Lending an Ear to Branding Tactics

Constructing a memorable brand identity with the help of sound design.

Today’s consumers are inundated with branding. Between logos, slogans, influencers, and more, you’re probably exposed to branding more frequently than you realize. Beyond creating unique visuals to create a strong brand identity, some marketers are shifting their focus from sight to sound in an additional effort to reinforce brand identity. Just like the smell of baking cookies can take you back to your childhood, a sound or sequence of notes can help evoke a feeling or a connection to an event or experience. In a practical, marketing sense, it can connect us to a brand.

Branding through sound isn’t an entirely new concept. Throughout time, it has been executed in a multitude of ways. Radio has long been viewed as the birthplace of brand sound, but jingles can demonstrate otherwise. Jingles have reportedly existed since the 16th century, while NBC started using their iconic “‘chimes” as early as the 1920s.

Brand sound, sometimes referred to as an “audio logo,” is similar to a traditional logo in that it is meant to be pithy and memorable. And, similarly to all branding techniques, brand sound aims to make an instant connection with customers. Intel’s classic five notes, for example, have been going strong with audiences for more than 20 years; and it doesn’t look like that will be changing anytime soon.

Keeping these characteristics in mind, select brands have begun to establish a new standard in the sound category. T-Mobile recently teamed up with Netflix, offering a free subscription to the streaming service with their latest cellular plan promotion. For the first 10 seconds of the commercial (which ran on both radio and TV), the only sounds the audience hears are the respective audio logos of T-Mobile and Netflix. This approach demonstrates the companies’ confidence in the power of their sounds, and is a clear indication that using sound as a branding tool is not to be undervalued.

In addition, attempting to reach consumers strictly through visual means, especially in saturated markets, is becoming more challenging. As technology and branding mediums continue to advance, creating a signature sound is no longer reserved for larger, “big name” brands—and will continue to extend well beyond direct-to-consumer industries.

Modern-day branding efforts shouldn’t stop at visuals. The goal of branding is to make your business memorable and create an experience for customers and clients. Ultimately, you need to decide if a brand sound would help support this objective and your brand story. Take a moment to think of the different types of media you are currently using or are planning to use. Would owning a signature sound help audience members connect with your brand in a way your previous efforts haven’t accomplished?

By: Maura Noonan, Content Marketing Coordinator and Adam Bauer, Senior Digital Art Director

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