Sonic Branding: The value of intentional audio use in your marketing strategy 

How your audience perceives your brand does not only depend on what they see, but also on what they hear from you. Sonic Branding is a good way to create an immersive experience. We share 7 golden tips to get started.

The age of the image is over. The time of audio has come. OK, maybe putting it a little too dramatically, but you get the point. Audio and video marketing has been around for quite some time, but for the past few years, its presence in the marketing landscape has grown (CISCO, 2020), even more so in B2B than in B2C (the Content Marketing Institute, 2020).

Music to your ears? Read on!

By the way, have you wondered how BBC would sound as a brand? We got you! Go discover our brand new podcast ‘The Mind Behind’! We take a look behind the scenes of Club Curiosity and engage in conversation with the creative minds behind each article. Our first episode – surprise, surprise – is about Sonic Branding.

First things first: What is Sonic Branding about?

Let’s start off by defining what Sonic Branding actually is, and more importantly, what it is not:

It’s quite simple really, it’s everything someone hears from your brand. 

Hold music? That’s Sonic Branding. Background music during a video ad? Yup. Those jingles you hear at the end of a company’s TV ad? Well technically they’re called Sound Logos, but yeah, you’re absolutely right!

If you currently use video and/or audio to communicate with your audience, it might be a good idea to start thinking about how people hear you. It’s important to note, however, that Sonic Branding is not necessary for every company or organisation. As our B2B Sonic Branding Expert Thomas says:

“Sonic Branding is never a goal on its own. Rather, it’s a way to add another layer to help create a more immersive brand experience.”

If you do consider a customised Sonic Brand, there are a couple of rules to follow. Let’s call them… 

‘The 7 golden rules of Sonic Branding

  1. Pay attention to Sound Ecolog
    Speech is silver, but silence is golden. If your brand sound does not actively contribute to a peaceful and pleasant audio environment (also referred to as Sound Ecology), it’s best to keep quiet. Music evokes emotion. We don’t want that emotion to be frustration now, do we?
  1. Customise your sound
    Collaborate with an agency and develop an all-encompassing brand experience. Because, as previously mentioned, Sonic Branding is about adding a new layer, never a goal in its own right. 

    Also, avoid stock music at all costs. It sounds cheap, its goals are transparent, and: no one likes it. Last but not least, what’s to keep the competition from using the exact same music?

    Need help with Sonic Branding? BBC helps you out!
  1. Dare to be unique
    Be the odd one out. Think outside the box. Stand out from the crowd. Be the Ugly Duckling. OK, maybe not the last one but you get the picture!
  1. Mirror your style
    Make sure that the Sound Logo and Brand Score matches the style and values of your brand. It’s supposed to further build upon pre-existing visual assets and adds an extra marketing-related layer to it.

    A Brand Score is the first piece of music created for your brand, typically about a minute long, from which other musical assets are derived – while a Sound Logo can be defined as your auditive tagline.
  1. Make it memorable
    Best case scenario, people remember your Brand Sound and subconsciously connect it to your brand. Achieving this is no easy feat, but follow the golden rules and you are well on your way!

    A bonus tip: Sound Logos that contain 7 notes or less are easier to remember. Keep it simple guys!
  1. Don’t get yourself stuck
    Sonic Branding is dynamic and ever-evolving. When your values change, your sound changes with it. It will need an update from time to time. 

    Important note: evolving does not entail a complete make-over of your brand. More about that in the next section.

    Also, adapt your sound to the channel you’re using. What works for situation A doesn’t necessarily work for situation B.
  1. Stay consistent
    Do you sometimes use another logo or other colours when you feel tired of the current ones? Of course you don’t! Same thing for your audio brand: be consistent in the everyday use of your Brand Sound.

Some interesting cases

Let’s have a listen to what some companies have created in the past! 

#1: A perfect example of the wondrous possibilities of Sonic Branding is from the French national railway SNCF. In 2005 they decided to develop their Brand Sound, so they collaborated with French Sonic Branding Agency Sixième Son. Firstly, they created a Brand Score, a musical composition of about 1 minute long that perfectly encapsulates the brand’s goals, values, and aspirations. Have a listen!

Secondly, they made different Brand Logos for different channels (Full marks!). Have a listen to these two Sound Logos:

  1. Close your eyes and picture yourself waiting on the train that’ll take you home after a long day. You’ve been waiting for a while now, and suddenly you hear a cold voice saying “The train to x is delayed for another 30 minutes”. You clench your fists in anger, but then you hear this. Calms you right down, non? This is SNCF’s brand logo for offline use, composed to have a soothing effect on passengers.
  1. Their Brand Logo for TV has a nice rhythm to it, but be aware: it’s a marvelous earworm that’ll bounce around your brain for days.

Bonus fact: none other than David Gilmour of Pink Floyd was so inspired by SNCF’s Brand Sound in 2013 that he immediately phoned the head of Sixième Son to ask if he could compose a song based on the (offline) Sound Logo. The answer was of course a resounding “YES PLEASE”, after which ‘Rattle That Lock‘ was composed.

#2: Let’s end on a high note. The Audio Wizards at ‘Tambr’, a Sound Agency from the Netherlands, not only compose a Brand Score and Sound Logo for their clients, but also provide them with an audio tool kit filled with custom-made samples. That way, the clients can play around with the music themselves, while always staying true to their signature Brand Sound. 

That is exactly what they did for Fairtrade Original, a Dutch company that focuses on the development of supply chains with sustainable suppliers in Africa, Asia and Latin America. This aftermovie summarises their process.

Sounds like music to your ears?

Are your ears buzzing with excitement? Reach out to your contact at BBC or send a mail to declerck@bbc.be to learn more!





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