Not Just Eyeballs, But Ears: Appraising the Role of Sound and Music in Brand Management

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What’s the sound of your brand?

Interesting, isn’t it?

Most marketers will find it pretty easy to articulate what the look of their brand is; its feel; its tone; its personality; its values. But I suspect not many people would have an immediate and very definite answer to the question, ‘What does your brand sound like?’

Which is curious given the crucial role sound and all auditory components play in any form of emotional engagement or relationship. We make judgements of people based on what they sound like; we are attracted to people with pleasant voices, and repelled to varying degrees by less pleasant ones (nasal, whiny, shrill). We allow our emotions to be deliberately manipulated by film and television soundtracks, which ensure we get fully caught up in the action and feel fearful/jump in shock/feel moved/feel stirred and inspired/get teary on cue.

And yet, for virtually all brands, the work that goes into positioning and communicating them for maximum emotional engagement hardly ever includes developing, identifying and executing ‘brand sound’ as part of a brand marketing strategy that usually includes as a matter of course brand look, feel and tone.

I should be clear here that when I say ‘brand sound’, I am not talking about what tends to be the most obvious characterization of music as branding — the selection of a compelling song or soundtrack that appears on the TV commercial, which then (yes, it’s usually that way round) is also the soundtrack for the viral video, the radio ads, and comes up when you click on a banner or go to the website, often accompanied by some kind of co-promotional deal with the artiste or artistes concerned, which then gives way to a whole new music/soundtrack approach when the next marketing campaign gets underway.

I’m talking about something that in my experience very few people consider — the idea that the strategic and creative development process for brand marketing should involve, right from the get-go, a strategic approach to defining what the brand should sound like, and an actual sound/music strategy that then feeds into the auditory component of every single experience of the brand.

If you know, as part of defining the identity and personality of your brand, what it should sound like, then you have the opportunity to build a sonic brand identity that provides a filter and criteria for all ‘soundtracking’ of your brand going forwards. And a new dynamic for emotional engagement that can be played out powerfully in, for example, what your customers hear when they walk into your store or wait in your reception; what callers to your offices hear on ‘call waiting’; what might form the auditory background to sales conferences, presentations, analyst calls and shareholder meetings; as well as what sounds through or accompanies your advertising, your promotions, your website, your sampling exercises, your events, your TV programming.

And the great thing for today’s marketers is that digitization makes it easier than ever before to be able to marry music with emotions and desired responses, and to generate the right music for the brief.

5 COMMENTS

  1. For Cindy Gallop

    Loved the article about ear-balls

    My company might interest you from that perspecitve. A bunch of Oxford Univestity techys wrote the code – we make music free by ad insertion of demographically and location sensitive ads in between the tracks of a ‘play list’. Try it and download some music – it works. Free, legal music. We have discussions going with several major music companies and ad agencies. I am in NY today if you would like to know more.

    best rgds

  2. Hi Cindy,

    Such a good article ! I’m involved in the launch of my own company in sound design, especially for brands. I’m from France and It’s hard to get informations in this market. So, thank you very much, I’m a young contractor and each experience is a real good thing.

    Best regards,

    Nicolas

  3. […] March 14th, 2007 No it is not the signature music that most commercials end with, silly. We are talking brand sound, just like how you can define brand personality or brand character, have you ever though of your brand as a sound track. Hop over to Pandora, or take the help of The Orchard, the world’s leading distributor of digital music to get your brands the right sound byte. Posted by icontract Filed in Experimential Marketing, Strategy, Branding, Innovation […]

  4. Great article Cindy. We are experiencing a lot of brands paying a lot more attention to their sound from a 360 degree perspective.

    You are dead on regarding the ability to emotionally engage with customers using music. There’s not a more powerful tool to evoke emotion than music.

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