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Sonic Branding: Definition and Inspiring Examples

Explore the power of sound in shaping brand identity and discover how businesses create a memorable auditory experience!

Written by RamotionJan 10, 202414 min read

Last updated: Feb 6, 2024

Introduction

Do you know that whatever powerful visual identity is, it goes in no comparison to an intelligent sonic signature? According to Forbes, companies that have used jingles to create a memorable association with their companies exceed others in many ways, from improved recognition to higher advertising strength.

The explanation for this phenomenon lies in human nature: people have a stronger memory for music and sound. Tunes strike the mind more efficiently, significantly affect the brain, and persist more in long-term memory than lyrics. The auditory imagery may easily recall melodies even if we have not heard them in years.

On top of that, it reminds messages through the melody and generates emotions linked to fond memories. Therefore, such a small brand identity detail as melody can be more impactful for successful brand development than impressive visuals.

However, this fact is largely neglected. Many startups would not question the need for a logo, but there are always concerns regarding audio brandings. You may have noticed that most big companies have them.

Let's dive deeper into sonic branding by exploring its history, importance, and role in brand development to see why it is crucial for your startup. We will also consider several great examples and provide some helpful tips to give you a head start in this direction.

How Was the Sonic Logo Born?

The first sonic branding asset dates back to 400AD. Marketers believe introducing bells into Christian churches to call worshippers for prayer was the first-ever sonic asset. Used to popularize church and remind parishioners about their duties, it was the first step to turning melody into an integral part of a broader brand ecosystem.

Another significant milestone in the evolution of audio branding was in the early 20th century. In 1902, a famous physiologist, Ivan Pavlov, discovered that dogs could be conditioned to salivate at the sound of a bell. The so-called conditioned response was stated. It suggests that the two stimuli presented close together in time develop new behavior.

This principle applies not only to dogs but also to humans. Just remember your reaction to a whistling kettle or ringing telephone. People are conditioned to respond physically to all sorts of sounds and melodies.

Underlying the foundation for behaviorism and influenced therapeutic techniques, the conditioned response has also found its place in the sales world. Specialists widely use it to elicit specific emotions in customers' interactions with the company, build positive associations with the brand, harmonize the brand's communications, manipulate customers, and achieve their goals.

During the last century, sonic assets have seen rapid integration into the arsenal of brand communication and marketing departments. With the advent of commercial radio in the early 1920s, they even carved their niche. The Wheaties, a famous American cereal brand, became the first to use a jingle on the radio to promote its products.

Used tactically or strategically, audio logos have significantly evolved. It is crucial to mention the emergence of recognizable brand sounds in the 1990s that shaped modern audio branding. Intel, Mac, Windows, Nokia, Audi, and other goliaths have followed a trend with a new approach to using sound identity.

Their tough logos are short but speak the same language as other brand assets and are often associated with visual logos and overall brand identity.

Pavlov's Dog Experiment

Why Is Sonic Branding a Powerful Thing?

Being instantly recognizable is certainly a thing to die for. Still, the real benefit is when those memories trigger during a purchase decision and compel customers to choose your company over others. One of the ways to improve recall, attribution, and appeal is to differentiate yourself from the crowd through the sonic logo.

Audio identity is a reliable way to stand out ahead of competitors. Apart from its natural ability to stimulate emotional reactions and connect people and brands through positive associations, it is also wholly communicative. Plus, linguistic, cultural, or visual barriers do not hinder it.

Another important thing is that it takes just 0.146 seconds to react to sound. This means brands with sonic logos make the most out of instantaneous communication that directly influences decision-making. Here are a few more reasons why sonic identity is essential and why you need it today.

First of all, it enhances brand memorability. As we have already pointed out, melodies persist more in long-term memory than lyrics or visuals.

Second, it stands behind instant brand recognition. Recognizing the tune and brand associated with it takes less than 0.2 seconds.

Third, it increases attention and drums up interest. Sonic branding happens almost entirely in the customer's subconscious. The more you play your song to customers, the more addicted and curious about your brand they will be.

Fourth, it conveys brand uniqueness. When well-made, it has a legacy and tells us about a company in seconds. It is the same branded asset but uses different means of communication to deliver critical messages and values to the crowd.

Fifth, it enhances emotional response and gets resonance with audiences. As an emotional vehicle, it forges deep connections, humanizes the brand, and reveals its identity and charisma.

Finally, it is universal, reachable, flexible, and adaptable across languages and cultures. It can be remixed into a variety of different musical styles. It can live on the radio, TV, and even the product. The brand may create consistency through different touchpoints across various communication and distribution channels.

