We’ve all witnessed the power of music and sound to promote a unique association of both product recall and brand loyalty. But with so much advertising noise out there, how can brands look to break through the clutter and present a unique approach that grabs people’s attention? The latest iteration is in the form of a “sonic branding.” We are defining sonic branding as the process of creating a sound that is repeatedly used to identify a product, service or company. This concept is not entirely new, but has gone through a recent iteration from some big brands. Let’s look at some prime examples and see if a sonic brand is right for you.
You know those memorable hits that took products, both mundane and exciting, and placed catchy lyrics and tunes to sonically color their messaging apart from the rest. What comes to my mind when thinking of a classic TV commercial jingle is the Kit-Kat song (I’m sure you could recite it now without the link):
Companies like McDonalds, Meow Mix and Huggies have all elevated their brand and brought it to the forefront of consumers’ consideration groups. If you started whistling the jingle as you wait for the elevator, the jingle has won a place in your head! Although jingles are catchy, they can be costly as you need to arrange for a jingle writer, plus musicians and a singer capable of creating a brand song that had the ability to be memorable. This is easier said than done in most cases. Another option to consider is branding a set of tones as your brand.
When thinking about using musical tones, you want to identify a pleasing mix of sounds that consumers will associate with your brand. At first, the tone is innocuously in the background, but over time and with repetition, the tone sticks out like a Pavlovian response to the forthcoming commercial. Tones are also great for global companies as it transverses the language barrier across country lines.
Still in use today, the NBC tones were a great way to distinguish the broadcast network over their competitors. Playing the tone before shows and in commercials told the audience they were on NBC before remote controls and “Guide” buttons made it non-essential. Similarly, companies like Honda and Netflix have mastered the ability to associate their products to a tone pattern to alert the consumer of what’s to come.
When it comes to activating a brand tone, the process may be easier than a jingle, but still needs the guidance of a professional to craft a feeling through this medium. More importantly, the cadence and speed of the tone pattern is key to represent the brand both digitally and traditionally.
Sounds in the Physical World
You are bombarded by dings, whistles and chimes throughout your daily life. They come from your phone, your car and your laptop. Have you stopped to notice how some noises act like notifications? Your ATM likely makes a sound to promote action and the credit card reader at the grocery store does the same.
Recently, MasterCard decided to create a brand that signifies success at the register. The tone is set to be in all marketing as well as the terminal to confirm a successful MasterCard purchase. From a marketer’s point of view, this association of sound with the excitement of purchasing is a great concept that links the real world to your happiness.
Speaking of cutting-edge technology in our physical world, electric cars are not immune to being paired with a sound as well. Since electric cars are notoriously quiet, by 2020 the US government has mandated that all electric cars make some kind of noise at speeds below 18.6 mph to be more conspicuous. What’s to stop a global car maker from sonically branding an engine sound to alert pedestrians (…and potential consumers) of their latest creation? This evolution could be the difference between one car model making it over another in consumers’ minds.
Ultimately, sonic branding is found everywhere and has been for a long time in various forms. Based on how brands are executing it today, is a sonic branding approach for your company or product a possibility? We’re always curious on how we can integrate mediums and this is no different. Let us know in the comments or give us a call to discuss how we can help.
Maybe you could make something as catchy as these guys.
Want to learn more or create your own sonic sounds? Give us a ring, we'll know what that sound means.
About the Author
Lizzie Thornton is a Brand & Content Strategist at thunder::tech. When she's not writing strategic content or crafting brand messaging, she spends her time watching true crime documentaries and saying "hi" to every dog she meets.