Here Are the Sound Logo’s You Wont Forget – Find Out WhyFebruary 28, 2021
Audio Branding Is Here to Stay
Why do our minds instantly connect to certain sounds? Why do our brains respond immediately by calling forth a smell, an image, or an emotion when we hear specific phrases and sounds? If you have ever wondered why the little jingle and catchphrase from McDonald’s – “I’m Lovin’ It” – can suddenly make your mouth water, you have come to the right place.
When we hear the sound of a strong audio logo that we know quite well, our brains respond without us even realizing it. The iconic McDonald’s sound is just one example of modern marketing, called audio or sonic branding.
In this article, you will learn why audio branding is here to stay and why you should implement it. We will take you through the best examples of audio logos and teach you some of the best audio branding practices.
How the Audio Logo Got Started
What is an audio logo? It is the sound or music connected to a brand’s logo, usually short and concise, just like the visual logo. In the past, a marketing team would concentrate solely on creating a visual logo and written copy to capture a brand’s essence. When they then needed to translate written copy to an audio-related medium such as radio or TV, the marketers would typically hire a musician to make a jingle that could work as background music for the ad.
Jingles were usually just short, snappy tunes designed to be memorable. When people heard them, they would connect them with the brand. The jingles were meant to support the ad copy and provide a dynamic soundtrack that consumers would associate with the brand. They were never meant to help create a full-blown, multi-faceted audio identity for the brand.
Today, the audio logo reaches further than the jingle of the past. The audio logo usually consists of a series of musical notes that in unison form the brand’s audio DNA. The logo is often the foundation for the brand’s audio identity, and as such, it can be reinterpreted to suit a specific genre, mood, or region, etc. The audio logo can be reshaped and be made to serve in a great variety of contexts.
Put simply, the audio strategy today is no longer to hook consumers with a catchy tune and then try to dig a tunnel deep into their minds to make them remember your brand. Instead, the marketing efforts center on building a holistic and coherent soundscape. The goal is to make your audience connect emotionally to your brand’s audio identity exactly in the way you want them to.
Why Your Brand Needs an Audio Logo
The use of audio is growing. Mostly all brand touchpoints and all digital platforms use audio; hence, your brand will always make sound, one way or another. This creates both an opportunity and a challenge for brands. No matter your service or product, you need to invest in the development of your audio brand.
To illustrate this, let us look at some stats. Today, approximately 60 million people in the U.S. – 24% of adults – own a smart speaker. Voice commerce sales are expected to reach $40 billion by 2022, which is 5% of total commerce sales. These numbers, along with voice usage in public life, are only expected to grow. With voice-activated devices edging closer to dominating the market, brands are now in a unique position to blend their sound into their customers’ daily routine.
The experience of walking into an Abercrombie & Fitch store is an intricate part of their brand. Ideally, when a customer uses a voice-activated device to make a purchase or opens some digital content from your company, they should be met with a carefully tailored audio experience. Your audio branding should seek to replicate the sensation of walking into a store and entering the unique universe that makes up your brand.
Sound has a powerful effect on people. In Amp’s 2020 Best Audio Brands Report, research showed how brand engagement was strengthened when audio was treated as an essential part of the brand. When brands use different stock music for each piece of content, consumers perceive it as less reliable. The bottom line is that brands need to pay attention to their audio identity, create consistency, or risk an adverse reaction from consumers.
When you are ready to begin building your audio brand, the single best place to start is with your audio logo, which often makes up your brand’s core.
The Audio Logos You Won’t Forget
An audio logo (or what is also called a sonic logo) is a relatively new term, but audio logos have been around for a while before someone decided to give it a name. Some of the first audio logos are so iconic that they have been engraved in our consciousness, making us overwhelmed with nostalgia whenever we are exposed to them.
To understand what makes up a well-designed audio logo that sticks in our consumer minds, let us have a look at some of the most iconic audio logos that have stood the test of time.
