Audio Branding: What It Is and Why It’s Important

in music psychology

man smiling while wearing headphones

The sensory experience of your company can leave a big impression on a customer. Most business owners understand the deep impact of a well-designed logo, for example, while others focus on specific colors and how those relate to the brand. And every real estate agent knows that the smell of baking bread or cookies can make a house feel more like a warm, inviting home.

But what about music? You can choose specific sonic designs that customers will associate with your brand for years.

Audio branding, also referred to as sound branding or sonic branding, is a strategy involving the use of sound to add an extra dimension to your brand, making you stand out from others who may have similar logos, scent-scapes, or retail architectural designs.

When you have one sound or jingle associated with you, your customers can readily recognize you, think of their fond memories of you, and might even spend more money with you. The first jingle was written in 1926, and audio has been an important part of many brands since then.

There are some minor differences between audio branding and sonic branding. Audio branding is closer to creating a playlist or a mix tape, making a collection of songs or even a genre of music part of the overall experience of your store. Sonic branding, on the other hand, is a custom-created jingle lasting a few seconds that will immediately bring your logo, your commercials, or other aspects of your brand to mind.

Considering these differences can help you understand which approach might benefit your business more. For example, you might create customized playlists for your customers and then sell these in your stores, like Starbucks, or you might hire a composer to develop a jingle for you, like Microsoft Windows operating systems.

Let us examine what you need to know about how to use business audio.


What is Audio Branding?

There are many definitions of audio branding. Audio company logos are all about the basic concept of using sound elements to communicate a brand’s identity to a customer.

Brand sound can include anything from jingles to songs to voices. Some businesses have even used the power of silence as a form of sonic branding.

The sounds you use represent and reinforce what your brand is, what it stands for, what it promises, and the unique personality that makes it different from other businesses. While most often used in TV and radio advertisements, you can find sound being used strategically in a variety of locations.

Visual Branding vs. Audio Branding

Audio branding companies see sound as something that works in tandem with conventional visual branding.

Although a radio advertisement relies entirely on sound, online ads, TV advertisements, and product demos all rely on the use of sound and visual excellence to come together to create a successful brand.

Together, they complete a brand to offer a truly multi-sensory experience.


Why Should You Consider Sound Branding?

For business owners that have relied on traditional advertising techniques, putting serious thought into the role of sound involves a shift in mindset. The investment is well worth it, with these benefits:

  • Fast communication: The human mind processes sound incredibly quickly. Even a single note can make people feel a certain way. Just a few notes can trigger memories directly associated with your brand.
  • Emotional connections: Sound is, by its nature, emotional. Eliciting an emotion through your brand makes an instant connection to the hearts of your target market. When a customer hears your jingle, they may feel an impulse to check your website for sales or stop by one of your stores.
  • Memorable branding: When something is associated with a feeling, it will become deeply embedded into memory. Brand sound is an easy way to evoke memories and stand out from the crowd. Two businesses selling the same products can be entirely distinct based on sound alone.

But why would you need a jingle in the 21st century? According to one report, digital and online marketing overtook television marketing in 2016, so static images and silenced video are now much more effective in reaching consumers than paying for an ad spot on a TV station.

This assumption about digital advertising leaves out an entire sound-based market, which is growing. Podcasts and music streaming services, for example, often have advertising just like radio stations in prior decades. YouTube, Vimeo, and other video streaming services offer inexpensive advertising spots to viewers who, unlike on social media or websites, have their volume turned on.

These markets are growing thanks to inexpensive smart speakers. One report found that, in 2021, 25 percent of all United States households already use smart speakers. This means families don’t just ask for weather updates or quick product orders from Alexa, Siri, or Google Home; they also listen to Spotify, YouTube, Twitch, or any number of podcast channels.

Smart speaker manufacturers, including Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, all have sonic branding associated with their sound systems. When you turn the speaker on by talking to it, there will be specific noises as it acknowledges your request or command. Each speaker has its own voice as well. This sonic branding means you associate one type of smart speaker with one brand, no matter where you hear it.

Sonic branding like this can work for you too. Branding advertising both in your store and in digital ads outside your store, for example, means customers are likely to associate a specific voice actor’s tone and pitch with you, no matter where they hear you.

A jingle at the end of an ad has worked for brands for a century. You can continue to take advantage of this musical association if you make in-store or digital advertisements.


Popular Examples of Audio Branding

Nokia cell phone

Sound is big business, and any good audio branding agency will always be in high demand. Let us look at some of the most effective examples of sound branding in action.

NBC News

NBC has made a simple three-tone chime famous. As one of the shortest audio company logos around, viewers automatically know which channel they are tuned into. The quickness of the sound means that the peacock logo acts as the reinforcement and the confirmation of the NBC brand after the sound.

Friends

TV shows have also used branding to great effect. Throughout its entire run, the hit TV show Friends relied on the song “I’ll Be There for You” by The Rembrandts. It became so iconic that the song alone automatically connected with the show rather than the band.

Nokia

Nokia’s famous mobile phones took their sonic branding one step further. Its jingle evolved from being a mere brand sound and became the default ringtone for its mobile phones from the beginning of the brand to the present day.

