What is a brand sound As?! Honestly, my first instinctive answer to this question is – I don’t know, I don’t care. And I’m in the business of brand building.
However, I bet I’m not alone.
As far as the five senses go, we are very visual creatures. In fact, more than half of the neurons in the brain focus on processing visual information.
This is why visuals are such powerful communication tools. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
And of course, we bring that visual bias to brand building. So much so that, for many, his mark is their logo — I just… cnot… when it comes to this reflection.
That’s why branding checklists often look like an array of canvases to visualize in a cohesive way – logo, letterhead, business cards, signs, shirts, point of sale, packaging…. The list is lengthened increasingly.
But there are other meanings that brand designers shouldn’t overlook.
Luxury hotels such as the Mirage in Las Vegas are known for their signature scents (the Mirage is Tropical Coco Mango in case you were wondering).
H&R Block reportedly brews coffee in its offices as the smell inspires customer confidence in the brand.
Another underused prompt for emotional response is sound. Get into the practice of sonic branding.
Let’s take a look at what the Sonic Mark is and how you might consider using it.
Why the Sonic Brand Matters
As brand builders, one of our biggest challenges is to create emotional connections with our customers and our community. This is an achievement.
As mentioned, visuals command attention and interest. I’ve also written extensively about the power of storytelling to emotionally move audiences.
But sound as an emotional response tool is “asleep”, as children say. The science of listening to music illustrates why this connection is so powerful.
“Music has the ability to evoke powerful emotional responses such as chills and thrills in listeners,” University of Illinois professor Shahram Heshmat writes in “Psychology Today.”
“Positive emotions dominate musical experiences. Listening to music is an easy way to change mood or relieve stress. Pleasant music can trigger the release of reward-associated neurotransmitters, such as dopamine.
Beyond the reward, dopamine functions as the brain’s save button, helping us remember those valuable and rewarding experiences.
For this reason, sounds and music can be powerful branding tools, from State Farm’s “Like a Good Neighbor” to McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It.”
One of the most iconic examples of a sound or sound logo is Intel. The simple five-note sequence – inspired by the syllables of the words “Intel inside” – did the unthinkable by essentially marking an invisible, intangible “ingredient” inside another product.
To dismiss these iconic sounds as mere jingles is to assume that a brand is “just a logo”. This diminishes the power of tools as essential brand components.
MasterCard recently launched its sonic mark system. From the music you hear in their advertisements to the sound of acceptance when you shop, this distinct and memorable tune aims to provide easy and seamless familiarity.
How comprehensive is MasterCard’s approach to sonic branding? Google and the first thing you will find is their audio press release of this same news.
Developing your brand’s sound identity system
While the visuals are tangible and have an established vocabulary to talk about, the sound brand is more elusive.
“If you’re thinking of designing a brand logo in a visual form, there’s an endless amount of material out there,” said MasterCard CMO Raja Rajamannar when I interviewed him on the On Brand podcast.
“With the sonic brand, you have no choice but to create your own playbook.”
More than a jingle or random music for a video project, your brand needs a complete sound identity system.
These musical and sound choices must evoke the right emotions in your customers and your community.
So what should your brand’s sound identity system include? I posed this question to Joe Belliotti, former Head of Global Music at Coca-Cola Co. and currently CEO of MassiveMusic North America.
Although there are many definitions and lists, Belliotti cites the importance of:
- Sonic Logo – A bug or tonal tag like Intel Inside and McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It”.
- Product UX/UI — When you hear someone open a computer, you instantly know it’s a Mac thanks to the iconic startup sound. It’s the same way Netflix’s “ta-dum” sets the stage for entertainment.
- Original Music and Curated Music — Beyond MasterCard’s innovative transaction/processing identity, the brand uses this tune as a touchstone for music presented in other creative formats.
- Audio Content – Podcasts, videos, and more should feature a cohesive sound design that ties into your overall brand identity.
- Sound-Based Discovery/Smart Speakers – This is where things get interesting. And connected….
While the audio cohesion provided by the sonic brand may seem like a “nice to have” rather than a “need to have”, that all changes when you factor in smart speakers and other forms of brand discovery. based on sound.
As MasterCard’s Rajamannar points out, Alexa and Google only know the big brands.
“You have to get past these new gatekeepers and influencers.” In an increasingly sonic ecosystem, your brand needs to have an identity you can both see and hear to stand out,” he said.
No matter how extensive your brand’s sound identity is, it’s not a box you can afford to leave unchecked.
“Every brand makes an impression with music and sound,” Belliotti notes, whether they realize it or not.
It’s up to you to determine what that impression is.
Sometimes the best place to start is at the beginning. With sonic branding, that’s the question posed in the very title of this article: what does your brand look like?
Nick Westergaard is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker and author of “Brand Now” and “Get Scrappy”; [email protected]; @NickWestergaard