The marketing world is a moving one. But while brand identities are born in the safe, static space of a style board, they must survive in a high-stakes environment of attention. They need to keep up, they need to animate. We experience brands as an interactive app, a 6-second bumper video, a tradeshow booth, virtual reality, a hover state button, or even the way a webpage loads. Often without even realizing it, however, the biggest impression brands make on us is in the way they sound.
Yes, you heard that correctly – we’re asking what your brand sounds like.
Enter sonic branding, the acoustic brand identity that is subliminally making a massive impact in today’s cluttered ad landscape. In particular, the audio logo, a brief melody or branded sound design that often plays at the beginning or end of a video or audio spot. For audio-only mediums, like radio or podcasts, sonic branding is especially crucial for awareness in the absence of any visuals.
Even as you read them here, the melodies of sonic branding champions like Aflac, Duracell, This is Sportcenter, Tacobell, Old Spice, Intel, Playstation, or T-Mobile are echoing in your head.
Every Friday night, the hallways of apartment buildings around the world turn into a cacophony of audio logos, as streaming apps like Netflix, HBO, Prime, and Hulu boot up for a night in.
In one of the most competitive marketing arenas, insurance brands battle through sound. Can you picture the visual logo of Nationwide, State Farm, Farmers, or Liberty Mutual right now? Probably not. But can you sing each of their brand tunes? Most definitely.
These audio brand dynasties are evidence of audio’s effectiveness within the brand zeitgeist. There are even brands that have infiltrated your attention in subliminal ways without you even seeing their logo. Take for example the boot-up of a Macbook, the thump of a Volkswagon door closing, the scritch-scratch of a Sharpie moving on paper, the pop of a Snapple lid, an idle Harley Davidson, or even the lack of sound when spraying a Method household cleaner. This is all very intentional (and industrially expensive) sonic branding.
As digital habits evolve, we can’t rely on eyeballs on screens in order to communicate our message. For a brand to be remembered, it can’t just be seen, it must be heard. It must be felt.
Harvard Business Review’s What Does Your Brand Sound Like? states “With our increasingly audio-enabled media environment, the strategic use of sound can play an important role in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust, and even increasing sales. Cognitive studies show that relevant sounds and musical cues can truly influence people in ways marketers want.”
Now, you may have some jingles coming to mind as well. Examples like Mcdonalds’ “I’m Lovin’ It”, Kit Kat’s “Give Me a Break!”, Folgers Coffee, Chili’s, Kay Jewelers, or Lucky Charms. People can recall the Meow Mix brand whether or not they have a cat. Even Jim Gaffigan pokes fun at the Hot Pocket marketing team when he jokes “I do love that jingle. Do you think they worked hard on that song?”.
Brand jingles are the epitome of sonic branding. Some of those brand earworms we just mentioned are decades old but still stuck in your head right this very instant. Yet these are all established brands, with existing brand awareness, and deep pockets to design (Mcdonald’s had over 3,700 final mixes of “I’m Lovin’ It”), test, and translate their jingle before pushing it out to market with a massive media spend. For brands that are just trying to gain momentum organically or with short-form video, a sonic logo can still do wonders.
The reason is that hearing is innate. We internalize sound quickly. An audio logo stays with you after you experience it. You may not be able to remember what a logo looks like, but you’ll remember what it sounds like and the longevity of the recall is powerful.
Further, sonic branding adds another level of brand storytelling into the mix, connecting with the viewer audibly and visually. In the case of an audio logo, this emotional connection happens in a few short seconds. The audience doesn’t have to follow a story or listen to an explanation – they just absorb the brand. Since this subliminal brand narrative is experienced with two senses simultaneously, the brain stores that experience twice as much as it would if it was only seen.
One of the most cunning tactics is incorporating an iconic sound into the audio logo that isn’t even unique to that business. Take Southwest Airlines’ “You Are Now Free to Move About the Country” example, with a seatbelt fastening click and overhead ping used in every airline are now tied directly to a specific brand. People who recall the Southwest brand would do so even when using Southwest’s competitor airlines. What about Verizon’s “Can You Hear Me Now?” that makes you think of them when you have a bad signal, and therefore remind you to switch to their service for a more reliable connection? Sneaky, sneaky. If you can capture the distinct sound of your industry and distill it into a mnemonic within your sonic branding strategy, not only will you be memorable – you’ll be unforgettable.
Whether B2C, B2B, or B2G it’s all about attracting and connecting with your audience through as many senses as possible. Maybe that’s through a blockbuster TV ad, a podcast, the tangible sound of your product in use, or even a quick, organic social snackable. There are countless ways to embed sonic branding across your landscape, so listen up! It’s time to make sure your brand feels like something. Let our animators, audio designers, and creative minds help you tell your sonic brand story in a way that is rewarding for your business in years to come. Get in touch with Bluetext, and give our soundtrack of super sonic brands a listen!