August 19, 2020

Sonic Branding on the Rise

By Paul Suchman

How your brand sounds is more important than ever

The world is constantly evolving for people and brands alike, but the changes that have taken place in 2020 have come especially quickly. From re-imagining the workplace virtually overnight, to how we get the news each day, shifts that started in the last decade are progressing with unprecedented and unanticipated speed. As brands navigate new environments and changing consumer behaviors amid this evolution, few developments have been as important as the rising prominence of audio.

rice crispy sonic

Futurists, marketing gurus, and tech moguls alike have predicted and discussed the importance of sound for businesses for several years, but now predictions are becoming reality. Just last year, Juniper Research predicted Americans would use nearly a billion voice-assistant enabled devices by 2022, and Deloitte identified a 63% growth rate in the smart speaker category, making it the fastest growing connected device in the world.1 That rate has increased by an additional astounding 43% in the first half of this year.2

As my colleague JD Crowley shared, this all reflects a move away from our screens towards audio-centric environments. If brands are going to thrive here, they’ll need to embrace sound as a key ingredient in their marketing strategies. This is where sonic branding comes in. While it’s not a new tool in the advertiser’s toolkit, sonic branding has new applications and a new sense of urgency in this audio-first world.

Some brands have always understood the importance of sound. Intel, for example, has long represented the vanguard of sonic branding with their iconic chime sound logo. Apple has also been recognized for their work in audio, not just with a strong sonic logo but with the way they consider sound in all areas of their product, from Siri’s voice to the way their touchpads sound when you use them.3

Tech, often the pioneer in branding, isn’t responsible for all the great sonic branding, though. One of the oldest examples in advertising history is one of the least intuitive: Rice Krispies. The cereal’s iconic mascots, Snap, Crackle, and Pop, have been around since the 1930s so long that it’s easy to take their existence for granted. Looking back from a modern point of view, the decision to brand a food product according to the way it sounded rather than the way it tasted was a radical stroke of branding genius. In this regard, Rice Krispies can teach marketers today plenty about their mindset. To fully maximize the potential of sonic branding, one has to consider the many contexts in which consumers hear your brand and how you can leverage  those opportunities effectively.

At Audacy, we think daily about how brands sound, including how they’ll sound in the environments they are presented within. Fortunately, audio is in our DNA – we know how to connect with consumers via sound. We know how to help brands break through and engage using only sound. And as the experts in audio, we recognize and appreciate when others do it well. To that end, here are things that brands should consider as they embrace sonic branding, with some examples of companies that are doing it well already.


1. Let sound enhance what you already have in place.

When people think of sonic branding, they usually start by thinking of sound logos like Intel’s. There’s more to sound logos than simply having one. Don’t just add a sound to your existing marketing goals. Instead, work out how audio can enhance tools and strategies you already have in place.
State Farm offers a great example of how to do this. The insurance giant already had a sound logo, but last year they verbalized the brand’s name during their signature audio. This resulted in an impressive boost in brand recall, the highest correct association of any brand according to a recent survey conducted by the analytics company Veritonic.4 This metric is especially important as we continue to move into an audio-focused, screenless world, where unaided recall is paramount.

rice crispy sonic

2. Consider where your sound will live.

It’s essential to think broadly about where and when consumers can hear your brand. As smart speakers grow more popular and voice enabled technology enters more parts of our daily activities, there are more opportunities than ever to reach listeners through sound. More than any other media, sound has the power to activate previously untapped parts of consumer life.
Recently, Mastercard showed the world how this is done through their ambitious rebrand, which included a fully realized sonic strategy. To start they’ve incorporated a sound logo into all of their marketing materials. More importantly, though, they’ve turned every transaction into an opportunity to reinforce brand awareness. Every time a Mastercard transaction takes place, their sound logo plays. It’s no surprise why the audio consulting firm amp named them the best sonic brand of 2020.

rice crispy sonic

3. Let sound translate into experience.

We’ve already mentioned that Apple considers how their products sound when you use them, but they also pay important attention to what the customer hears when they visit a store, from the music playing in the background to the sound a door makes when it slides open.
Tesla has also utilized sound to create a unique experience for consumers. It’s not just about the sound of the engine or a turn signal; when you close the car door, the vehicle creates its own sonic vacuum. Sound makes the space inside a Tesla different from the outside world. If you close your eyes and get into a series of cars, you’ll immediately know when you’ve entered a Tesla. It’s that powerful. This is how a brand leverages a simple sound to create a comprehensive audio environment.

tesla sonic

If thinking this way feels difficult or unnatural, you’re not alone. Change is often challenging, especially when it happens at the fast pace in which we’re all experiencing it today. Fortunately, Audacy is well positioned to navigate those challenges. By pairing cutting-edge insights with a long legacy of audio innovation, we’re uniquely suited to help brands develop sonic strategies. To build a sonic brand that will succeed, join our ongoing conversation about  sound, marketing, and the future. We’d love to hear from you.

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1.  Deloitte, Sonic Branding and the Rise of Voice Technology, 2019.
2. Edison Share of Ear, comparison of May vs. Q1 2020
3. amp, Best Audio Brands 2020
4. Veritonic, Audio Logo Index
5. amp

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