings of an audio identity out there. Whether it’s the music that you play in the background of your podcasts, or the words you say at the end of every video blog.

Check through your brand and content assets for any signs of a sonic logo or identity. Build on your existing knowledge of the music and sounds that resonate with your brand and ask yourself how you would distill the essence of your company into a few seconds of sound.

2. Keep your sonic logo simple

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the various elements of logo design. When you want your audio identity to be as clear and obvious as possible, you might end up going a little over the top with the sounds you create. However, the best thing you can do is keep your sound as clean as simple as possible.

Look back in time at some of the best sonic branding examples throughout history. Think about Twentieth Century Fox’s audio logo or the lion roar from MGM, one thing most of the best sonic identities have in common is that they’re not songs or jingles with catchy lyrics – they’re tones that customers can recognize within an instant. Try to create a sonic logo that doesn’t rely on words. Instead, find a musical mnemonic that elicits a specific feeling from your target audience. Remember, a couple of seconds should be more than enough to get the right response.

3. Focus on triggering emotions

As mentioned above, your sonic logo needs to make your customers feel something. Although sonic branding is still a widely underused technique in marketing, there’s still way too much sound in the world. Your customers don’t want your company to be another source of meaningless noise. With sonic branding, your focus is your logo or tagline – the thing that’s going to accompany your traditional logo whenever possible.

Work with your sonic branding agency to create a sound that conveys the right feeling from your customers. Imagine the digital bleeps of the Intel logo that conveys a sense of innovation and simplicity. Consider the ‘whoosh’ sound you hear on an Apple device when you send an email – helping you to feel relaxed and confident that your communications are getting through.

4. Don’t use sounds that already exist

Since emotional resonance is so critical for a strong sonic branding strategy, it’s easy to see why many companies try to simply take ownership of sounds that already make them feel a certain way. Unfortunately, you can’t copyright a sound like a locking door, and many familiar tunes are already owned by other companies.

Even if you could use someone else’s sounds, your aim as a brand should be to stand out from your competition, not borrow their sonic logos. Choose a sound that helps to highlight your position in the marketplace and remind customers of how unique you are.

5. Don’t give up

Whether your sonic branding strategy leads to the creation of a jingle, or you just want a basic sound like the ‘Intel Inside’ noise, it’s important not to lose sight of your vision. Creating an iconic sound isn’t easy, and it takes time for the tune you develop to start resonating with your audience.

Remember that every brand has a soundtrack, no matter whether you’re working on yours with a sonic branding agency, or your customers are creating it for you. Building the sonic aspect of your brand is just like developing any other component of your identity. It takes time, focus, and perseverance.

Sonic branding examples: Sounds to study

We get so caught up in the visual aspects of the world that it’s easy to overlook our other senses.

However, whether you realize it or not, sounds are already an important factor in how people think and feel about companies. Companies like IBM, Intel, and even State Farm have been using sonic logos to help customers understand and remember the identities they’re trying to create for their companies. You might even have a sonic logo rumbling around in your brain right now.

Here are just a few sonic branding examples most likely to ring a bell.

1. The Nokia tune

Most sonic logos are composed specifically for commercials and marketing strategies. For instance, many companies use their sonic identity in their podcasts and videos. However, there are other examples of sonic branding out there that have emerged naturally over time. For example, the Nokia ringtone is something that an entire generation now associates with their mobile phone.

Nokia’s sonic logos are so pervasive in Indian culture, that they’ve become a common part of many movies, television series, and more. A simple ringtone allowed Nokia to market itself through multiple forms of media, all without ever having to draw obvious attention to its products.

2. Zomato

You think of food, you think of Zomato. Over the years, Zomato has put in significant effort in building a distinctive visual signature for Zomato while building a deep connection with food. Today, it wants to be a company that can be identifiable even without the wordmark.
In other words, what could Zomato sound like?

Pondering the aural identity, Zomato sensed an immense opportunity to create an auditory palette to represent that would encapsulate both what Zomato stands for as a brand, and how millions of our partners and consumers feel while interacting with it.

Jive into Zomato’s signature track, which is distinct and hummable.

3. MasterCard

Another great example of a very basic, but highly evocative sonic logo is the MasterCard jingle. Mastercard debuts its sonic brand identity, a comprehensive sound architecture that signifies the latest advancement for the brand. Wherever consumers engage with Mastercard across the globe – be it physical, digital or voice environments – the distinct and memorable Mastercard melody will provide simple, seamless familiarity.

4. MG Motors

Underlining its endeavour to provide exciting experiences every-time, the carmaker introduced the ‘MG Brand Anthem’ – with an aim to reflect its unique brand image that blends its rich heritage and exciting future. The anthem fuses modern sounds such as ‘trap’ and ‘neo-electronica’ with timeless brass arrangements such as the saxophone. The MG brand anthem is an extension of the carmaker’s value proposition as an automotive manufacturer of the future which draws inspiration to innovate from its rich brand legacy of over 95 years.

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I'm a writer and I do not simply pen down my thoughts. Rather, I'm someone who puts down the entire conversation between my inner mind and me. I make sure that my mind is jaded and tired but happy when I'm done for the day.

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