Audio Branding: Can You Hear Your Brand?

Guest author Lars Deutsch is experienced in writing and producing music and sound that works. Before Lars worked exclusively under his own name, he wrote and produced music for branding and jingle houses.

Audio branding, also known as sound branding or sonic branding, is the use of sound to reinforce brand identity. Sound branding is increasingly becoming a vehicle for conveying a memorable message to consumers by taking advantage of the powerful memory sense of sound.

The audio logo is one of the tools of audio branding. An audio logo is a short, distinctive melody or other sequence of sound, usually positioned at the beginning or end of a commercial. It can be understood as the acoustic equivalent of a visual logo. Often a combination of both types of logo is used to enforce the recognition of a brand.

To understand why audio branding is so effective, the following is a little background about…

Your Incredible Ears

“Sound is a nutrient for the nervous system. Love your ears... they are much more

important than you ever realized.” - Prof. Dr. Alfred Tomati

Humans are hard-wired audio-visualists. We live by our visual sense so much these days that we both underestimate and undervalue our most potent and primal sense: the sense of sound.

Hearing develops in a human fetus at just 12 weeks’ gestation. Long before we physically have ears, we hear our mother's heartbeat through every cell. Hearing is the first sense we develop, and it is the last sense to dim when we die. We have no “deaf spot” because hearing is and always has been our primary warning sense, and because it is vital to our spatial awareness.

We have no “ear lids” because even while we are dreaming our sense of hearing is constantly scanning and analyzing the sounds around us.

We discern a great deal about any space in just a second or two from its acoustics.

Even with our eyes closed we can perceive walls and other solid objects from the tiniest sonic reflections. Hearing and space are intimately and permanently connected in a potent perceptive process.

Additionally, our auditory range is ten times greater than our visual range in terms of relative frequency. In terms of intensity, our aural range is 10,000 times greater than our visual range.

Our ears process information in a special way – there is a reason why our ears are so powerful and we have no “ear lids”. Our ears control our eyes and serve to warn us of potential danger even if we are asleep. Ears are always “on” and gather far too much data for us to consciously comprehend. Most of that unfiltered data takes a “short cut” to reach the more primal parts of our brain and our emotional core.

Content received through the eyes can be broken down and comprehended much more easily. And content received through the ears can “touch” you much more easily in its raw, unfiltered state.

For example: Visually, you can understand and appreciate a good presentation even if it utilizes colors that do not “match”. However, you may never completely understand or appreciate a good presentation in a space with terrible sound.

The way your brain processes sound leads to…

Your Incredible Memory for Sound

Alzheimer's patients can recall and sing songs long after they've stopped recognizing names and faces. There is growing evidence that listening to music can help stimulate seemingly lost memories and even help restore some cognitive function.

There's no single center for music in the mind. The brain appears to be wired throughout for the music since it engages a wide variety of functions including listening, language and movement. You cannot “delete” music unless the brain is completely gone.

Listening to a song is like giving a small internal performance of that song and the brain is involved on many levels. This is why important information, such as the alphabet, is often taught to children by using songs.

With this knowledge in mind, let’s move on to the…

Benefits of Audio Branding

Good sound is good business.

Various companies have shown that at least one clear path to people’s hearts, minds and wallets is through their ears. Sound adds dimension; music adds emotion; melody creates memories. Practically speaking, silence is not an option. Either you create the context in which you communicate or the consumer will. 

Since each brand has an identity and each brand has something to say, it is vital that you use all the tools available to you to convey your message. Ignoring sound for the brand, film, animation, logo or on-line presence is equivalent to unplugging the cord connecting your story to your customers.

Effective branding tells a story with sounds that reflect a product’s function. It also reflects the brand’s attitude. For example, an effective brand communication could be engineering the tone of a hairdryer so that the operating sound is pleasant.

As part of your overall brand toolkit, sound can help shape a potential client’s perception of your brand. It can also potentially help you connect with the client on a deeper, more subconscious level. Sound is very effective on a subliminal level.

Companies that have not made a significant investment in audio branding are ignoring a tremendous marketing opportunity. Companies that establish their brands as media-rich experiences have a distinct advantage over their competitors.

Not only does sound enhance brand, it adds a more compelling level of sensory experience that keeps viewers “stuck” on a web site, or leads them to choose a particular product – such as a hairdryer with a pleasing sound. Audio branding can add meaning and emotionalize communication, which influences consumer judgment.

Retail environments, public places and physical spaces are increasingly more important in the relationship between consumers and brands. The higher-value opportunity for audio branding is not only in providing bleeps, blips and soundtracks for these experiences, but in the broader consultative role of experienced designer, director, producer, and curator for brand-based, audio-intensive experiences.

It’s particularly important for international brands to use audio identifiers to overcome language barriers and create familiarity. Music is a very powerful tool for bringing people together and overcoming these barriers.

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