A Simple Guide to Sonic Branding

by Percy Hopper

Sonic branding is becoming more important every day given the growth of voice in marketing. Companies like McDonald’s, Intel, and Disney have been using sonic branding to propel their businesses to success for many years, but with the explosion of access to voice-based, audio-first consumer devices, sonic branding is now a must-have consumer engagement strategy. Visa even spent over a year in the development of its latest sonic branding strategy: a less-than-a-second sound “to signal speed and convenience.” The process involved neuro-research, relied on focus groups spanning eight different markets, and eliminated over 200 other sounds that elicited “visceral reactions” like anger.

All that effort has paid off for Visa, as 83% of respondents surveyed about this sound admitted to being “positively impacted” by it, with another 81% claiming they would have a more positive perception of merchants using it. Visa's apparent success is further proof that sonic branding works, and this is the reason many global brands have their own sonic logo (think of NBC's chime sound or Microsoft's startup prompt). It is also why you need to consider sonic branding for your own business.

But what exactly is sonic branding?

What is Sonic Branding?

Sonic branding is the use of music, sound, or voice (or any combination of them) to reinforce or highlight a brand’s identity. This sound is something that people immediately and unmistakably associate with a brand upon hearing it. This type of branding has the same end-goals as visual branding: stimulate an emotional response or attachment and evoke instant recognition.

A most obvious and successful example of sonic branding is Netflix's sonic logo: the ta-dum sound, or two 16th note timpani strikes on D2 and D3. It is the sound you hear before you watch anything on the streaming service. It is simplistic and two beats long only, but it is indubitably Netflix's, and recognized by every subscriber. More importantly, it has become one of the world’s most iconic sounds.

Another example of sonic branding is Allstate's long-time use of Dennis Dexter Haybert's voice for its commercials, oftentimes ending with the tagline, “Allstate. You’re in Good Hands.” Haybert's deep baritone, combined with the commercial's repetitive playing on TV and radio, gets attention, and is in line with the Marketing Rule of 7: People need to hear a brand’s message at least seven times before they decide to take action. This constant repetition accomplishes that and reminds people of the brand. This ultimately breeds familiarity and even trust, thereby enhancing the chances of them being recognized, recalled, and associated with Allstate.

Here’s a brief rundown on how your brand can take full advantage of sonic branding:

Make it Ubiquitous
Firstly, you must play your brand’s unique sound at every possible touchpoint — at the beginning of every show, for instance, as is the case with Netflix and NBC, or when the brand logo appears, like Apple and Samsung do. In this way, that emotional response is elicited frequently, and the association between sound and brand is reinforced.

Use SEO to Make it Searchable
You must also ensure discoverability through audio optimization. It is a relatively new subsector of search engine optimization, or SEO, which is crucial in connecting your brand’s website to a wider audience. The link between SEO and sonic branding is even more vital today, with Google now surfacing audio content in online searches. Digital marketing firm Ayima highlight the important role of SEO strategies in driving organic digital traffic for both major brands and small businesses, and sonic branding is quickly becoming one of these essential strategies. An example of this is British Airways, which is one of the major brands the firm works with. British Airways has a specific sonic brand that is recognizable for regular flyers. The company uses the now iconic sound bite the Flower Duet, taken from the opera Lakmé, and uses it for every touchpoint of the airline.

With audio content such as these sonic brands, podcasts, songs, and sound clips now coming up in search queries, it is imperative to prioritize high-quality audio clips that Google algorithms will recognize right away. From there, SEO strategies like uploading content on different platforms, writing a description of it, and making it available for sharing on social media will work seamlessly with your sonic brand to boost its search engine ranking.

Engage with Voice Experience
Finally, you can complete the aural engagement by connecting with people using Alexa and other smart assistants. You can, for instance, give a personalized Voice Survey, deliver knowledge value about your brand via Voice Tools, or even Voice Entertainment through creative storytelling and trivia games. Whichever form of engagement you choose, the voice experts here at True Reply will help you build the best voice experience for your brand.

Sonic Branding Is the Present… and the Future

That the world’s leading brands are leaning towards sonic branding and are investing heavily in improving it is clear proof that audio advertising is the “in” thing in marketing now. And it will likely be just as relevant in the future as well. It goes without saying that companies big or small should invest in a sonic brand if they haven’t yet, or enhance it so it can truly stand out. In this way, brand recall will be enhanced, and the business will be better positioned for success.