The Intel bong. The “ho, ho, ho” of the Jolly Green Giant. The infamous “clang” from Law & Order. In a world where we’re constantly being assaulted by a flurry of sounds and images, the most memorable are often the most stripped-down and simplified.
Sonic branding has been around since the dawn of radio, yet its power and importance has often been marginalized by companies that would rather put their money and creativity behind visually driven campaigns and advertisements (currently, 83 percent of advertisers rely on sense of sight). But recent findings suggest that sound alone has the power to create deep consumer connection.
In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, research from the Audio Branding Congress demonstrated that “the strategic use of sound can play an important role in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust, and even increasing sales.”
One of the most intriguing notions about sonic branding is that it can drive you to feel a certain way, the same way a song does if its done right. According to Umut Ozaydinli, founder and managing director at Deviant Ventures (a company that focuses on developing sonic branding and strategic use of music in marketing for Fortune 500 clients), it’s this personal reaction that further cement a brand’s importance. “If marketing is all about making people feel something about your brand,” Ozaydinli says, “then audio branding is a great tool to help enhance or articulate that. For example, the sonic branding TED Talks uses at the intro to start their videos. It literally signals that you are about to hear a drop of knowledge, or possibly an idea that can change the world.”
But the complexities in developing an audio logo can often be daunting. From its literal inception and creation (for example, Intel’s mnemonic is three seconds long, has more than 20 musical sounds, but is only composed of five notes) to its execution (how do you adapt a sound so it flows seamlessly across television, radio, and social media?), sonic branding has to both encompass the essence of a brand while also finding a way to be heard above the static.
“A sonic brand strategy needs to be built from the brand’s overall strategy—it’s intimately tied to the personality and position of the brand,” says Joel Beckerman, the author of Sonic Boom and the founder of Man Made Music, a strategic music and sound studio. “The strength of listening to music is that it begins a conversation around emotions, and that can help brands get to the heart of their identity much faster,” he notes. “Sound used strategically elevates brands, sound used tactically does not.”
Strategic sound building is exactly what Coca-Cola had in mind when it decided to update its audio logo late last year. The beverage brand has a long and storied history of using music to drive affinity with consumers, but this time around they decided to take a much more visceral approach.
“We wanted to go to the core of Coca-Cola,” says Joe Belliotti, Coca-Cola’s head of entertainment marketing in North America. “The look of the red and iconic logo. The feel of the contoured bottle. The taste of a Coke and the sound of opening a Coke, pouring over ice, and the bubbles and fizz.”
Utilizing the “Taste the Feeling” message alongside an intrinsic soundscape (the bottle opening, bottle cap noise, ice cubes clicking, the sound of pouring, fizzing, then “ahh” of satisfaction), Coco-Cola is doing more than just selling a soft drink—it’s selling an experience. And in using the soundscape to help support that, the brand was able to broach cultural and language barriers and thereby reach consumers all around the world.
VIDEO COURTESY OF DEVIANT VENTURES AND THE COCA-COLA COMPANY © 2016 THE COCA-COLA COMPANY, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. COCA-COLA®, “TASTE THE FEELING”, AND THE CONTOUR BOTTLE ARE TRADEMARKS OF THE COCA-COLA COMPANY.
“The most important takeaway for us is to get a consumer who hears [this sound and then get] really thirsty for an iced cold Coca-Cola,” asserts Belliotti. “We want [them] to identify the sound of a Coke instantly.”
But sonic branding’s purpose can go well beyond just connecting with consumers. In some instances, it’s about connecting the dots across an entire company, while also driving home a brand’s long and storied history. This is a goal for Avon, who’s iconic “Ding Dong, Avon Calling” audio logo launched over 40 years ago.
Danielle Bibas is the chief brand communication and content officer for the cosmetics company and believes sound can be the perfect unifier when you’re looking at hundreds of products across multiple categories. “At Avon, we have a very extensive portfolio so we communicate our sub-brands individually,” she explains. “Sonic branding is an important element to connect all the brands—which all have different personalities—to the Avon master brand itself.”
VIDEO COURTESY OF DEVIANT VENTURES AND AVON PRODUCTS ©2017, AVON PRODUCTS
As the future of sonic branding evolves, and more and more companies start to integrate it into their campaigns, the potential for its usage runs the gamut. “Some areas where we’re currently exploring is the world of 3D soundscapes for VR, the sound of the electric vehicle, and even bringing the semiotics of sound to the health care field,” says Beckerman. And while limitless potential and opportunity exists across a vast field that extends from retail stores to artificial intelligence, it ultimately comes down to finding the heart of your brand in a sound or a song and ensuring that it doesn’t come off as one-note to the consumers you covet.
Because when it comes to your brand DNA, silence isn’t golden—it’s just a building block to something better.