Enabling Brand Harmony – Creating and Executing a Music Strategy

By David Courtier-Dutton, CEO, Soundout

Do you have a sonic strategy?

Without a sonic strategy you risk either being consistently wrong or being inconsistent with your music choices – both of which could damage your brand and marketing effectiveness.

In the ever-evolving landscape of brand communication, music has consistently played a pivotal role, from the golden era of radio to the social media age of TikTok. Yet, despite its undeniable influence on consumer emotions, music often finds itself relegated to the periphery of brand strategy.

This oversight comes at a cost, as music possesses a unique ability to connect with consumers on a deep emotional level, contributing significantly to brand equity and marketing effectiveness.

But the world is changing fast.  Recent dramatic advances in generative AI (more on this later) and the ability to subjectively measure the emotional impact of music on consumers in minutes rather than days mean a sonic strategy can now be executed on with precision and certainty.

The power of consistency in branding

In the pursuit of brand authenticity and trust, consistency is paramount. While meticulous attention is given to various aspects of brand image and creative execution, music is frequently left in the hands of creative agencies. Recognizing the direct impact of sound on the emotional subconscious, forward-thinking brands are now actively exploring a strategic approach to music. This involves formulating a sonic strategy to ensure that music becomes a consistent and authentic extension of the brand’s personality at every consumer touchpoint.

Ever since the birth of radio, sound – and music in particular – has been harnessed by brands in advertising.  However, the use of music has lost its way from a strategic brand perspective and instead has become primarily focused on supporting the storytelling.

So, if you think it may be time to get more strategic with music, where do you start?

How do you create a sonic strategy and how do you execute on it?

Over the past couple of years, we’ve often asked this question of clients.  And all too often we are met with blank faces. Some, who are more secure in their roles, admit that they don’t have one.

Fortunately, for most brands, they already have the foundations of a sonic strategy.  Your brand will always be more recognisable than your music and core brand positioning should inform your music strategy. Music should support and extend this, not lead.  It should be in harmony with your core brand positioning.

But music is rooted in emotions and speaks directly to the subconscious. So, a sonic strategy should focus on the element of brand strategy where music can work most effectively – where it can reinforce core attributes, brand personality and help build a deeper emotional connection with your target customers.  Simply put, your music must always be consistent with your brand personality.

A sonic strategy is therefore a thread that runs through your business and anchors the use of music to your brand personality at every consumer touch point, from sonic brand, to sonic marketing, to live consumer events.

Implementing your sonic strategy

A sonic strategy is much more than creating or promoting a sonic brand/logo (although that is not a bad place to start), it applies to every piece of music used at every consumer touchpoint – it’s a holistic approach to sonic marketing.

Sonic marketing

Les Binet, Senior Strategist and Planner at adam&eveDDB, observed: “Effectiveness of a commercial can be raised by 20-30% in advertising if the impact of audio is understood and used strategically, but very rarely is research carried out to explore and confirm that the audio is effective.”

Music used should be consistent across all executions – many brands choose a consistent genre or style, and work within this to find tracks that support the storytelling.  But few, if any, also ensure the music is also supporting the core brand personality.  This is not necessarily because they don’t want to, but often because when they dive down the subjective rabbit hole of choice, it is all but impossible to objectively identify music that is genuinely both on-campaign and on-brand.  However, tools are now available to help validate music choices and precisely measure the match between the core brand personality, campaign attributes and candidate music options.

It is clear what needs to be done – use music that supports the campaign but is also on brand.   But if you don’t have a million-dollar budget to compose and test your own, how do you find and evaluate licensable music that does both?

Sourcing and testing music

You have a music brief based on your sonic strategy and a conceptual idea of the kind of sound you are looking for.  Now you just need to find the perfect track that supports both the brand and the creative brief.  There are 100 million tracks on Spotify and probably a similar number of production music tracks as well.

Marketeers are faced with a tyranny of choice and so inevitably turn to music supervisors or their agency creative team to come up with options.  In this scenario there are many potential conflicts – from the creative leaning too far into the creative vision at the expense of the brand or the supervisor shopping from his own or known catalogues at the expense of other options.  Inevitably the potential pool of music being fished from will be relatively tiny.

However, AI is rapidly elbowing its way into the room.  The quality of Gen AI music is improving at a blistering pace – check out the examples here. And there is a growing acceptance that it will nibble at and then potentially cannibalise the production music industry (and with the ability to write lyrics, compose a backing track and voice clone an artist, which may soon attack independent music as well).

As a brand, would you rather:

  1. source 10 potential options from a music supervisor, attend a round of meetings with the creative team to enable everyone to air their subjective views and then decide on the track selected by the Creative Director’s 13 year old daughter – at a cost of $30,000 for a 12 month campaign limited licence; or
  2. Provide the brief and the brand positioning as an AI text prompt to generate a dozen credible options and select one for a one-off perpetual ownership fee of $50?

Brands are not charities, nor do they act like them.  We are at a tipping point and for all but the most high-profile, high budget campaigns, gen AI will become ubiquitous.

Assuming you’ve found your preferred AI tracks all that is left to do is subjectively validate that the AI has got it right and that the tracks are indeed on brand and on campaign.  Using tools such as SoundOut’s OnBrand platform, this can be done in under 5 minutes – all before the 13 year old gets back from school.


There was a time when very few brands had a music strategy, and even for them the execution of this was a tortuous, subjective process.  Things have changed dramatically.  It is now possible to formulate and benchmark your music strategy, use this to search for or generate credible music options and then swiftly validate your final decision.  All with minimal human input and in a timespan and at a dramatically lower cost than previously possible.

The era of subjectivity in music for brands has passed and the dawn of objectivity will usher in a dramatic reassessment of the power of music in driving consumer engagement.  A well-formulated music strategy combined with the power of AI creation and powerful emotional validation tools can now ensure consistent execution.