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Opinion and Insight
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Sonic Strategy: What Does Your Brand Sound Like?

Red Engine, 9 months, 2 weeks ago

As the year comes to a close, Red Note managing director Greg Townley shares advice on getting your sonic strategy on the right track

Sonic Strategy: What Does Your Brand Sound Like?

The power of sound and music has long been used to spark an emotional response from consumers worldwide. However it’s also one of the most underutilised tools in a brand’s back pocket.

A sonic strategy – what is it?

Sonic branding or 'the strategic use of music and sound to shape a brand' is used to prompt an emotional connection that helps consumers identify with a brand and build loyalty. Creating a sonic signature means taking into consideration your brand personality and what it really represents. Is your brand affirmative, honest, youthful, cheeky or restless?

Coming up with a sound that can be 'ownable' to a personality type (beyond just a jingle or a song) is what will distinguish your brand from the competition. Ultimately this will give you a deeper and more authentic connection with consumers hungry for more tailored and personal brand experiences. Now more than ever, consumers expect to be entertained and engaged in ways that enrich their lives.

Keys to building your brand’s sound

Any brand can have a sonic dimension. It could be as straightforward as the soundtrack played in a retail showroom through to how a user engages with a product device. Think of the reassurance you feel when you hear Apple’s mail program ‘swoosh’ confirming your email has been sent. It’s simple yet extremely effective.

Another great example is Intel – the brand’s four beat mnemonic (or sting) has become synonymous for representing the tech company and was a major breakthrough in its overall marketing strategy. By communicating a brand statement in less than four notes, I’d argue Intel’s sonic signature is more powerful than its visual one.

As a sound specialist, the starting point usually occurs once you receive a brand’s guidelines and reference tracks from client sign off. Generally speaking, your aural identity should reflect moving trends in popular music, especially if you want people to get the sense your brand is connected to the world around them.

Reflecting your brand’s values and being accessible is key and melodies that resolve – as opposed to create tension – will work best. Plus the instruments you use (not just the melody) can convey a theme or sense of the brand. Musicologists study this and of course it goes back to musical scales – used to present danger, excitement, delight or suspense.

Tip to avoid sounding off key

Undeniably powerful on both a subliminal and conscious level, sound can make us either love or hate a brand. And whilst getting a brand’s tone or soundtrack balance right doesn’t have to break the bank, music specialists who also understand the fundamentals of branding should definitely be engaged as early on in the process as possible.

Often, less can equal more when it comes to sonic branding. There’s no point having clashing, unnecessary or unbalanced sounds in your brand’s audio repertoire. White noise is not going to do you any favours and having a clearly defined sound brief from the get go can save you much confusion in the long run. Have a strong reference guide to bounce back to and be honest in your sonic goals. That way, you can easily eliminate sounds that don’t align with what your brand is trying to achieve.    

So the next time you want your customers to really feel something, to connect with your brand on an emotional level, don’t underestimate the power of sound and music. Just ask Apple. Or Intel. Or better still, take a look (or should we say listen) around you this festive season – it’s certainly a time when emotions run high and brands are vying for share of voice and cut through. Music and Christmas are, after all, kindred spirits.

Genre: Music & Sound Design , Music performance