You know that feeling when your jam comes on? That feeling when your favorite song makes you either start dancing across the sidewalk or belt out the lyrics in your car like you’re a Grammy-winning popstar. It’s a great feeling, right?
Sound has the ability to move people just as much as visual or physical stimulation, but outside of the music industry sound is often overlooked - especially in marketing and branding strategies.
Marketers spend a ton of time making sure they brand their company and its products primarily through visual elements with copy and creative being the main priority. They operate under the guise that brands are things that can only be seen - that their carefully designed logo or heavily edited slogan are the only things that will make their brand recognizable to a consumer.
What about those brands that have a logo and a tag line, but also a sound associated with them? That is the art of sonic branding which makes your brand recognizable but a specific and distinguishable sound, jingle or voice over.
Yeah, it sounds like unnecessary, futuristic marketing jargon, but sonic branding has been around and has been effective since the dawn and heydey of the radio age. Back then, when radio was the primary form of entertainment and media consumption, utilizing sound was key for brands - whether if they were a radio show, product or a radio personality.
Now that radio is no longer the central method of communication and consumption, much of our time is spent visually digesting messages - whether it be text messages, videos and other sight driven mediums. And with that sound has become an afterthought if not completely forgotten in branding strategies.
However, even though we are constantly digesting messages visually, with the increase of voice search and verbal communication with AI devices (remember the movie, Her?), marketers should start to look for ways to make their brands recognizable by consumers’ ear just as much as their eyes.
In addition to the different forms of media consumption, there’s also some science behind the importance of sound when it comes to branding. The Audio Branding Congress presented evidence in the Harvard Business Review stating that using sound strategically can help consumers identify a target product faster when there is matched sound associated with the product. They also reported that sound can help with brand recall.
Aside from the evolving ways of media consumption, why is developing a sonic branding strategy becoming increasingly important? Because the sound, the jingle, the theme song, the voice over - the ‘whatever’ of a brand is to tied to the brand’s identity and its positioning. Just like your personal jam evokes a certain emotion and reaction, so does a brand’s sonic image. It’s the heart of the brand.
But it is easier said than done. A marketer can’t just whip out the office synthesizer and xylophone (because all obvious has those), pump out a few notes and voila they have an effective sonic branding strategy.
Well while most brands are probably unfamiliar with the intricacies and nuances of composing, beginning a foray into sonic branding can seem daunting. So, first and foremost, brands should look to other brands who have successfully executed a sonic branding initiative.
Let’s look at McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” jingle. While Mickey D’s golden arches might be more familiar to us as consumers than our own faces, the jingle evokes a brand reminiscent of happiness and friendliness that is paramount to McDonalds. And when you hear someone say, “I’m lovin’ it,” don’t you just want a Big Mac.
Or how about Netflix’s mnemonic that bum bums at the beginning of any Netflix original? Rumor has it that this is an homage to Frank Underwood’s House of Cards double table knock. But every time someone hears that sound along with the animated logo, they know they are about to watch content specifically created by their favorite streaming service. It’s a way for Netflix to delineate their own content from the hundred of other movies and television featured on the site.
Even as technology, consumption and strategies continue to evolve, marketers need to consider sonic branding not as a stand alone strategy, but as a core component of their brand’s identity and DNA.