What is sonic branding & why should brands be using it?

‘Sonic branding’ has been popular across the digital marketing world in 2022 and into 2023. But what does it mean? Is it another buzzword that will soon be forgotten? Or could it be a sign of things to come?

What is sonic branding & why should brands be using it?
Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog
Giles Taylor, April 03, 2023

In this guide, we’re going to introduce the concept and benefits of sonic branding, demonstrate how it can be used, and introduce you to some real-world examples. 

What is Sonic Branding?

We all know what visual branding is. It’s the reason we can recognise the McDonald’s arches or the Starbucks lady without any text. 

Well, sonic branding is exactly the same principle but in audio form. 

It’s a sound that is distinctly of a certain brand or organisation. It could be a tune, slogan, phrase, or even a simple audio effect. What’s more, it really works. Let’s look at some examples:

EA Sports: It’s In The Game: youtube.com/embed/XSliaQ3a_5Y

Apple Mac startup sound: youtube.com/embed/PLEupC2OWUU

NOKIA Ringtone: youtube.com/embed/Vk4KK-gh0FM

Intel: youtube.com/embed/-ihRPi4wcBY

Nobody questions the importance of visual branding for organisations, but many ignore or neglect the importance of audio as part of this mix. As one of the major senses and something that has the ability to stick in the brain, it’s a big oversight. After all, who hasn’t got a jingle or song stuck in their head?

In 2021, Spotify released its Culture Next report. In it, they said, “60% of millennials in the UK feel that audio is the most immersive form of media”, with figures similar for Gen Z audiences. 

With the continued rise of video platforms like TikTok and the longstanding dominance of audio platforms like Spotify, the ability for brands to utilise audio in their marketing is vast. 

However, sonic branding is much more than just a jingle. Daniel Jackson, author of Sonic Branding: An Introduction, explains, “Most brands still think sonic branding is a jingle or sonic logo rather than a whole suite of harmonious sounds that bind a brand identity.” 

In a world that’s increasingly becoming audio-first, sonic branding can be the link between ads, social media, podcasts, and other touchpoints such as call centres and retail locations.

What are the Benefits of Sonic Branding?

There are many benefits to effectively utilising sonic branding, but one of the primary ones is that sonic branding can become incredibly memorable. It becomes part of a customer’s life, and from then on, whenever they hear those sounds, they’ll associate them with your brand and a specific time in their life. 

Sound can be just as important as sight and smell in evoking an emotional response in a person. And while utilising smell may be some way off for branding teams, sound is one of the most untapped aspects that you can use to make your brand stand out. 

Many human decisions are made using the limbic part of the brain. This is responsible for our emotional and non-rational thoughts, behaviours, and memories. What’s important for marketers is that this part of the brain is also stimulated by sound.

So why is sonic branding important? Research by Dazed Studios suggests that 33% of adults under the age of 35 prefer brands with a sonic identity, and that these experiences may be vital to creating a lasting connection with your customers.

Sound can trigger emotions and complement visual branding. In some cases, even more so than visuals, but certainly together they are more than the sum of their parts. Think of the last time you watched a horror or action film, and now try and imagine it without sound, the effect on you the viewer would be a lot different. 

When your visual and aural branding is synchronised to deliver the same messaging and use the same creatives, you’ll provide a much more integrated customer experience.

Enhances brand recall. According to Marketing Tutor, “studies indicate that listening to sounds or music helps in correlating with the message and [improves] verbal memory of the audience… which leads to an improved brand recall.”

A 2020 study carried out by Spotify found that “listeners were more likely to enjoy audio ads than display ads across radio and streaming services. What’s more, audio ads are memorable and motivational, driving 24% higher recall rates than their display [counterparts], and are twice as likely to lift purchase intent”

Clear Messaging: Music has a direct relationship with emotions. Every sound or chord triggers different types of emotions. Using the right sound for your brand will be very helpful in communicating your message with the target audience in a better, more creative and more effective way.

How can you use Sonic Branding in 2023?

Just as you pay huge attention to your visual branding, in 2023 you should seek to combine it with sound to create a full brand experience across devices. Take what you know about your target audience, and create a strategy to reach them through sound. 

Then, identify your customer touchpoints to create sounds that can impact their experience, feelings and mood. For example, the background music in a product video or the sound of a button press in your mobile app.

Consider how your sonic and visual branding work together to create your overall look and feel. Branding should be simple, memorable and unique. It should also be specific and tailored to the platform(s) you intend to utilise most. For example, sonic branding can be used in places such as:

  • Podcasts
  • Videos
  • Vlogs
  • Ads
  • Social media
  • Radio and broadcast media
  • Websites and apps
  • In-store audio
  • Customer service hold music

Sonic branding represents a great opportunity for forward-thinking and innovative brands to create a long-term connection with their audience. Research shows that the younger generations place significant value on audio in their lives. Interacting and forging memories as they’re young, by reaching them at the right time and on the right platform, should pay dividends in the future.

Giles Taylor writes for W/Brand Design Blog

Giles Taylor

Giles is the founder and creative director for W/Brand. A graphic designer from Reading in Berkshire, UK, he's a dad with two wonderful children who enjoys walking and playing the guitar.  

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