Sonic Branding: A Sound Strategy for Brand Success in 2019

Cliff Pia | March 25, 2019

Sonic Branding: A Sound Strategy for Brand Success in 2019

Close your eyes. Imagine you’ve just pressed play on the latest episode of True Detective. Before the episode, the HBO logo appears, and with it, a distinctive sound — that rush of static that leads into a chorus of human voices. That’s the sound of HBO. That, my friends, is sonic branding.

Sonic branding: the use of a sound, song or melody to help reinforce a brand’s identity has taken center stage in importance as voice command technologies like Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home Assistant become more embedded in our daily lives.

Sonic branding is the audio equivalent of a visual logo, and requires the same level of thought, creativity, strategy, and science in its creation, since sound can have a profound effect on a brand’s identification.

Companies spend millions developing the look, feel and narrative that best captures the essence of what their brand stands for. Now companies are investing not just in how their brands look, but how they sound. Why is this so important?

The voice shopping industry is set to reach $40 billion by 2022.

And like Pavlov’s dogs, there is a lot of training to do to get people to recognize a brand’s sonic logo that will trigger the right reaction in a few moments with no visual support. A few brands that have a big head start are Apple, THX, Netflix, GAME BOY and HBO who have all done an excellent job of having sound connected to their brand, but that kind of instant recognition doesn’t happen overnight. Intel has used the Intel Bong for 50 years with very little change, which is why you can most likely hear those four notes in your head as you read this.

It was staggering to me to see that of Fortune’s World’s Most Valuable Brands list, maybe only a handful have an instantly recognizable sound connected to their brand. Conversely, I easily recognized a huge percentage of this list’s visual logos. Considering that there are around 45,000 large companies listed on the stock market, and most own 5 to 10 brands, that’s about 225,000 to 450,000 brands that have a long way to go before they build their sonic brand equity.

And it’s not a just a musical sting, sound effect,  or a catchy jingle they need. It’s an instant emotional connection…with no visuals.  Just as a single image can evoke an emotion, so can a single sound or group of sounds. The challenge is figuring out which ones will create that ideal mnemonic for you, how to make it truly representative of your brand, and recognizable in an instant: the amount of time you will have to capture a consumer’s attention and make an impact in the world of voice shopping.

The process to get to that secret sonic sauce that can instill the essence of your brand – whether that’s a sense of trust, innovation, excitement, power or freedom – is complex because sound and music, perhaps more than any other aspect of branding, is so subjective. I spent the first decade of my career studying the effect of music and sound on human behavior, which is why I developed an entire division of our company dedicated to creating sonic branding and branded original music.

The process is arduous. Before we even begin to compose the first note for a client, we first have to dive deeply into all the nuances of the brand’s DNA, the people who embody the brand, the consumers they want to connect with, and what part of the world those consumers live in.  We then create a piece of music, sting or mnemonic that will make a connection from the heart of your consumers; to the heart of your brand.


Above is a short video we made about our Sonic Branding process that led to creating our own Sonic ID and will give you a glimpse into what goes into creating music and sonic IDs for our brand clients.

The interconnectedness of a brand and its musical mnemonic is critical to its recognition worldwide and may have an impact far beyond a tag on your commercials. Your sonic logo may act as the foundation for an entire brand architecture that could extend across a variety of styles and assets on multiple platforms: from musical scores, to the sound of an app launching, ring tones, on-hold music, or point of sale acceptance sounds.

The power of sound, when harnessed as sonic branding, and created with a deep understanding of your brand and demographic insights, can trigger and embed the emotions needed to connect consumers to your brand for a lifetime. Doesn’t that sound good?