I’ll name a brand and I want you to think of the first sound that comes to your head. Then you can click on the linked addresses to see if you got it right.
Hopefully, you were able to hear these brands before you actually saw them, because they are all excellent examples of businesses that have nailed their sonic branding. Think of it as the audio equivalent of the brand's logo.
‘Sonic signatures’ are used by brands to reinforce their identity along multiple touchpoints of the customer journey. For instance, you have a personal device that plays the brand’s jingle when you turn it on. You might have some issues with the device so you call their customer service - you hear that same audio signature again a few times while on hold. At the same time on TV, an advert comes on, you hear that sonic signature yet again. It’s all part of a successful sonic branding strategy.
Why is it important?
Brands have long recognised the importance of audio as a key component of their media presence. However, now more than ever, brands are looking to develop digitally to adapt and keep up with current technological trends. Sonic branding is a key part of this.
Homes are becoming more digital, and personal devices such as mobile phones, voice-activated smart speakers, and virtual assistants are now integrated parts of our lives. This coupled with the rise of audio streaming such as audiobooks, music, and podcasts highlight the importance of having a strong sonic brand. You can’t see the logo, so instead, you hear it.
Research has found that Gen Z is twice as likely to buy from a brand with a sonic identity, this suggests that having a familiar sonic identity helps brands stand out from competitors as well as build brand loyalty.
As your business grows, whether it be large or small, you should be considering how you want your brand to sound. Audio is a key tool to help construct emotional and personal connections with your customers. Having a unique, authentic, reusable audio asset that can be utilised throughout multiple touchpoints of your customer's journey helps construct your overall brand identity.
A technique used by a lot of businesses is tactically licensing audio that already exists, such as popular songs, and using it within their advertising. Unfortunately, this can result in their brand being associated with other areas of culture, instead of leading it. Instead, brands should strive to create their own sound. Authenticity is king and you will be rewarded for it in the long run.
Mastercard’s new sonic strategy
A recent example of an effective sonic strategy is that of Mastercard. They understand the role that audio plays in our lives and have pumped a lot of money into crafting a strong sonic identity that can be used across all aspects of their business model. Below is a quote from Mastercards audio press release in 2019, outlining their plan (You can hear the jingle at the 1:05 mark).
“Sonic brand: that’s right! It’s the sound equivalent of our iconic red and yellow circles. From the music you hear in our commercials, to the acceptance sound in shopping, our unique melody will reinforce our brand every time a consumer interacts with Mastercard … Why sonic? And why now? From connected cars, to voice shopping, the modern way we live, shop and pay, continues to change and impact the way we engage with the world around us, including the role of brands. Sound adds a new dimension to our brand identity. It is a powerful way to connect to people, and a critical component to how people recognize Mastercard today, and in the future. Let’s take a listen! [plays sonic signature]. What you just heard was the sound of Mastercard. That core melody acts as the foundation for our entire sonic brand architecture. It will be adapted globally, in many different versions to ensure local relevancy. And, we’ll extend it across many styles and assets, from musical scores, sound logos, and ringtones, to hold music, and point of sales acceptance sounds.”
Mastercard went on to release a single in 2020 with up-and-coming Swedish artist Nadine Randle to integrate its sonic identity in its first-ever song titled “Merry Go Round.” If you listen, what’s the first thing you hear? A rendition of the new Mastercard jingle, also heard multiple times throughout the song. It’s interesting to see the trajectory they are taking with this, does this now open doors for brands to effectively advertise within songs?
But it’s also important smaller businesses are focused on what they should sound like going forward. A strong audio identity will set you apart from the rest, instead of adding to the noise. Think about your most important consumer touchpoints and how you can incorporate sonic branding into these. For instance, if you are pushing out content, especially videos or podcasts, it’s easy once you have your sonic identity to put your stamp on it before the content starts or as it ends.
An interesting area of sonic branding that you should definitely consider is on TikTok. As the platform grows, people are realising the advertising potential that it holds. TikTok is a sound-on platform. Videos utilising sound perform 2.2x better than competitors with the sound turned off. If you can create a strong sonic brand for your company, TikTok is an incredibly easy, and effective place to implement your strategy. Jump on a trend, hijack an already existing sound, or create a completely new one to cement your brand identity in the TikTok space.
The importance of sound in the landscape of how your brand is perceived should never be underestimated. If you haven’t already, you need to start thinking about your brand’s overall audio strategy.