Branding is a powerful marketing tool, it helps creates a visual representation of identity for the consumer. The aim is to create a lasting impression in the minds of customers by distinguishing a company or products from competitors. A successful brand is when people can recall accurate recognition through a visual representation such as a logo without being exposed to the company’s name.
Sonic Branding is another way of identifying a particular product through the strategic use of sound. Sonic branding has had a positive increase in building trust, enhancing recall, differentiating a product or service, and increasing sales. Music and sound can help communicate a certain mood of a brand without a visual representation. Examples of sonic branding include:
– 20th Century Fox
– Apple computers
From this short list, you can probably recall what each one of these sounds and looks like. Just by listening you could probably correctly envision the brand’s image. Research shows that 92% of listeners can correctly identify an audio brand, 88% of these listeners can correctly identify an audio brand by just the opening 2 notes.
Sonic branding can also be utilised in film and video games. A good example in video games is the final fantasy franchise. The music and sound sticks to the same theme found across the series multiple titles, this can create a sense of familiarity for the audience. The music and sound help enhances the game identity, as well as helping aid the story.
Creative sound design is also another form of sonic branding. Another popular franchise metal gear solid plays a sound cue when a guard becomes alert and suspicious of the main character movement. The sound proportions of the alert sound cue are almost identical in every single metal gear solid game. Not only does this sound provide information for the player to react over the precaution of this sound, it is also a familiar sound belonging to the identity of the metal gear solid universe.
A film score such a star wars does a great job of brand recognition and identification. The main theme composed by John Williams is a classic example of brand recognition without actually seeing the film.
Here are a few more film and video game titles that do a great job at sonic branding.
– The legend of Zelda
– Crash Bandicoot
– Sonic The Hedgehog
– Indiana Jones
– Jurassic Park
– Harry Potter
– Blade Runner
The best type of sonic branding are the ones that have a distinctive melody. The melody is the most memorable sequence of sound. However, sound design can also have a powerful effect, for example, a racing brand could have the sound of a revving engine, or tyres screeching to accompany their logo. Going back to the Metal Gear Solid alert sound example, it proved to be a popular choice for people as a text message tone. Every time a text message was received, that alert sound would play, and this had the potential to turn into an incentive to talk about the franchise. Those who sing along to their favourite film and video games, or make use of their sound design (such as the text message tone example), is essentially creating another form of word of mouth marketing.
In retail, stores are making use of environmental sound design to help enhance customers experience and influence behaviour. A study was taken place to see what impact certain music had on the sales of wine displayed side-by-side. When French music was played the store saw an increase of French wine outselling all other wines on display, and when German music was played the store saw an increase in German wine. Selfridges creates distinct consumer zones within it store to help guide customers by visually and sonically changing the zones to let customers know they have passed into a new department.
If you are someone working with the moving image, think about the powerful impact sonic branding can have on your production. Not only does it create a unique identity tailored to your production it can be another way to market your product. Think of the audio as an audible mascot (a lot of the main themes composed by John Williams could be classified as audible mascots). The audible mascot is the centrepiece of music or sound that represents your productions identity, and is easily recognisable i.e. Star Wars main theme. Try and incorporate at least 1 piece of music or sound design that could serve the purpose of this role. However, be wary when purchasing music and sound from online libraries and marketplaces. Not because the quality is not there, but if you are able to pay X amount for a piece of music, what is stopping 500 other people buying the same track for the same price, unless you are ok with that. This can lose all sonic branding credibility and identity as someone else is using the exact same material. It is like McDonalds allowing Burger King, KFC, and all the other fast food restaurants the permission to use the ‘I’m lovin’ it!’ tune. Online libraries and marketplaces are great for sourcing temp tracks to help gather ideas and the direction you want your production to go in, then after, hire a composer and sound designer to give your production that edge that makes it unique over others.
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