Audio branding – How does your brand sound?

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Audio branding – How does your brand sound?

Audio Branding is the strategic and consciousness use of sound and music across all brand touch points, to create more engaging, meaningful, and affective communication. It’s a parallel to a visual identity. Audio branding (or sonic branding) and sound logos have been around for some years. It started out as jingles, where brands created small songs where the brand or product name was named in a catchy way into the song and lyrics. Coca Cola is probably one of strongest and earliest users of audio branding.

Sound Identity

All the sounds and audio pieces an entity (business/organisation) can be recognised upon. A Sound Identity can consist of an audio logo, music, musical elements and sound design and is used to create audio coherency, synergy and recognisability for a brand. An audio parallel to a Visual identity.

Sound logo

A good sound logo is a brand asset that reflects a brand in a short melodic phrase, melody or sound. In time, the sound logo may converge into a kind of brand symbol that carries associations that helps shapes the brand image and functions as a memorable link to the actual brand. To successfully achieve this, sound logos as brand elements must be: Memorable, Meaningfulness, Likeable, Transferable, Adaptable, and Protectable in the mind of the consumer to contribute to build brand equity (Keller 2008 p.140). Example intel, McDonalds, Intel

“People spend more money when and where they feel good”– Walt Disney


The power of audio branding

Hearing is the first sense we develop. We can hear before we are born and music is the type of sound that we know affects our emotional state the most. It affects our moods, feelings, behaviour, pulse, and can make us feel calm, sad, scared or even happy and uplifted. Most sounds that surrounds us today are random and sometimes even unpleasant. So, audio branding is not a question about adding more sound, but using the right sound at the right time and place. Otherwise it’s noise.

Sound and music affects us in 3 ways:

  • The way we Feel,
  • The way we think,
  • The way we Act.

Knowing this and knowing that most of our decisions are made unconsciously, audio branding can play an essential role in creating meaningful, affective and effective brand communication. A study conducted by professors Dr. Adrian North and Dr. David Hargreaves reports that brands with music that fits their brand identity are 96 percent more likely to be recalled than those with non- fitting music or no music at all. *

Especially when it comes to combination of sound- and visual logos. Consumers that like the combination of sound- and visual logo, plus recognize the combination, will probably also find the combination fitting to their perception of the brand. Contradictory, if one does not like the combination of sound logo and visual logo, or cannot recognize it, the perception of fit will probably be more negative. We do not remember noise and boring music experiences. Only bold, meaningful and emotional engaging music can do this. Try to listen to the sounds and music your brand is using, and then ask yourself:

  • What emotional state does this leave our audience in?
  • Is it meaningful and engaging?
  • Does the musical expression substantiate your brand promise and reputation


Audio Logos as mnemonics.

Why are some audio logos so powerful and make us recall brand? There are several reasons: First, Music theory reveals that audio logos between 5-7 notes makes it easier easy to remember. This we experience in the audio logos from Intel, McDonalds, Coke Cola and others (they all have 5 notes in their audio logo). Secondly, If the audio is used consistently together with the presentation of a visual logo, i.e. with an animation in at TV-commercial, the combination of audio and visual presentation makes it even more memorisable due to combination of two senses. Furthermore, if we often are exposed to an audio logo and visual logo together (tv, web, cinema) our brain will unconsciously recall the visual logo, that was “attached” to the sound logo, just by hearing the audio.

Coke probably made the best audio branding case in 2010 where they were head sponsor at the FIFA world Cup. The FIFA theme song is the 5 Coke Cola’s 5 audio logo notes, made into a tune, played by different artists from 14 different countries, making it one of the most downloaded tune that year. By making popular artists and people singing their Coke audio logo, elegantly disguised into a tune, Coke managed to create effective subliminal branding by having their sound logo played millions of times during the tournament, and one of the most downloaded tunes on ITunes in 2010.


We feel faster than we think

Looking at InterBrand top 16 strongest brand in the world from 2015 ( brands/best-global-brands/2015/ranking/#?listFormat=sq ) 50 % have an audio logo, A tendency increasing through the last couples of years. Why? Because it is working and creating more brand value. Increasingly more brands are becoming aware of the value and importance of the auditory component of their marketing communication because, no matter what your activities are, your brand is making sound. And if you are not giving it the attention it deserves, you are probably shooting yourself in the foot. We see, choose and evaluate brands and products as much with our ears, as we do with our eyes.

We can feel faster than we think. It’s all about emotional connectivity and response.

Advertising that generates emotional response has two benefits.:

  1. It can help the emotions transfer to the brand, shaping the brand perceptions.
  2. It can help generate engagement and memorability”.

Brands compete on Emotional Engagement: building a brand that people engage, interacts and participates **

“Brands that create an emotional connection to
consumers are much stronger than those that don’t – it’s as simple (and complicated) as that.” – Martin Lindstrøm


Audio branding as a philosophy

What to consider starting using audio branding:

First, I believe that silence is king. Silence is a rare but valuable condition that is seldom nowadays. If you choose to break it, it must create more meaning and value than silence you break. Otherwise we are joust creating noise (Noise being defined as music or audio that doesn’t create value or meaning in each situation.). So, if your brand was to be expressed in audio, how should it sound like? What feelings and meaning should it evoke? And how and where should your brand use music and sound to create more value and meaningful communication? Simple but easy questions to answer, because when It comes to expressing brand values and feelings in musical and auditory terms, most people vocabulary often comes in short.


Advices on how to get started using Sound Branding.

It can be difficult to grasp how and where to start if you want to work strategically with sound and music, and strengthen your customer journey experience with strategic use of audio. Below is a brief guide on how to get started using sound and music strategic in your brand communication.

  1. Get an overview of all your brand touch points using audio. Map your audio customer journey experience and then identify which brand touch points is most important.
  2. Start asking why. Why are we using music here? What function should It have? What emotional feeling do we want to leave the listener at this stage? If the audio or music doesn’t create more value, then remove it!
  3. Designate a person in your organization as audio brand manager. Communicate that internally, and make this person the go-to-person for all audio use in the organization.
  4. Work with professional audio partners. Find a skilled audio branding company, that can help you create and produce your audio identity along with implementation and ongoing consultancy and maintenance
  5. Just like your corporate visual identity, make all your audio assets available on-line so stakeholders and collaboration partners easy can access your audio assets, along with guidelines, templates for easy usage.
  6. Be sure to have all music rights or if you work with a band or buy music, check the total cost of ownership, what it costs to have the musical expression over time or in campaign


Karsten Kjems, Audio branding Expert

* – survey
** Millward Brown: Knowledge point 2009- Emotional response