In this part, we will dive into the audio logos composed for ad campaigns in the same way a classic jingle would be. These logos managed to have a lasting effect that went beyond a mere commercial jingle. They were so successful because they employed innovative marketing techniques. Even in today’s world, filled with agencies specializing in audio branding and extensive guidebooks on building an audio brand, these audio logos are not just pioneers but still stand as classic examples of what makes up a powerful audio logo.
The jingle debuted in 2003, not as part of a commercial but rather as a regular pop single performed by Justin Timberlake and written by Pharrell Williams. The song was then used as a basis for a long line of commercials used in various regional markets worldwide and translated into multiple languages.
The track was an adaptation of an existing commercial song used by McDonald’s in a campaign for their German market, called “Ich Liebe Es”. However, the pairing of the tune with Pharrell’s songwriting skills and Timberlake’s star performance turned out to be a smash hit. Even today, it still stands as a defining moment in the audio advertisement, as it showed just how far you can get with a compelling audio hook. “I’m Lovin’ It” has stood the test of time, even though it was initially conceived for one campaign, and today it is a central part of the McDonald’s brand as their widely recognized audio logo. It is a prime example of thoughtful logo development and successful audio branding.
The famous collaboration between Timberlake and McDonald’s was later identified as brilliant ‘reverse engineering’ by Steven Stoute, a music industry veteran. It helped boost the brand’s credibility and likability and its message by launching the track in a pop music format without connection to the brand before putting the song into a commercial format.
Lessons From a Master
One of the unique aspects of the “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign was how it went beyond traditional marketing. McDonald’s didn’t just stick to the regular advertising platforms. Instead, they went all-out by partnering up with one of the biggest pop stars at the time and produce an actual music release, complete with a music video and everything. McDonald’s even sponsored Timberlake’s European tour that followed his album release (with the hit song included on the track).
Nowadays, brands are starting to create full-length songs and albums with their audio logos integrated into the tunes, but McDonald’s was undoubtedly the one who got the snowball rolling.
The campaign was reinforced by its audio logo, the now-famous “Ding Dong! Avon calling”, created before the term ‘audio logo’ even existed. Avon’s audio logo’s words and sound became a catchphrase in the 60s, and today the brand has incorporated the iconic tagline and sound of a ringing doorbell into their overall audio branding.
Lessons From a Master
Avon created a memorable combination of sound and visuals with the audio from their original ad that resonated with consumers even half a century later. Avon chose to recognize this and make good use of the audio logo’s vast cultural capital over the past decades. As a result, Avon is now incorporating their old tagline and sound into their new, updated audio branding. Seamlessly revamping their audio logo has made Avon an excellent example of successful audio marketing and modern branding.
The audio logo was composed by Walter Werzowa, an Austrian and former electronica musician. The sound he crafted became part of the Intel Inside campaign. Werzowa has updated the audio logo regularly for the past two decades to ensure it stays fresh while still maintaining a sleek sound and musical progression.
According to Margaret C. Campell, a marketing professor at UCLA’s Anderson School, there is no better audio signature out there today than those five notes from Intel. It has even been theorized that Intel’s bong sounds somewhere in the world every five minutes.
Lessons From a Master
When it comes to effective audio branding, Intel’s audio logo is an overwhelming success. By taking a handful of simple notes and craft them into a unique and powerful audio brand, they have established themselves as an inspiring example in the world of audio marketing. Their audio logo initially coined the sound of the future. Still, after more than 25 years, Intel’s audio signature has also gained a sense of comforting familiarity that makes consumers trust it more.
So far, Intel hasn’t needed to rebrand themselves due to the effectiveness of their audio logo. Through a professional musician and later film composer, they created a sound that combined just the right notes. Simultaneously, by updating the sound every few years, their audio logo still maintains a contemporary feel.
Modern Game Changers
While the audio logos of the past mostly tried their hand as trendy taglines attempting to cram as much impact as possible into a short time frame, today’s audio branding seeks instead to be flexible and fluid.
Today’s audio logos serve as a basis for a soundscape that can adapt to circumstances, modified to be reinterpreted when necessary.
