Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sonic Branding

Humans are naturally wired for sound. Daniel Levitin explores that idea in his book This is Your Brain on Music: "Our neuroimaging studies show amygdala activation to music.... Repetition, when done skillfully by a master composer, is emotionally satisfying to our brains, and makes the listening experience as pleasurable as it is."

Music doesn't represent any tangible, earthly reality. It represents things of the heart, feelings which are beyond description, beyond any experience one has had. The feeling of the holy, the sacred, the wonderful, the conveyed very powerfully in music."

Great brands inspire us. They solve problems, they make meaning. Many of us like to believe we're out to change the world in one way or another. Yet most brands sound surprisingly alike: generically upbeat, harmlessly acceptable, and usually forgettable.

Music and sound provide brand value when they can identify their owner and articulate its values in a way that's unique, unmistakable, fully ownable and worth protecting.

Brands that invests heavily enough in music and sound should expect a little mileage—even a hint of long-term brand value—in return. We expect that from our visual identity and integrated branding efforts, and we should expect it from the spending we put into sound.

Most of us know the sound of Intel—dun dun dun dun!—but we do we really have an idea of what a microprocessor even does? Intel invests billions each year on its Intel Inside program because it helps make this conceptually fuzzy ingredient brand relevant to everyday consumers. Today that brand sound communicates an understood meaning that few other ingredient brands can match.

Similarly, McDonald's sing-songy I'm Lovin' It signature is recognized by 93 percent of the people exposed to it. This is music and sound that's globally identifiable and works hard as a brand investment.

Sonic power thrives in the product experience. When you hear a Harley rolling down the street, a can of Pringle's chips popping open, or the harmonic hum of a Sonicare toothbrush, you're having high-touch interactions with a brand.

These small moments are valuable channels for communicating those sometimes holy, sacred, and wonderful brand intentions.

Organizations that approach sound with intention today will have a system in place for tomorrow—one that amplifies the emotional power of the brand without the challenges presented by changes in technology or cultural nuance, because they'll have anticipated them in advance.


Devi K said...

As usual I find your articles to be very interesting. Keep blogging.

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