Sound Branding: How to Construct Your Brand’s Sound

Every brand has its own visual identity, while the other senses rarely play apart in the brand identity

Most organizations rely almost exclusively on the sense of sight to communicate who they are, what they do, and why they matter.

Yet sound has incontrovertible potential in the creation of impressions. It has the capacity to instill value and reinforce a brand’s reputation. Some forward-thinking brands are making up for this gap. Sound has a direct connection both to the rational and emotional parts of our brain.

We are exposed to hundreds (or sometimes millions) of sounds every day

Let’s consider not the isolated case, but the cumulative effect: the sound of a car hooter is irritating, while the sound of the sea is calming and relaxing. Our brain sifts through everything and selects the sounds that merit a response, those that are connected to a sensation, emotion, performance or those that are of vital importance to our survival.

They influence our emotions, thoughts, actions, and words. They act as a filter through which we experience and understand the world.

The right sound-branding process offers the opportunity to connect the values and identity of the brand through intentional use of music, sound, voice, and silence.

The audio identity takes into account the totality of sounds and offers a systematic approach, even subjective, which ensures that the brand is perceived in the way you desire.

Many people already understand using music as a sales tool. In 1998, Adrian North, David Hargreaves and Jennifer McKendrick carried out a test in a British wine shop to determine the role of background music in purchasing decisions at the point of sale. The same team also discovered that clients can tolerate longer waiting times (on the phone and in real life) if and when the background music is pleasant and adapts to our expectations.

Music can also make miracles in advertisement

McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” is an audio logo that 93% of people recognize. It is the peak of a global campaign that has seen a significant growth in sales since the launch of the campaign.

“…what we notably grew was the effectiveness of our advertisements…when we broaden the scope, it sticks in people’s minds…”

says Larry Luce, responsible for McDonald’s marketing.

You could wait for ad agencies and non-industrial marketing departments to develop sound-branding initiatives and audio branding for outreach or development of products. But there is an evident difference between advertisement and sound and not all companies have the marketing ability of McDonald’s. Not everyone depends on commercials to grow their relationship with clients; in many cases, the products themselves define the relationships between people. This is where other roles come into play.

Companies that extend their sound identity to products, services, and promotions have more ways to boost the value of their brand

There are two approaches to construct a sound identity

  • The first approach is based on promotional sound branding, which aims to connect the sound of existing points with the brand, usually with an audio logo or identifying sound brand of some sort, and to express it everywhere the company is able to communicate. For example, if you are making a commercial through traditional media or engagement, or if the company is connecting with its clients to an event or in the sales space, or if the company has a call center number. Every point of contact reinforces or weakens the perception of your company. Promotional sound branding is less complicated to define because it undermines only the outward appearance. It works subconsciously, because people do not need to pay attention to notice it and it arrives where images cannot.
  • The second approach, which uses psychoacoustics, connects the sound to the brain to influence our emotions and change our behavior. If designed well, branding audio can be a fundamental part of the experience we have with daily products, from computers to cell phones to ATMs…or it connects to public spaces. Conversely, if it is not attentively orchestrated, the sound becomes disorderly and irrelevant in the consumers’ minds. Even if the second approach is more involved than the first, the advantages can be noteworthy as they are able to cover almost every aspect of the brand experience. Above all, the objective is to improve the perception of the brand.

There is another way to use audio as an influential extension of the brand, and it does not involve the use of audio resources or sound compositions to reinforce it.

Reformulating the entire company, with the goal of using sound to drive innovation and disseminate new products, can provoke a new influx of entries and new markets

Let’s take the well known case of Apple, which has become a familiar name and a market leader thanks to the success of iPod and iTunes. This success would have been difficult to imagine 10 years ago, but Apple’s ability to take adequate advantage of our passion for music transformed its activity in a referential model that all of its competitors aspire to emulate.

Starbucks is another case where there were onerous investments of time and resources on the role of music. Starbucks has transformed from a coffee shop to a reliable fountain of creative influence. Their success with Hear Music fed their expansion into books and film.

Neither Steve Jobs nor Howard Schultz woke up one day and decided to change their ways on the basis of a newfound passion for music. Innovation is never so simple. But both companies have shown that there is at least one possible path. On the other hand, not all major brands are interested in or capable of innovating on a global scale. But many do not want to even approach those models and take better advantage of their actual investments. Some of these are already spending millions for their audio communications and for a strategic approach to audio, capable of promoting the economic value which otherwise will be lacking in the near future.

Marco Solforetti

Source:  Noel Franus – Building brand value through the strategic use of sound

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