M&Ms

The famous candy-coated chocolates are taking sonic branding to a new level, by adding customer interaction. Their “Bite Sized Beats” campaign encourages fans of the candy to log into a third-party platform, Incredibox, and use available musical loops to make their own M&Ms jingle. Customers not only associate their specific music with the snack, but they will associate a fun, silly experience with the sweet treat.

Netflix

Most people watch television on a streaming service rather than traditional cable, so streaming services have found it incredibly important to brand their overall experience with simple, unique, bright logos and sonic-scapes. Netflix is one of the more famous, with the bright red N flashing across the screen, as one distinct note plays. Other entertainment companies like HBO, THX, MGM, and Hulu have similar logos with sonic branding.

PlayStation

Videogames rely not only on the overlap of visual art and music, but on specific sound cues that trigger responses in the player — for example, the famous coin sound in the Mario games. Game companies capitalize on that emotional trigger with their sonic branding, and PlayStation was, arguably, one of the first companies to make this happen. Since then, Xbox, Nintendo, and Valve have followed.


How to Implement Audio Branding

Now that you know the answer to “what is audio branding?”, it is time to implement the concept as part of your wider brand marketing strategy. Here are some tips for the successful implementation of your very own audio logo.

1. Get the Tools of the Trade

You do not need a recording studio or a team of sound experts to manufacture an audio logo that reflects your brand. Even smaller businesses can make a massive difference to their marketing campaigns with sound logos.

Services like Cloud Cover provide instant access to fully licensed sounds, jingles, and songs at the click of a button. Simply create an account and gain access to a vast library of diverse tracks.

2. Choose an Emotion to Convey

Think of a selection of your favorite songs and reflect on how they make you feel. Sadness, anger, happiness, and enthusiasm are some of the emotions that a single sound or song can convey.

These sounds also transfer to other listening environments. Even hearing the same chord on another song can bring those memories and feelings racing back.

Know who your target market is and determine what your brand is all about. Remember, it’s all about encouraging the target audience to take action.

For example, a dog rescue shelter wants to create feelings of sadness, pity, and sympathy to encourage potential foster families to do something about the problem.

Lone violins, slow pianos, and even cellos are all instruments that can convey these desired emotions.

The right emotion depends on your demographic, the type of business, and the sort of action you wish your customers to take. Visceral sounds are only powerful when they hit the target.

How are you going to set the mood and use a sound to become iconic?

3. Create a Consistent Voice

Inconsistent brands break the spell no matter how effective an individual marketing campaign is.

Your sound branding must be consistent with every other aspect of your voice. The visual branding strategy, content marketing materials, and social media tone have to match up with the sounds you choose as part of your audio logo.

The successful implementation of any audio into your brand is merely a moving part, rather than an independent tool to win over your customers.


Audio Touch Points for the Consumer

Outside of your store, where are your customers likely to run across your audio branding? Here are just a few places where you can use a sonic logo, jingle, or soundscape:

  • Your website
  • Your social media accounts, including Facebook and LinkedIn
  • YouTube ads
  • Podcast advertising
  • Branded videos on Instagram or TikTok
  • Corporate events, presentations, and speeches
  • Ringtones
  • An app for your company
  • of a branded playlist in Spotify or Google Play
  • Hold music and messages over the phone

If you have a visual presence already, you can use sounds to trigger emotions and memories in your customers, who may be listening to something online, especially through a smart speaker, rather than watching or reading it.


Who Can Help Me With Audio Branding My Brand?

As you consider your audio branding or sonic logo, here are some things to consider:

  • Who are your customers? How have they responded to your visual branding?
  • What emotion do you want to convey? Is it the same as with your visual branding in your store or logo?
  • Is your audio branding consistent with your visual branding and other aspects of your brand?

You may have the sonic logo connected to your visual logo, but other aspects of audio branding include background music in your store or on your website. Approaching this can feel like a monumental task, but Cloud Cover Music can help.

We offer curated playlists of background and foreground music to set the mood for your retail space, website, social media, or even telephone hold music. We offer different plans that can meet your sonic needs.


Conclusion

Branding through sound is a delicate mixture of art and science. Successful implementation requires intimately knowing who your ideal customer is and what they respond to.

It also requires consistency across your entire brand. Rather than a singular marketing strategy, this is an additional layer for your organization.

Begin branding with audio with the help of Cloud Cover. With thousands of carefully curated sounds to choose from, now has never been a better time to elevate your brand.

Learn more about the power of sound and sign up with Cloud Cover for free now. We offer music subscription services that can transform your audio marketing strategy. 

Sources

Audio Branding: Have You Found Your Sound? (August 2018). Steward Hodgson, Medium.

Sonic Branding: Why Every Brand Needs It Today. (May 2021). Forbes.

Digital vs. TV Advertising: Making Your Advertising Dollars Count. (March 2021). Source Knowledge.

Sonic Branding Is Dead, Enter the Audio User Experience. (October 2017). Branding Magazine.

The 10 Best Audio Logos and Why They Work. (August 2019). Creative Bloq.

These Are the Most Popular Sonic Logos of 2021. (May 2021). Creative Bloq.

Audio Branding Touchpoints. (September 2015). Jimmy Dunne, LinkedIn.