The audio logo can effectively function as the heart of your brand. However, one thing to remember is the difference between the logo and the brand. While an audio logo tends to be short and concise, consisting of just a few notes, the overall audio brand should expand on the emotional connection between the logo and the audience. The logo’s emotional package can then be weaved into a wide range of customer touchpoints and consumer experiences.
An audio logo can be enhanced to operate in a broader spectrum than simple brand recognition. It can be reshaped as a full-length track that will wind up listeners’ regular playlists or recreated as functional sounds used when customers purchase something the brand’s app. The audio logo can be used in many ways, but it should always be part of the overall brand sound. It should make consumers feel part of a whole, no matter whether they watch a branded video on YouTube, open the brand’s app on their phone, or visit a physical store.
In the next part, we will explore some of the brands that have made the most significant impact in today’s world of audio marketing. These companies have proved to be game-changers, pushing audio branding into new territory thanks to their innovative audio logos.
Rajamannar and his team have consulted everything from musicians and musicologists to neurologists to incorporate audio as a core part of Mastercard’s brand identity. The goal has been to identify the ‘perfect sound’ for the brand, which can convey the brand voice of Mastercard no matter whether it is mixed as an EDM track or performed by opera singers.
The first step towards building an audio identity for their brand was to define the actual brand voice. Rajamannar and his marketing team had to determine the qualities that their new audio logo had to possess. They narrowed it down to three: pleasant, reassuring, non-intruding. The audio logo had to manifest these traits to be aligned with the Mastercard brand’s values, as this new audio logo would provide the core of the brand’s audio identity. The new audio identity would be used for every touchpoint encountered by any customer using his or her Mastercard.
When the new brand sound was finally revealed, Mastercard presented an audio logo and multiple variations of their new audio identity.
The first and most important was their audio signature, consisting of a three-second sound, which as any signature, would appear at the end of both commercials and Mastercard’s IVR phone system hold music.
The next reveal was a new audio melody, an extended version of their audio signature. The melody can be localized to a specific city or region (Cape Town, Dubai) and different genres.
Additionally, Mastercard presented an audio acceptance sound. This sound plays after any successful card transaction. Over time this audio acceptance sound should adapt to its surroundings, so whether you shop at Gamestop or Tiffany’s will affect the acceptance sound following the card transaction
Lessons From a Master
The audio signature, melody, and acceptance sound that makes up Mastercard’s new audio identity are all shaped from the same tune consisting of 6 notes – the brand’s audio logo. From one audio asset to another, the audio DNA or core of the audio identity is unchanged. This allows the brand to achieve a ‘seamless familiarity’ to foster recognition and trust within its customer base – and Mastercard does so quite successfully.
Hyundai’s audio logo was first presented in October 2016 at the Paris Motor Show and afterward became the basis of a new ‘Hyundai sound universe’. The audio logo was integrated into all of the brand’s auditory channels. It was used for everything from showroom soundscapes and welcoming tones when the driver gets into the car to commercials and trade fairs.
The audio logo was based on Hyundai’s mission, to “make modern mobility available for everyone”. In collaboration with why do birds, the marketing team decided that the 6-note sequence had to sound confident, refined, and not too complex. The progression of tunes they crafted has a clear, bright tone and an open ending to reflect the brand’s positive outlook and view on the future.
Lessons From a Master
The ‘sound universe’ that Hyundai has created signals a broader emotion rather than being limited to cars. Their audio logo is versatile and sound appropriate for a range of uses, which means Hyundai won’t need to reinvent their sound when developing new products and technological services. This makes their new audio DNA both fluid and flexible.
SNCF – Instantly Recognizable
In 2005 SNCF (Sociètè Nationale des Chemins) was facing new competition. After years of dominating the public transportation conversation, France’s state-owned railway service decided they had to develop their brand. By creating an audio logo, SNCF could create positive associations with their company in the public’s minds.
