Leaving Your Acoustic Watermark With Sound Branding

By Sylvia LeRahl | Blog

Aug 22

Sound is a funny sense. It weaves in and out of space, invisible to the eyes, yet oh-so-powerful to the ears. Along with sight, it accounts for 99 percent of all brand communication. Despite impacting our mood and psychological state, however, audio branding is surprisingly underutilized in marketing. While some industries have capitalized on the power of sound, other industries have been a bit reticent in adopting its principles. Here’s why that may soon change.

What is Audio Branding?

In short, audio branding refers to all of the aspects of sound that a company uses to convey its brand. As described by Karlheinz Illner, “The key elements are: sound logo, brand song, sound icons, brand score, brand hook line, brand voice and even soundscapes. These elements should reflect the brand values and brand personality in their acoustic dimensions and should acoustically distinguish a brand from its competition.”

Retail’s Use of Sound Branding

Like all marketing tactics, it is often those that sneak into our subconscious that leave the greatest impact. Chances are, you’ve experienced the nuances of this phenomena. After hearing a commercial, the ditty that the actors hummed stays lodged in your brain all day. Or maybe you’ve walked into a store and promptly walked out because the airwaves were filled with annoying music. (I have a hunch you know what I’m talking about.)

The most well-utilized form of sound marketing is through the use of jingles. The retail environment has manufactured this form of branding more than any other industry. The first network jingle appeared in the 1940s when Austen Herbert Croom-Johnson and Alan Bradley Kent developed the jingle “Pepsi-Cola Hits the Spot.” Placed in jukeboxes around the United States, the Pepsi jingle became infectious. Jingles are especially effective because they use short sound clips and repetitiveness, two components that make memorization frustratingly easy. They seem to get stuck in our thoughts like an inextricable weed lodged between cracks in the sidewalk.

Other times, sound branding envelopes far more than a short ditty. Clothing brand Abercrombie & Fitch knows this well. The stores are designed from a multi-sensory perspective in an attempt to encourage people to spend more money. To maintain their younger clientele, the stores play music at a loud volume and in genres that appeal to this demographic. They also spray a specific fragrance throughout their stores in order to attract certain shoppers, and utilize attractive models to garner a particular reputation. Likewise, the Volkswagen Cabrio in 2000 enjoyed increased sales with the popularity of their commercial set to Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon.”

The Power of Sound

Audio branding works by awakening one of the five fundamental senses: hearing. While we can close our eyes to ignore visual advertising, we can’t very well close our ears, thereby making this form of marketing ever more powerful. Sound serves as a way to make an emotional connection to customers and create memories.

Most of our purchases are based on emotions. Sound can be used to define, differentiate, and communicate. Carefully selected music generates more revenue by creating a positive atmosphere, thereby encouraging customers to stay in place and make more purchases.

As if to underscore this point, George Lucas once said that 50 percent of Star Wars’ success came from its music.

Audio Branding in the Hospitality Industry

The same concepts that can be applied in the retail industry can be applied to the hospitality industry — both online and offline.

Studies show that we associate sounds with certain memories. Since a mood is readily associated with specific vacation experiences, it’s important for those in the hospitality industry to choose sounds that manifest positive emotions. Yet it’s also important to be consistent in the sound used. It would be confusing to customers to hear a variety of sounds associated with a hotel’s brand. Although it’s appropriate to use variations, it’s critical that customers identify the brand with a specific style, just as in the case of visuals.

The first decision, then, is to define where sounds will be used and what styles of sound are most suitable. Ideally, the sounds inside the hotel will align with the sounds used on the website, when people call in to the hotel, and in advertising. The music program should have an emotional resonance with customers that reflects the brand’s personality. A notable example of this comes from Bahia Principe. They have a unique melody for their videos that corresponds with the tune heard if calling in to the hotel. This same melody is heard throughout their hotels and a similar tune plays when their logo is displayed. In other words, they have effectively crafted a sound brand that attracts a particular type of customer.

Equally important is choosing the right music to incorporate. Often, hotels make the mistake of using the same types of music as one another, such as the top hits from the 70s, 80s, 90s, or a mix thereof. This generic compilation ensures that most hotels sound identical and cheap. It also shows a disregard for the appreciation of the quality and power of music. Instead, it’s important to choose music that shapes the emotional investment visitors have to the hotel and helps usher in positive memories.

Branding in Your Industry

Whatever industry your business embodies, rest assured that it can benefit from a little branding TLC. When you’re ready for branding that electrifies,, contact On the Verge Writing. I know how to create branding campaigns that attract new customers and retain the old.


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