Sonic branding has been around since the dawn of radio. In the 1920s, NBC created waves with its broadcast chimes that became an instant icon, yet the power and importance of audio has been increasingly marginalized by the marketing world’s hyper-focus on creating visually-driven brands, campaigns and advertisements—giving sound little more than a second thought in developing brand identity. But a recent report from Harvard Business Review suggests that sound alone has the power to create deeper, more memorable consumer connections. And as capturing the hearts and minds of consumers is the core currency for every company, that message has a melodic ring to it. Which means more and more brands can’t help but tune in, discovering how sound plays an instrumental role in creating an experiential brand identity.
Audio branding exists in the secure feeling when your car door makes that solid “click” sound as it locks. It’s in the energetic melodies that play when you turn on a smart device. Audio branding even exists in the anticipatory feeling of the introductory theme song of your favorite Netflix binge.
Our bodies are hard-wired to respond to sonic frequencies in a way that can change the way we feel, transport us through our memories, and even inspire action. Sound holds the power of persuasion few other sensorial elements do. So if you want your brand’s good vibrations to reverberate through your target audience, play on their heartstrings, or echo a lasting impact, it may be time to ensure your brand is hitting the right notes.
Take the Intel bong for example. Or the pop of a Snapple cap. How about the infamous “clang” from Law & Order? In a world where we’re constantly being inundated by a flurry of sounds and images, the most memorable brands aren’t the ones turning up their volume—they’re the ones simplifying their sound. And doing so requires a cohesive approach to brand development that ensures each executional element is built from the brand’s innermost foundational strategy. Audio, like any critical piece of a brand’s identity, needs to encompass the brand’s essence, values, promise and personality in order to establish distinct and consistent equity.
As the nature of multisensorial branding continues to change—along with a greater understanding of its role and importance—businesses of all types are reimagining how to build audio as an additional element in their brand identity. Coca-Cola is all about using strategic sound bites to upgrade its brand and enhance the experiences that it gives to its customers. And just last month, MasterCard launched a peppy six-note tune that plays after every successful credit card transaction. As the future of sonic branding evolves, and more and more companies start to integrate it into their DNA, the potential for its usage runs the gamut. From exploring the voice identity of smart devices with earcons like Amazon and Google, to branding the sound of electric vehicles like Nissan, or even bringing the semiotics of sound to healthcare, there is limitless potential and opportunity for brands to solidify their own sound, and with it, a holistic experiential brand identity.
Your most recognizable brand asset will likely continue to be your logo. However, your logo can only go so far in reaching people who are willing to look at it, absorb the shape, and remember the graphic. Sound, on the other hand, can aid in creating a multisensory brand experience that weaves its way into our senses regardless of whether we’re actively paying attention to it. And while sound on its own may not be the be-all-end-all for brand development, it can be another secret weapon in a brand’s marketing arsenal. One that strengthens a brand’s voice, adding to a harmonious symphony of identity-defining elements to make consumers stop, look, listen—and ultimately feel.