The Case for Everywhere Sonic Branding
Surround sound is taking on new meaning. As Audio consumption surges, many brands have embraced sonic branding to convey identity and stay top of mind. Now, the savviest marketers are going deeper, deploying their sonic identities across media and throughout every consumer experience. Brands that don’t embrace this ‘everywhere approach’ to Audio are missing out on opportunities to build long-term brand value and deeply bonded consumers.
More than ever, media-oversaturated Americans multi-task channels and juggle devices, challenging brands to cut through the clutter. Audio advertising coupled with strong sonic branding offer a powerful pathway to meaningfully connect with consumers along their daily journeys. With each sonic exposure, you build familiarity, trust and ultimately, affinity.
From the sound of an electric Ford Mustang revving its non-existent cobra jet engine, to the affirming “ca-ching” note when funds hit your PayPal account, and Infosys’ new five-note sonic signature, the most sophisticated marketers are weaving sonic branding into every touchpoint across consumer experience. Sonic branding is extending from its traditional realm—advertising—into content, user experience (UX) and in-person touchpoints. It’s a holistic embrace of sound.
Embrace Sonic Branding Across Experiences
With verbal and visual identity firmly ensconced in our branding lexicon, here is a quick primer on sonic branding: A sonic brand is a distinctive and familiar tune, voice, or jingle that captures and communicates a brand’s identity and values, doing so without a screen or any collateral. Also called an Audio signature or sonic logo, brands deploy their sonic identities across Audio, TV, digital video, and social media.
Where most Audio signatures used to be jingles, the most contemporary sonic logos are short, punchy and equal parts (musical) science and creativity.
Sonic branding has proven to be a highly effective tool for advertisers. In fact, out of all the elements of Audio creative, sonic branding is the single most effective way for marketers to improve brand recognition and purchase. Those sticky sonic signatures affect not only how we feel about a brand but also how we make decisions. Radio ads with sonic branding elements are shown to drive a 17% lift in ad recall and 6% boost to purchase intent.1
And now, brands are extending this strategy to every consumer touchpoint.
Best Buy is embracing the approach. The retailer’s four-note Audio signature runs consistently across video, streaming Audio content, social, and TV ads. The sound tells consumers they’ve accomplished something meaningful in their day.
“It’s super simple. It’s just an Audio cue, but you hear it in all of our work, and it plays a role in telling the story,” Best Buy’s Executive Creative Director Bruce Bildsten said on a recent Audacy webinar on sonic branding.
To maximize their investment in sound, brands are fashioning Audio palettes with several versions and precise guidelines for deployment. Then, they can plug it in to fit different formats, such as a 3-second version for Audio or TV ads and an extended version for retail touchpoints, within products and across their digital footprints.
Sound Across the Consumer Journey
From business services to quick service restaurants, retail, and automotive, forward-thinking brands are now deploying sound to improve customer experiences.
IT service company Infosys recently unveiled a new sonic identity to compliment the recent refresh to its visual identity. The new sound aims to reinforce Infosys’ identity and values across platforms, and it creates a new customer touchpoint.
Infosys is using the short, upbeat tune in media, brand marketing, employee platforms, videos, and client and community events. Their CMO proudly states, wherever you encounter Infosys, you’ll hear the tune. That’s music to my ears.
Panera is a testament to the power of that approach in the consumer-facing brand ecosystem. As part of their brand refresh, Panera prioritized its sonic identity, wanting a lively Audio signature to underscore their commitment to delicious food and happy customers. The resulting sonic logo is about 1.5 seconds long, featuring a few upbeat notes and an “oh” vocal. Along with Audio, the sonic logo is featured in TV and digital video ads, and we expect to hear it chiming in stores, the drive through, the website, and app very soon.
No category is more bullish on sonic experience than auto manufacturers. From Ford to Nissan to Lexus, car makers are incorporating sound into the driving experience.
Take Ford’s electric Mach-E Mustang: To recreate the experience of driving a traditional gas engine of the late-sixties Pony Car, Ford produced sounds that play inside and outside while the car is moving. For example, when the driver powers up the Mustang, it plays the distinctively throaty sound that defined the first generation of muscle cars. Nissan recreates driving noises, such as accelerations, in its EVs with simulated sounds. In fact, sound is deployed across virtually all user interactions with their EV lineup, reinforcing and differentiating their brand, while livening up an otherwise silent electric driving experience.
Level Up Investment in Audio and Sound
Of course, before you can unleash a sonic brand, you have to prioritize Audio in creative and strategic planning.
Too often, marketers focus on visual and verbal identity for print, linear TV, digital, and social media. But how a brand sounds is equally essential — and often overlooked. Audio is media’s unsung MVP. Audio and sound help brands get noticed.
Audio is eight times more impactful than other media, according to a recent Dentsu media study2
Audio ads garners 56% more attention than other media platforms, and a 67% lift in brand choice2
We know consumers trust Audio more than any other media, and that sound builds engagement and purchase intent. When brands build a signature sound and use it frequently across touchpoints, they see results. Consumers are listening, brands need to as well.
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1 Sound Creative, 2023, Audacy
2 Dentsu Attention Economy Podcast and Radio Studies, conducted by Lumen Research, 2023