SNCF hired Sixième Son, an audio branding agency, to create the right audio logo to fit their brand message. The result was the four-note melody that today is widely recognized. Over 90% of French people can instantly identify the sound when they hear it. The logo is now iconic and plays on both stations and trains to accompany important messages. But that is not all. The sound pops up at around 120 audio touchpoints. Whether it is radio ads, the waiting tune when people call customer service, to the sound played at events. The audio logo is at the core of SNCF’s entire audio identity.
When developing the tune, the aim was to communicate proximity, softness, and good customer service. The original audio logo utilized a driving tempo and a confident voice to signal leadership in human mobility. In 2009, the audio logo was updated by having acoustics added to the sound. This was to give the sound a softer edge and reflect new eco-friendly initiatives. Another variation was introduced in 2013, this time by mixing the acoustics with more contemporary textures.
Lessons From a Master
SNCF’s audio logo delivers on the visions of the company. It works both as a sound with a distinct function, namely that of signaling the arrival and departure of trains, while at the same time carrying emotional weight. The successful way the audio logo manages both tasks simultaneously is why it has stuck in many French people’s minds over the years. It was even used in a song by David Gilmour, the guitarist from Pink Floyd.
How to Get Started on Your Own Audio Logo
With inspiration from these successful cases, you might consider developing your own audio identity. But how do you know when the time is right?
Of course, you don’t have to imitate Mastercard and create a whole music catalog based on your audio logo. What you can do instead is to create an audio logo, then focus on and maximize its usage to carve out a soundscape for your brand.
You might consider releasing your new audio logo to accompany a product launch or repositioning your company concerning the timing. An audio logo release can serve as an effective way to rebrand your company, so you could easily take advantage of that. If you combine the release of your audio logo with a product launch, you can even create a variation of the logo sound aligned with the new product to help it stand out from the old.
Creating a New Audio Identity for Your Brand
How do you create your own unique audio logo? You can use the following steps as guidelines when approaching a studio or audio branding agency about creating your audio logo. These steps will help you ensure that your new sound won’t just end up as a temporary soundtrack for your next ad campaign but will instead serve as the core audio DNA for your brand, the sound that your customers will associate with your company long into the future.
- Determine the values of your brand: What do you want to convey to your customers? What are the core qualities of your company?
- Perform a brand audit: Perhaps you already have certain audio assets that can help determine which route to take when crafting a new audio logo. Ask yourself if your new audio identity should be influenced by your company’s sounds in the past or if you want to go in a completely new direction. Listen to former ads, podcasts, etc., to get a feel for the audio path you want to take. Get more inspiration on how Sonic Minds work with audio identities and strategies here.
- Make a touchpoint inventory: What touchpoints can your customers encounter when they use your product or make a purchase? The touchpoints are the places where your audio identity should meet the consumer. Don’t just identify the existing touchpoints, but look into the future, and imagine all the places where your brand might exist and come into contact with customers.
- Commission a talented composer to create your audio logo: If your budget allows it, you should definitely consider commissioning a talented composer or even go after an industry’ name’. Brian Eno, the renowned ambient musician, created the iconic Windows ’95 startup sound, which just shows how you never know what you can accomplish by teaming up with a notable creative force.
- Make several versions of your audio logo: No matter whether you are creating the new audio logo by yourself, with an in-house team, or outsourcing the project to an agency, you should make more than one version of the audio logo. By having at least a few potential sound options to choose from, you get the opportunity to test and find the one that works best with your brand.
- Run the audio shortlist by a focus group: A focus group might consist of members of your company, creative team, brand stakeholders, or members of your target audience. It can also, to a certain extent, be valuable to get input from family and friends. Host a listening session and get the opinions of each member of the focus group.
- Choose an audio logo that can be updated, localized, and re-envisioned: Your audio logo should have a long life rather than work solely in a contemporary setting since it should also be able to define your audio brand in the future.
- Simplicity should be your priority: Don’t try to overthink the project or create a too complex sound. An audio logo should be simple, memorable, and easy to understand. There is a reason why the audio logo grew out of the traditional jingle. Restrain yourself and make sure that you end up with an audio logo that is clean, concise, and can be hummed or whistled by anyone who hears it at the end of the day.