By Max De Lucia, co-founder and client director at specialist sonic branding agency DLMDD
The rise of voice-led technology, the connected home and the reality that consumers are turning adverts off; these have all played their part in accelerating the sonic rat race.
And right now, sonic branding is front and centre of every marketer’s agenda. But what role does sound and audio really play in the business of brand building?
The reality is that in today’s hyper-connected and increasingly competitive world, marketers are having to find their audiences in new places; ones that our ears can reach but our eyes can’t always see. And as a result, things are getting seriously sensory.
Creative solutions to business challenges
Let’s be clear. Most brands tend to begin their foray into the world of sound with briefs that often reference MacDonald’s I’m Lovin’ It, or the iconic Intel chime. Last year however, we saw Mastercard go so far as to release their very own brand ‘taste’ which followed the launch of their sonic identity earlier in the year. This was indeed progressive stuff.
And more recently, Netflix took their famous ‘Ta Dum’ sound and put it on steroids, with the help of music authority Hans Zimmer, taking the gold standard of sonic branding to new heights.
On first glance it may appear there is something of a disconnect emerging – with what some may describe the age-old advertising jingle on the one hand, versus a bold, fresh, sensory approach on the other.
However, it would be wrong to say that one is better than the other, when you consider that the best audio brands are in fact creative solutions to real business challenges.
Take Mastercard. Its brand ‘taste’ was designed to be a holistic sensory experience to remind audiences of ‘Priceless’ at any one of their millions of experiential activations, which was their way of ensuring you knew it was Mastercard who made your day that little bit better. And crucially, you didn’t need to even see their visual logo to do so.
On the other hand, a more traditional sonic identity such as an audio logo can be a hugely powerful driver of distinctive brand recall. And this is the fundamental goal for any brand, to be heard, known and universally recognised. Which will ultimately ensure they gain competitive advantage in a saturated market.
The power of music to identify
To provide some context, when we explain our sonic mission, we’ll often play the first few seconds of a solo drum groove, but giving no context as to why.
What’s interesting is that it really doesn’t matter where in the world you are, you could be in Timbuktu, Turin or Tokyo, the room will unanimously tell you that it’s Billie Jean. Not only does this underline music’s intrinsic power to instantly identify, but it highlights that incredible part of our human psychology. The section of our brain that stores these things away, often for years at a time, and yet amazingly can reignite our memories in a flash. What brand wouldn’t want to harness that power?
Sound in a post-lockdown world
As events this year have shown, music has the unique power to calm, unite and connect us, even when we cannot physically be together. Despite the fact that concert halls have been closed, people have turned to music during lockdown because it evokes emotion and brings colour, culture and comfort to their lives.
So when we emerge once again from lockdown, there will be an opportunity for brands to stop and reflect on how to introduce sound back into the world, that both enriches the world around us but also the attention of their audiences.
Every brand has a sound
In simple terms, sonic branding is really about taking control of music and sound in the same way you would with any other ingredient of your brand’s architecture. Pretty much every brand in the world sounds in one way or another. And it isn’t something that just happens – it’s a considered commitment by brands and their creative teams to deploy music within their identity.
Acknowledging this is the first step you need to take when entering the world of sonic branding. Ask yourself, what are the business challenges or opportunities you face, and then crucially, what role can music and sound play to help you both overcome and achieve these?