Hey Alexa, what’s Sonic Branding?

No, I’m not talking about the speedy blue hedgehog. I’m talking of course about a brand’s audio identity. Do you ever find yourself humming “ba ba ba ba ba, I’m lovin’ it” when you walk past the golden arches? Or perhaps you think “Ho Ho Ho, green giant” every time you buy a tin of sweetcorn? For many years now, companies like these have used musical signatures to pump their brand directly into our brains.

But sonic branding has evolved into more than hooky jingles or anthems. The term now refers to a brand’s universal soundscape and big consumer brands are now re-realising the potential of this. The recent spike in popularity of voice technology such as the Amazon Echo and Google Home gives us new insight into how consumers are currently aurally engaging with brands. If these companies are hoping to continue connecting fully with consumers, they need a solid audio identity that is deeply embedded into their DNA.

How does it work?

Simply put, audio is extremely effective at provoking an emotional response. It takes only 0.146 seconds for a human being to react to sound. It’s like a syringe: sound injects emotion and feeling directly into our being in an instant, with no former learning, experience or context required to receive the message. If the aim of marketing is to make someone feel something about your brand, the use of audio drastically helps to enhance and articulate that.

3 Brands with on point Sonic Branding.

If you have ever owned or used an Apple computer or device for an extended period, you will probably be familiar with the greeting chord the machine makes upon start-up. This is just one of the many sounds across the entire range of products and tech that characterise the Apple brand. Every sound from the incoming ‘ding’ of an iMessage to the click of the iPhone keyboard is designed to emotionally connect with the user and enforce a mnemonic connection. These sounds make you feel something when you hear them, and that’s what good sonic branding is all about.

Skype Technologies is a shining example of excellent sonic branding. The ‘bleep bloops’ of the Skype software have become totally synonymous with their brand. The integration between user experience and advertising has also been expertly implemented with the iconic sounds crossing over seamlessly into TV and digital ads.

The sonic branding for the Nintendo switch can be almost entirely characterised by one sound: the satisfying ‘click’. Nintendo have managed to give one sound multiple meanings. The click signifies portability, ease, fun, and so much more.

Why is it important?

The popularity of voice technology is challenging brands to up their game with their audio identity. We are headed towards a new world of advertising. A world that fully immerses the consumer and encourages them to truly experience a brand. The above examples demonstrate how some companies are beginning to deliver this through the integration of audio branding and advertising. Try it for yourself! Look up some recent Skype and Apple tv spots, the campaigns are peppered with the brand’s sounds you might recognise and it’s super clever!

With this in mind, we should definitely expect to be hearing more bespoke sounds from big consumer brands in the very near future and who knows, maybe smaller companies will buy into sonic branding too.

Jack Hawkins

By Jack Hawkins