Sword and the Script

Audio branding, essential sound in marketing



by Frank Strong

Sound has a powerful emotional connection; think for a minute what is triggered in our minds when we hear:  a heartbeat, a doorbell, a phone’s ring, a car horn,  a lawnmower, a dog’s bark, a baby’s cry, or Christmas carols.

Each sound has a special meaning, like a language onto its own;  someone needs us, is warning us or entertaining us.   These sounds trigger’s emotions: a doorbell for example, might trigger excitement for a familiar friend, or dread, with an unwanted visitor.

Sound isn’t commonly associated with branding, perhaps because it’s not often cited as a mechanism to raise awareness or drive leads; it might however have a powerful connection to customer loyalty and retention.  Consider the sense of community stadium-wide singing during the seventh inning stretch of a baseball game builds.

What sort of music do they play in retail stores?  Shopping music.

It seems to me, sound in branding goes nearly unnoticed, it’s almost unconscious, or perhpas subliminal, yet  in a way that’s different than simply trying to ignore web advertisements.  This is why I found a Marketplace story – Company logos expand into sonic realm – so interesting (you can read, or better yet,  listen to that story).

If you subscribe to the idea popularized by Ries & Trout, that positioning takes place in the mind of consumers, as opposed to the words of a tag line, then you can instinctively understand the power of sound. 

AOL’s “You’ve got mail” jingle is a classic example as is Coke’s nearly antique commercial: “I’d like to teach the world to sing,” or the sound of Microsoft Windows starting. Intel inside?  Dun-din-dun-den.  On the other end of the spectrum, in the book Buyology, author Martin Lindstrom conveys (quite scientifically) how the annoying ring of Nokia’s phones effectively killed its sales.

Remember the Nokia Razor?  They were seemingly ubiquitous, yet arguably, Nokia has never recovered.

The Marketplace story digs deeper — and asks what opportunities lie for marketers in using sound for branding by exploring for example,  the alarming buzzers that a washers and dryers make.  An interview guest on the show, Alex Moulton,  who creates “audio branding” says these devices, which are are so integrated in our lives, have an opportunity to great a sonic logo:  imagine a dryer that soothes rather than jars attention.  The story reports that customers of UBS bank ATMs in Switzerland hear soothing music that is intended to convey, “clarity, truth, confidence, success.” I suppose it’s too late to implement this in AT&T’s phone booths.

There’s could be dozens of opportunities for incorporating sound as part of branding by engineering products to make different and unique sounds.  For example, what if cans of Pepsi made a different sound than that of a Coke when drinkers opened the can because of its design?  What if Twitter or Facebook, or any software product, had a unique sound when logging into the product?  Would these drive loyalty?  Would it drive the brand?

I’m not sure but I find the concept fascinating; especially when I’m in a grocery store and a toddler seated in shopping cart is singing the tune of every sugary delight on the shelves nearby as his mother pushes him down the cereal isle.   He sounds like a commercial from Saturday morning cartoons; there are all sorts of emotional connections going on there.

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2 comments
ReZamp
ReZamp

I am definitely tired of d relevant and intelligent commentary on this subject. Everyone nowadays seem to go to extremes to either drive home their viewpoint or suggest that everybody else in the globe is wrong. Thanks for your concise and relevant insight
https://twitter.com/re_zamp 

LedaRose
LedaRose

I wholeheartedly agree with the often-overlooked aspect of a sound connect on Web sites.  When I decided on the name of my fledgling digital pub, The Beltsville Bugle, I was very inspired by the image of readers hearing a bugle sound when they opened the front page.  Ta-da-ta!  Sadly, the pre-structured Zoomvillage platform does not allow for a plug-in like that. 

 

I should pester the programmers to create one, perhaps. Especially now that I can send them this post by you, Frank. 

 

Every week I crank up the sound on the CBS Sunday Morning trumpet trill.