Sonic Branding or also called audio branding, is the phenomenon of adding songs or specific sounds to your brand, service, or any product. The idea of creating a product’s association with a sound is quite old. It has been used by many iconic brands such as Microsoft Windows, Nokia, McDonald’s, and many other international brands. This association is deliberately developed by the brands to create brand recall for the customers, fans, or followers. The brand creates these sounds as a brand strategy for consumers to register the sound in their brains to indicate the brand and recall the brand’s tune whenever it’s played.
History of Sonic Branding
It is believed that human beings created melody and rhythm before they invented a language. There is no specific year indication to when actual music was introduced and played. However, Roman senator Paulinus of Nola introduced into the Christian church “Church Bells” to call worshippers for prayer. Let’s consider it is the first sonic branding of the human age. Later on, everywhere in Europe, it became a norm, and people familiarized themselves with church bells as a call to prayer. Many nations came up with their traditional songs and dances that they introduced for war preparation, festival celebration, and marking of events. In the 19th century, the first sound recording was introduced. However, at that time, they didn’t know how to play it back. The famous phonograph (later called gramophone) was invented by Thomas Edison 17 years later, enabling us to replay records – What a cool invention of its times! After that, music was introduced in movies, commercials, and we never looked back. We all still remember jingles from our childhood, and it is always a fun activity once you are a grown-up to recall those jingles and rhyme them with your childhood buddies.
The Sonic Logo is the sound cue used by companies, television shows, and brands. This short audio leaves the customer an unforgettable impression that they remember and associate with the company’s name forever. It strengthens the connection of customers with that brand as well. That is why the logos of the companies are not recommended to change for the longest time. In fact, theoretically speaking logos shouldn’t change for they are of the strongest brand association element. Changing a logo and sound associated with it is highly unappreciated in the world of advertising and marketing. Only when the company is rebranding its image, logos are given new color, shape, and audio cue. It takes years for a brand to register its logo and sonic branding in the consumer’s mind. Changing it would again require all those years, money, energy, and strategy. When it comes to recalling sonic logos, HBO’s “Ahh” is so strong that it’s recognizable in your sleep as well. The static and the click that triggers the ahh sound is particularly clever. Similarly, the three notes logo of NBC “Chime” is elegantly simple yet catchy. Columbia Pictures’ “Intro Logo” evokes the feelings of magical whimsy that builds to a frenetic climax which makes you feel as if you are in your happy place.
HBO’s Ahh Intro
Three notes logo of NBC “Chime”
Columbia Pictures’ “Intro Logo”
Multinational Brands Creating Nostalgia through Sonic Branding
Music is a tool to create nostalgia. Brands understood the ideology and completely used it to create a strong brand association for their products and services. There is no way you wouldn’t feel nostalgic listening to any of the songs, jingles, tunes, branded song, or anything that is remotely related to your past. Sonic branding is the use of this behavior to create nostalgia among users. One of the most successful sonic branding examples is the Microsoft Windows tune that is played at the start when you switch your desktop on. “Tin tin titin”, just that sound and you know someone has started the computer. When we were kids Microsoft was the king and the only operating system manufacturer. Therefore, there was no other sound that was linked to the start of a computer but this.
Microsoft Windows Sounds
AOL’s signature “You’ve Got Mail” notification is also one of the most memorable audio branding of the 90s. Similarly, Nokia was the first mobile brand that introduced its iconic ring tone which became its symbol of recognition. For many years Nokia enjoyed market leadership until competitors came up with better functioning phones and took away its position.
AOL’s “You’ve Got Mail”
Nokia Ring Tone
McDonald’s collaborated with Justin Timberlake to come up with the “I’m Lovin It” brand slogan which was initially disguised in his own song in connection with burgers. A year later when the commercial went on air, it became the first global marketing campaign after 1955. Because of sonic branding, a brand becomes a permanent part of the consumer’s memory and life. Throughout your life, you will remember that brand and music that is associated with it. That is why usually brands don’t change the background theme of their advertisement, sonic logo, voice-over artists, and anything that is remotely attached to audio branding.
There has been some discussion lately about who came up with the “I’m Lovin It” sonic branding. Please check this elaborative video to find out more:
Consumer Behavior Transformation
If you are a 90s kid, you are accustomed to memorizing audio that is linked to product branding. However, with the technological transformation that we have seen in the past two decades, a later millennial doesn’t perceive regular advertisement the way the earlier generation used to do. The quick lifestyle, change in devices used, and time constraint, has drastically changed the consumer’s habits. Humans officially have an attention span of 8.25 seconds now, which is even shorter than a goldfish! On the brighter side, it is benefiting sonic branding as it serves as an alternative communication channel compared to visual processing. Not just that, but it is the use of sounds for brand recognition that can be used as well such as intrinsic product-based sound. The sound of the Harley Davidson engine is one of the examples of using sound for brand proliferation and identity.
Sonic branding consists of audio, specifically designed to deliver a brand’s message to its consumers. It can’t be anything generic or run of a mill sound. You will have to work with a professional sound engineer and music producer to create a tune for your product representing your brand and is memorable. If done right, this can make a huge difference to your product and brand at large in the long run. Kaspar Noé would love to provide your brand with a uniquely produced sound. Please reach out via the contact form for your sonic logo!
A sonic branding project I worked on for Regenerage, an innovative anti-aging biotech company