April 2nd, 2019. Have you ever heard the expression sonic branding? Have you ever noticed that the greatest brands, next to a visual identity, have an acoustic identity?
The Power of the Tune in your Head
Considered one of the best soundtracks of all time, John Williams’ score for ‘Jaws’ (1975) centers on a chilling 2-note motif that anyone who has seen the film will recognize immediately.
The learnings on how music impacts us and connects to our emotions and memory is surfacing in the world of brands. An overcrowded visual space and the emergence of audio devices like Alexa and Google Home are contributing factors for this phenomenon.
What is interchangeably called audio branding, sonic branding, acoustic branding or sound branding is seeing massive popularity.
Today, the same way you hire an agency to do your logo and visual (re)branding, more and more companies are paying attention to their sound ecosystem.
“Audio branding entails the creation of an entire audio language for the brand based on its essence, values, promise, and personality — a language that gets expressed across all touch points, from the web and apps to trade shows to TV to the retail environment and even the product itself. Just as the verbal or visual brand expression is optimized at each medium, the audio expressions are also sensitively adapted across the touch points, so they’re psychologically appropriate to the medium.” — Laurence Minsky and Colleen Fahey.
Be it in advertising, in targeted marketing campaigns, the office playlist, the phone melody while you are on hold or the office elevator song, each brand touch point is viewed as a key and part of a holistic brand experience.
Sound and Brands
Today, we are witnessing an interweave between the physical and the digital retail space. They are designed to complement each other seamlessly. Sound is a big connector here. From the mobile search and exposure to a brand, followed by a quick visit to the showroom to experience it and back to the digital realm to close the sale, sound plays a conducting role. It creates identity and consolidates the road map, favoring preference, triggering emotional recall, building trust and even increasing sales.
With each and every aspect of the brand being curated to create connection, sound is as meaningful as any other brand manifestation in guiding the consumer to a desired outcome.
“Audio branding (…) matters for one care reason: speed. Normally, to capture the attention of the end consumer, cement your brand identity in their mind, or stimulate recall you’d have to run a 10, 15, or 30-second advertisement on a relevant channel to capture their attention. But sound is incredibly powerful because of the speed at which you can capture your audience’s attention and ‘cement’ your brand in their mind.” — Gary Vaynerchuk.
According to a 2016 study, Intel, McDonald’s and T-Mobile are among the top ten best performing audio logos. Luxury brands are also tapping into the power of sound to make you fall in love with their products.
Brands now fully recognize sound as an exciting field and opportunity to differentiate themselves from the competition, move and influence people.
‘The Sound of Philips’ Campaign
For health technology company Philips, international creative music agency MassiveMusic has created ‘The Sound of Philips’. The holistic sonic strategy builds on Philips’s very own core product– the lightbulb, and brand principles of innovation, intelligence and efficiency. The melody is composed entirely from Philips lightbulbs and natural sounds from the human body, from heartbeats and finger snaps to electricity running through a bulb, which gave life to ‘the Philips instrument’.
Built from a strategy of manipulating and playing with lightbulbs, the resulting soundtrack feels authentic and intimately tied to the brand’s personality and positioning. ‘The Sound of Philips’ has just won Gold at the Transform Awards Europe 2019.
“Our sonic branding process is the result of almost two decades of refinement, working alongside an extensive collection of both local and global clients. We always start with a bigger creative idea that reflects the brand’s values. For Philips it was ‘innovation’, in line with their new business strategy. Yet innovation can’t be there if you don’t fully own and embrace your heritage. That’s what we did with the overall sonic identity and ‘the Philips instrument’. We literally took apart and recorded the entire sound spectrum a lightbulb, their iconic product, could produce.” says Hans Brouwer, CEO and Founder at MassiveMusic.
Thanks to the bespoke musical instrument, MassiveMusic composed a bank of original sounds and scores, providing Philips with its own distinctive authentic sound with a human touch. The Philips sound logo is now consistently used across multiple channels and experiences, from welcoming visitors, introducing speakers at events, enhancing the users’ experience of products or, even changing medical experiences for the better.
So, rather than simply put their money behind visually driven campaigns and advertisements, brands are recognizing the power of sound as shown by studies, to cut through the noise and create deep consumer connection. By reaching an additional sense than the visual, sound-based branding forges connection and humanizes the experience of a brand.
Liliana Rodrigues is a global PR & Marketing professional at international design studio Marcel Wanders.* As a passionate communication strategist and influencer, she regularly writes about brands, art and design.
*Text published April 2nd, 2019.
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