PMA Marketing: Sonic Branding

This blog was published on PMA Marketing’s website – 26 May 2015

What does your brand SOUND like?

When most people are asked to think of memorable brands, they ‘see’ the logo, the colours, images and even think of the slogans that are associated with them. Being memorable has massive advantages in the value of the brand. But what about the often overlooked ‘sound’ of the brand?

Sound helps our brain to recognise and attach meaning to things. It can make powerful connections in an instant. When I hear Samuel Johnson’s husky voice now, I can’t help but think of the slogan “The burgers are better at Hungry Jack’s“. And who doesn’t recognise the (now dated) Nokia tune or the Skype ringtone. (Although, after watching the Skype horror movie ‘Unfriended’ I’m not sure many people will think of Skype in the same way again). The use of these recognisable musical sounds to enhance brand recognition is actually an important and expert field of marketing variously called music branding, audio branding, or sonic branding.

I was introduced to sonic branding while working at PMA Marketing in Subiaco. With my background in music and composition, I was excited at the idea of combining my music and marketing skills into one happy bundle. So I set about researching sonic branding and spending some time on Logic Pro composing endless sonic branding themes!

What is sonic branding?

Sonic branding can be simply defined as the communication of a brand through sound. Or bite-sized melodies that lodge themselves in consumers’ minds. Sonic branding is the younger, hipper, savvier relative of the outdated jingle. When done well, it can communicate a brand’s personality and identity in as little as 3 seconds.
When English composer Brian Eno was asked to write the Windows 95 theme, the brief from Microsoft contained 150 adjectives to describe the desired noise. “The piece of music should be inspirational, sexy, driving, provocative, nostalgic, sentimental…” said Eno… And then at the bottom it said “and not more than 3.8 seconds long.” If you need a reminder of Eno’s ingenious solution (I can’t imagine why you would), then click here.

Here’s one I created for PMA Marketing: The brief was to create a 6-note melodic theme that sounds contemporary, corporate, warm, ‘human’ and enlightened in a maximum length of 5 seconds.

Why does your brand need sonic branding?

Sound can make powerful emotional connections in an instant. It shapes our moods and triggers memories. And it does so invisibly. It’s the quiet yet incredibly powerful influencer in a noisy crowded room. Sounds can move people to tears or fits of laughter, or bring back happy memories. When I hear the music intro ‘Thaaaaa Simpsooons’ it brings back some seriously awesome memories from my childhood! If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the right sound at the right moment is worth a thousand pictures. Check out ‘The Sonic Boom’ by Joel Beckerman for an insightful read.

Next time you review your company marketing plan (internally or with your agency) ask, “What does our brand sound like?” In a world where the average online attention span is 8 seconds, the right sonic branding theme is a powerful but invisible way of cutting through the noise and firmly positioning your brand in consumers’ minds.

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