Research about Sonic Logos

The importance of sonic branding is undeniable, but if you are still trying to convince, let's consider some studies that reveal the concept's impact on a brand's recognition and ability to resonate with consumers' emotions and attitudes.

"Small sounds, big impact" is a large study by several respected professors, Scott Shawn, Daniel Sheinin, and Lauren Labrecque. It shows how short sonic logos have the same emotional qualities as long-form music used as a background in advertisements.

In brief, scientists have found that the happy sonic logo generates higher attitude scores and drives more positive responses. They have also uncovered that the placement of sonic branding in advertisements matters. This gives marketers a solid ground to experiment with their campaigns to obtain the best result.

Lluis Mas and his team have done another excellent study. Their work is centered around the sonic logo's acoustic abilities to attract attention, elicit various emotions, and transmit brand personality traits. They have found that sonic logos are best processed in a fade-up form. Depending on the pace of the melody, marketers may achieve different goals. For instance, fast pace receives the oriented response and thrives in promoting new designs, whereas slow pace transmits calmness and grabs attention in already highly recognized sound designs.

There is more. Regarding the marketing side of the story, Branding Mag has figured out that a well-made audio logo makes a brand 5% more valuable. That 5% makes a big difference in purchase intent because it influences the emotional side of the process, and customers buy emotionally. On top of that, sonic branding happens in the customer's consciousness, making it a "no-brainer" that people prefer.

On the other hand, studies revealed a hidden layer to that thinking: a poorly executed sonic logo that does not match brand identity pushes away customers and decreases brand value.

Different research has been conducted on the topic, and most back up the importance and power of sonic branding in a successful company's growth and development.

Who Needs Sonic Branding?

Audio brand is a powerful way to add depth to emotional communication and continuity to brand experience. Being flexible and adaptable, it offers marketers the versatility to meet and sync with the rapidly changing preferences of the crowd and environments. With such great potential, almost every industry may benefit from it: service, construction, manufacturing, healthcare, education, finance, you name it.

The sonic branding is also increasingly flexible. Any company may find its way to make it work for it. There are numerous scenarios. For instance, Coca-Cola uses the sound of a can opening and pouring over ice in every advert to make people associate every can with their iconic drink. Netflix's "Tudum" sound is played at the start of every Netflix original on their website to increase viewer anticipation for the content. Microsoft and Mac also exploit the power of sound.

They use their short yet instantly recognizable inside adverts to herald the start of the system and ipso facto promise great digital experience and strengthen companies' reputations for innovation and quality.

Sonic Branding in Retail

Sound effects are the most effective when building trust at the checkout and unobtrusively pushing customers to finalize the deal. They expand beyond visual cues and connect viscerally with audiences.

They create moments of real emotional connection, reinforce trust and recognition, and, most importantly, provide shoppers with confidence at the point of transaction.

Research done by Mastercard shows that over 65% of customers believe they purchase from a trustworthy store when their sonic is played during checkout. This value of familiarity and assurance must be balanced in the retail niche.

Another reason retail niches benefit from audio assets because the latter offers multichannel functionality with a certain ease of integration. Easily enabled across various channels, it reassures customers at different touchpoints, such as TV ads, in-store, films, street stands, websites, and mobile applications.

Most Memorable Sonic Logos

While most people do not even realize the influence of good sonic branding, many massive companies have already jumped onto this bandwagon and exploited its true potential to win over customers. Some stick to short tunes, while others use custom playlists and music curation services. Let's consider several iconic examples.

1. McDonalds' and "I'm Lovin' It"

We will start with McDonald's and its iconic sonic sound accompanying its slogan, "I'm Lovin' It." I bet everyone can finish their super-catchy "ba da ba ba ba" vocal hook. It is one of the most recognizable sonic logos in the fast-food industry. Though, there are no surprises here. Justin Timberlake and Pharrell stand behind it.

From the marketing point of view, this ingenious piece unlocks the true potential of sonic branding. It is simple, catchy and ultra-flexible. It easily adapts to local markets, languages, and cultures. Wherever you are in the World, this sound brings associations with McDonald's and their delicious meals.

On top of that, it plays perfectly with specific campaigns and musical styles, so the company uses different means of communication and channels to increase brand recognition.

2. Intel and inside advert

Intel is one of the most ingenious examples of sonic branding. Their audio asset lasts just three seconds, enough to impact people's associations with the company. Created by talented Walter Werzowa in the 1980s, this tiny five-note mnemonic conveys reliability, innovation, and trust.

