According to Wikipedia, “sound branding (also known as audio branding, music branding, sonic branding, acoustic branding or sonic mnemonics) is the use of sound to reinforce brand identity. Sound branding is increasingly becoming a vehicle for conveying a memorable message to targeted consumers, taking advantage of the powerful memory sense of sound“.
So how does it work?
As customers, we are bombarded everyday with sounds—music on the radio, ringtones on our cell phones, jingles, commercials, movies, tv shows…the list goes on and on. Even the bell in a school signifying the end of the schoolday, the siren of an ambulance, the sound of the camera on your smartphone when you take a picture are all subliminally leaving an impression on your mind and training you to react and respond a certain way. Sonic branding started when companies were trying to make their TV commercials “friendlier” by incorporating positive music and sounds. Many of these “sounds” are catchier than others—everyone knows the Simpsons theme songs, the theme from Jaws, the sound a Windows PC makes when it turns on and shuts down, the sound of a Nokia cell phone’s default ringtone. Sounds are iconic, and the catchier they are, the better it is for the brand.
Or is it?
Do sounds really equal sales? Does knowing the Simpsons theme song encourage you to buy merchandise or tune in to the show? Does the catchy Nokia ringtone encourage you to make your next phone purchase a Nokia? The jury is still out. However, it is undeniable that for purposes of awareness, sonic branding has significant impact on leaving a memorable impression on consumers.
Regardless of direct impact on the bottom line, these companies have nailed the sonic element of their brands—using their proprietary sounds to deliver consistent and constant “good feelings” and “positive vibes” to the market, very much the same way a brand is careful to consistently apply its identity, including type, color, graphical elements, and tone of voice across all its messaging and communications:
How many are you able to hum along to?