13 August 2019

You heard it here first: let’s talk sonic branding

Bing, bong, bing… good morning campers.

Let’s talk sonic branding. Wait, what?

Sonic branding is the impressive name for using sound rather than sight as a key element to identify a brand. It’s an essential part of the equation in the overall experience of a brand, and has benefits beyond accessibility and inclusivity alone. You might be wondering why you haven’t considered it until now. 

With voice reaching a watershed moment as a channel, when visuals aren’t possible, brands are increasingly considering how they appear sonically. 

Sonic brands are nothing new. Just think about Intel, McDonald’s, Nokia and TV idents like HBO. You knew who or what it was without having to necessarily see anything. 

Now, in 2019, big brands are giving deep thought to their sonic identities. How can they adapt across markets, while remaining true to a single, core brand feeling? 

 

Mastercard

The new MasterCard sonic branding features a core melody. They knew local adoption was critical to its success, so developed executions featuring instruments that represent the cultural cues of different markets. The new branding will be applied to everything from above the line advertising to a cue in contactless touchpoints, or smart speakers to signal a transaction has successfully completed.

 

Visa

Visa developed a combination of sensory cues to promote speed, security, and confidence through this microinteraction. A sensory mix including a sound cue, visual animation, and haptic (touch, vibration) combine in search of an emotive response in their customers.

 

Coke

Moving beyond their existing ’Open Happiness’ jingle, Coca Cola have developed their full sonic soundscape, bringing the ‘Taste the Feeling’ proposition to life. Sound effects from popping the bottle top, to the fizz of bubbles, and the clink of ice cubes, complement the core Taste the Feeling melody. 

 

Duh-duh duh duh duhhhhhh, I’m lovin’ it

I often scribble out this Venn diagram when illustrating the way to engage an audience. It isn’t to bombard them with all the things you want to say and hope some things stick. Instead, it’s far better to appeal to the more emotional side of their brain, engage them on their terms (even subconsciously) and then weave in your more rational messaging. 

Sound is a better emotional trigger than visuals, so getting the attention of your audience may be made easier with the inclusion of sonic branding. This is down to the part of the brain that processes sound – the limbic system. It’s also the part of the brain that makes a lot of our decisions, as opposed to the more rational, pre-frontal cortex.

Now, I’m no behavioural psychologist, but we do have a few of them at Synergy so if you’re interested in knowing more on the human science of sound, get in touch

 

Why should you care?

Well, you’ll start to see, err, I mean, hear sonic brands more and more, if you listen out for them. There are also areas beyond VUIs (that’s Voice-User Interfaces) where sonic branding is useful. 

We’re seeing podcasts becoming more and more popular as a tool to engage a part of or a whole workforce. As an audio medium, it’s useful to have audio/sonic cues to help the listener navigate the content, understanding a consistent thread across multiple editions, and identifying key content that is of interest to them. 

You can even encourage colleagues to create their own sonic brands by way of a jingle competition to brand their content within a co-created podcast. They can be really low-tech – I often give the example of ’Tea Time Theme Time’ on BBC 6music. 

 

How do we do this?

It’s not a case of grabbing a few stock sound clips and hoping for the best. This is a marriage of psychology, creativity and craft to create something unique and ownable. Personally, I’m excited by the creative challenge of working in a non-visual way. 

Does your brand have tone of voice guidelines? That’s a good start. You’re already thinking about how you sound to your audience. It’s a big leap to create full brand audio guidelines, and you may not even need a full sonic suite or soundscape. It’s worth considering the benefits of a sonic signal to your audiences, both internal and external. 

 

If you want to talk sonic branding for your next project, we’re all ears and ready to hear from you. 

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