Marrying computerized and physical sounds, the artist managed to create a quintessential jingle that is not just unique and relatable to a broader audience but, most importantly, timeless.

Another ingenious thing is that the team uses this jingle before the system boots up, connecting positive experiences from the computer with the company and reassuring trust in the product each time the computer launches.

3. MGM and Lion sonic logo

MGM is the pioneer in this direction. It was the first company to introduce a sonic logo as part of the brand ecosystem along with the Wheaties.

Being with us for almost a century, it has stood the test of time and proved to everyone that audio assets do magic with brand recognition. To this day, it heralds a thrilling movie experience and gets viewers in the mood for epic pastime.

The interesting thing to note is that, unlike many sonic branding examples, MGM's logo is not a piece of music, jingle, or tune with lyrics. It is a roaring lion whose sound instantly draws our attention and makes us focus.

This shows the diversity of the direction and hints about its immersive potential when applied in tandem with other visual identity assets.

Brand Freshness with Sonic Branding

One of the main advantages of sonic logos is that they unobtrusively evoke memories and emotions and imbue a brand with personality. They tap into the power of music and exploit it to the full extent to drive stronger engagement and recognition between the brand and customers without being too pushy, intrusive, and annoying.

This ability has recently become highly in demand among companies. According to studies, number of brands that have audio assets in their arsenal has increased 3-4x times in the last decade.

This popularity is also caused by the fact that it is a reliable way to do rebranding and refresh the company's image. Sonic branding gives old and stale businesses a second life in an oversaturated market.

It restores the brand's image, makes it look relevant and modern, and shows relationships with the target audience spice. It rejuvenates the brand, prompts positive associations with it, and offers new opportunities to connect with the audience.

Let's consider the basic steps of how it should be done.

The Basic Steps of Creating a New Brand Identity with Sonic Logo The basic steps of finding the right sonic logo to refresh or even create a new brand identity are:

Step 1 – Research

Do an audio audit in your niche. Pay attention to the slightest details and how companies use the chimes to present the company's personality and evoke specific emotions. It would also help to recognize sounds and instruments used.

Step 2 – Understand your brand's values

Revisit your brand's values, especially tone and message. Define the emotions and feelings you want to evoke in your target audience.

Step 3 – Describe your sonic logo

Consistency is what you need to achieve. The sonic logo should ideally align with overall branding and support and enhance its various aspects. Make sure you are on the same page with the artist.

Step 4 – Ensure simplicity

Whatever sonic logo you are up to, it is crucial to ensure it is straightforward because the simpler the chime, the more memorable it will be. Just recall Intel and Netflix with their short pieces. Can you pull off something similar?

Step 5 – Experiment

Sonic logo creation is a purely creative process that primarily benefits from experiments. Sometimes, even the slightest change makes the difference and stands behind an ultimate jingle that taps into the customer's heart and delivers your message the way you want.

Step 6 – Refine, perfect, and do an A/B test

Share two variations of your sonic logo with the different focus groups. Collect the feedback and make adjustments if necessary.

Step 7 – Launch, integrate, and call for customer ambassadors

The time has come to introduce your sonic logo to a large audience. Weave it in several channels or cover all touchpoints. The thing to remember is that you have to create a consistent and cohesive brand experience.

Another important thing is to call for customer ambassadors. They will support the new audio, promote it through various channels, increase trust and credibility, and provide valuable customer insights.

Creating a sonic logo is almost impossible on your own. It is highly recommended that this issue be addressed with a professional sonic branding agency and digital branding experts. Alternatively, you may try freelance music producers and voiceover artists available on Upwork and similar platforms.

Due to a wide range of costs, you may go for cheap or expensive options, but bear in mind that balancing affordability and quality in this niche is a true challenge. This is because music artists have to create a chime that represents their business and, at the same time, resonates with the audience.

At a minimum, that calls for in-depth research of your customers and niche and a complete understanding of the brand's vision, mission, and value. It may take days and even months to create something worthwhile.

Conclusion

There is a debate about whether sonic or visual marketing is better. However, studies show that audio assets can be as powerful as any picture containing a thousand words. They cause people reactions ten times faster than any visual object. Plus, they persist in long-term memory more than lyrics.

Audio branding profoundly impacts human emotions and increases brand recognition and recall more effectively than any other element. It helps startups and well-established companies reconnect with the audience, refresh their image, and find new opportunities to reinforce their position.

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