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Marketers, get your sonic brand sound right

By Max de Lucia | Co-founder & client director

June 3, 2021 | 8 min read

Even as sonic branding is being increasingly deployed by brands, it has its own challenges and nuances. Max De Lucia, co-founder of DLMDD, the specialist sonic branding agency, shares the best way to approach a sonic branding brief and the dos and don’ts to be remembered.

Getting the sonic branding right

Getting the sonic branding right

Sonic branding. Our ears and minds immediately jump to all the famous examples. So famous that they don’t even need to be spelt out. You’re already hearing them. Songs, melodies, and moments of sound that nudge us to remember something and to feel something – all making for a marketer’s dream.

Those dreams are now becoming realities. And right this second, briefs are flying around all over the world from brand leaders in the craze of searching for their very own sonic sensation.

Getting the sonic brief right

More often than not, writing a sonic branding brief is new territory for marketers and if you’re not au fait with the language of sound, it can be a daunting task.

Add to the mix, the sheer abundance of channels where your brand sounds, and you’ll begin to realise a “one-sound-fits-all” approach presents a few challenges.

Taking sound lessons from our own voice

For this to all make sense, take off your brand hat for a moment and think about you as a person and individual. There are a lot of sonic branding learnings we can take from our sonic identities – our spoken voice.

You’ve spent decades crafting the way you speak and every time you use your voice, you’re consciously and subconsciously shaping the image you want to project to the world and the way you want to be perceived. This is just like any brand developing a sonic identity.

It is powerful. Think about picking up the phone with someone you have never met before. Within seconds you have formed a picture of who the person is, what they look like and whether you like them or not.

That exemplifies just how powerful a sonic brand is – its ability to influence the sentiments of the audience and their propensity to buy in a matter of seconds. Incidentally, a recent study between YouGov and DLMDD found that 20% of young adults are more likely to choose and buy a brand or product with a sonic identity compared to brands without.

Utilising the power of sound

There are many scenarios and illustrations that exemplify just how multifaceted sound is. How our choice of tone and timbre can transform the effectiveness of a message and the reaction of an audience.

Do you speak in the same way on a work conference call as to how you speak to an elderly relative?

And if you’re abroad, why is it that you can understand the feeling of a conversation through its tone even if you can’t understand the language?

There is a lot we can learn from these voice analogies - as human beings we require a diversity of sound that communicates the right message to the right people at the right time.

Every brand everywhere wants a sonic brand right now.

Case study: Singapore Airlines sonic branding launch

When we worked on the recent sonic branding launch for Singapore Airlines, every customer moment in sound had to be crafted diligently to perfection. From boarding to landing and check-in lounges through to the app.

That is because the audience needs to experience different emotions at different times. One minute we can be sipping on a glass of wine in tranquillity in the airport lounge. The next we are ready for the anticipation, the intrigue and romance of jetting off to a corner of the world we’ve never explored before. Our jobs as sonic architects are to capture those emotions, bottle them up and serve them at precisely the right moments throughout the customer journey to make that brand experience unforgettable.

This multidimensional approach to sonic design signifies a new era for the sonic branding industry and the diversity of how a brand needs to sound in 2021 and beyond.

The Sonic branding rulebook

Here are some golden dos and don’ts to have in mind when you’re starting to think about creating your own sonic identity.

Know where your brand sounds today and where it’s going to sound in the next 5 years

There’s more to life than solely TV or radio. Chances are your brand is already sounding in more places than you think and with audio-tech moving at a rapid pace, you’ll be out of date if you fall silent in future.

Simple, timeless and born from the brand; Chromebook puts its product sound front and centre of its sonic identity

Know your audience and unpack their needs, wants and desires

Remember sound has the joint power to be universal, globally accessible but also incredibly nuanced. Reach the right audiences in the right places with the right sound.

The Hans Effect: Netflix enlisted Zimmer when 'Ta-Dum' wasn’t enough for cinema audiences

Play on music culture and make your sound known

A recent Nielsen report found that we’re listening to over 4.5 hours of music and sound every day. That’s a lot of noise to cut through. Think about how you can amplify your sonic identity through an artist partnership.

Culture Vultures: Mastercard team up with Swedish singer Nadine Randle on a single that integrates the payment giant's sonic brand

And equally important, here are the don’ts of a sonic brief

Don’t assume a one-sound-fits-all approach

More likely than not, your favourite gym workout tune wouldn’t have the same effect on a candlelit dinner for two. And the voice of the podcast narrator you fall asleep to wouldn’t do such a good job at getting you pumped for a big day at the office. Keep in mind how diverse and multifaceted your sonic brand needs to be.

Don’t let personal taste get in the way

Sound is subjective. We’ve all got an opinion on it. But remember what’s right for the brand. There are great sonic testing companies out there that can help brands understand what sounds resonate with the consumer.

Don’t go in half baked – get it heard everywhere

Say it loud and say it proud and smash your sonic, absolutely everywhere it needs to be. Don’t settle for a soft launch or staggered rollouts. The only way to get your sound in the mind of the consumer is to go large or go home.

Max De Lucia is the co-founder of DLMDD, a UK-based specialist sonic branding agency.

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