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


I am a big fan of Pandora, which allows you to create your own personalized but endlessly surprising and educational internet radio stations, by enabling you to identify your favorite bands and artistes, and then delivering new and different music attuned to those preferences. And a big fan of the Music Genome Project, the group of musicians and music-loving technologists behind Pandora, who have assembled literally hundreds of musical attributes or ‘genes’ into one giant Music Genome.

The ability to instantly access and evaluate sound and music that can be delivered to any brief both tangible and intangible, is a godsend for brand marketers, and one being capitalized on by digital music experts like The Orchard, who launched a division earlier this year specifically to form creative partnerships with brands and agencies looking to access their music catalogue as part of a holistic creative process. Now, it’s more viable than ever before to develop a brand sound/music brief as part of the overall brand positioning and communications process, ahead of specific executions, and to have it delivered on swiftly, easily and innovatively.

Interestingly, some of the more visionary minds in the music business who have seen these possibilities, have struggled with getting the marketing and advertising community at large to see them. Elias Arts still do far more business in classic music composition and production than through their more recently formed brand identity division. Ruth Simmons of SongSeekers and, not to be confused with of NYC, has been championing the power and role of music in branding for years, and has some particularly interesting views on what she calls MusicEquity — relating to ways of measuring and evaluating what sound and music contribute specifically to effectiveness, sales and to the value of a brand.

The tendency to view music as something that only comes in at the creative execution stage, as opposed to having a guiding and fundamental music strategy, should particularly be challenged when you consider that no other sensory component can inspire immediate, and very specific, emotional reactions in the same kind of way.

Whether it’s the opening chords of that song that defined that summer in high school, or the one that your mother always sang you to sleep with, or the one that you chose for the first dance at your wedding — music has the power to move us instantly and to take us to a particular and very emotional place, with no other stimulus necessary. Everything else needs to take time and build to be understood and absorbed; music acts immediately and viscerally.

In the world of the iPod, where many people now live their lives to the ongoing accompaniment of their own personal soundtrack, with moods more immediately managed and reflected in a personal auditory experience that operates as an emotional virtuous circle (‘Am I listening to this because I feel sad, or do I feel sad because I’m listening to this?’), why not brands?

So — what is the sound of your brand?


  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,


  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.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here