Sonos has quietly softened its brand to be less about tech and more about sound

Sonos' 'Brilliant Sound' campaign will run in print, out-of-home and digital

Sonos has subtly reworked its corporate identity and tone of voice, clearing away “music-inspired metaphors and clichés” and a techy aesthetic to reveal a warmer brand simply focused on ‘Brilliant Sound’.

It’s the product of a reorganized marketing leadership now operating without a chief marketing officer.

The last marketer to hold the CMO role was Joy Howard, a former Patagonia exec who departed for Lyft before heading to startup Dashlane just eight months later. Sonos stated it had no plans to replace the role after Howard’s exit in May and subsequently reorganized its marketing leadership.

Three global leaders now sit at the top of the internal marketing ladder, reporting into chief commercial officer Matthew Siegel. The CCO took on responsibility for both sales and marketing in the wake of Howard’s departure and now counts on a trifecta of vice-presidents in brand, marketing communications and product marketing to support him on the latter.

Lorrin Pascoe, senior director of global advertising, is responsible for the “overlap between creative production and paid media” on the brand team. His focus this year has been planning for the rollout of a refreshed Sonos identity and tone of voice.

“The biggest shift has been having everyone really focused on the same narrative,” he told The Drum. “Having that visual thread with the new brand identity connects everything across the brand in a way that we've really aspired to do over time.

“In my four years that I've been here, this is the strongest that I've seen the brand be connected across each of the different functions.”

Co-created with long-term agency Anomaly and digital studio Instrument, Sonos’ brand refresh is comprehensive, yet subtle. The roll-out was so unassuming that the company refrained from overtly publicizing it.

“We had a unique opportunity to update our brand strategy, brand identity, and do a full website redesign at the same time – that almost never happens,” said Dmitri Siegel, vice-president of brand at Sonos, in a blogpost. “The level of collaboration is a big part of what makes this ID so strong.”

The most noticeable change in Sono’s branding is the switch from clinical monochrome to warmer tones of ‘sand’, ‘pine’ and ‘rust’ – colors plucked from the brand’s rural surroundings in Santa Barbara. This softer palette, which Sonos plans to evolve over time, represents a move away from the techy, clinical aesthetic of before and offers the company's designers greater flexibility.

“We organically rejected the notion of permanent brand color,” said Michael Leon, Sonos’ global creative director. “It felt like a dated concept. Once we freed ourselves of that, we were able to open our minds to more timely influences.”

Sonos has tweaked its typeface to complement this softer aesthetic and experimented with publishing its logo vertically.

It’s also inked a partnership with London artist James Graham to create a house illustration style. This will allow the brand to irreverently communicate the details of its product experience without having to rely as on animation, video of big chunks of written copy.

This new emphasis on the hand-drawn further serves to bring the warmer, more human side of Sonos to the fore. The final piece of the puzzle is the language the brand uses: it's shifted to a simpler tone of voice that is “more enduring”, while “backing away from music-inspired metaphors and clichés”, according to a blogpost.

‘Brilliant Sound’, the campaign Pascoe has been producing, is the first demonstration of this. The initiative will run around the world until September with the message tha “listening is essential to human progress, culture, happiness”, he said.

Sonos hopes to communicate three points: the aesthetic beauty of its products, the simplicity of its software and its commitment to quality and design.

The campaign will run in print, out-of-home and digital. And, despite pulling its ads from Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, the brand has reverted back to spending with the platform.

“We don't want to be a brand that is just blindly executing, and we take pride in being of the conversations that are happening in our landscape and having our brand values really drive what we do within the advertising space,” explained Pascoe.

“[We’re] making sure we have the right infrastructure in place so we can always be on the pulse, and we’re challenging our partners and our vendors to do the same. We’re making sure that we build that muscle as an organization to be aware and be able to react quickly should we need to – to have a point of view and be a participant in the conversation versus just sitting on the side lines.”

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