Sonic Branding: A Secret Weapon for Breaking Through the Noise

By Daina Todorovic, Chief Client Officer, Sixieme Son

Today’s marketer finds it harder to capture the consumer’s attention. Not surprising given that every day, people are exposed to between 6,000 and 10,000 brand messages, more than the human brain can process. In today’s media environments, if your brand can’t be heard, it’s becoming invisible.

This challenge needs to be addressed, because until you capture attention, you can’t build awareness and recall. You need to use every tool at your disposal to gain attention.

There’s one secret weapon that more and more brands need to consider: sonic branding. Think of it as the essence of a brand translated into sound.

The first job of a sonic brand is to grab attention, and forever link your brand with a positive cue. But how to do it?

Here are 6 best practices for creating a long-lasting and highly effective sonic brand.

Focus in on your goals

A sonic identity only wins if it turns into a long-term asset that is recognized and associated with your brand as your visual logo. And its development deserves just as much discipline.

Ask: Is there a particular challenge you want to address and overcome? A particular brand attribute you want to highlight? Perhaps there is market confusion between your brand and competitors.

Or, if your organization plans to embark on a merger or acquisition, a sonic brand can help tie the companies together under a unified umbrella that expresses your brand essence. Of course, that requires bold differentiation when developing your sonic brand. Which brings us to our next best practice.

Be different, not derivative

All too often when branding teams consider their sonic identities, they look at what others in their sector have created and assume that they need something similar. But that misses a key advantage of sonic branding: It has the power to distinguish a brand from the rest of the market.

Be different, not derivative. Go back to your core values to gain an understanding of what your team collectively wants to express. That’s your starting point.

A word about AI: there’s danger in relying on it to develop your sonic identity, but AI can be helpful in generating variations of a musical theme you’ve designed. Generative AI looks at existing data to generate new pieces. It can only be derivative. But if you create a set of brand sounds for your project, and train the AI on those sounds, AI can create a tailored but on-brand pieces of musical content in no time flat.

Think beyond the jingles

A sonic identity is not a short, catchy jingle for your commercials. It’s an audio vocabulary that reinforces your brand promise. Yes, it can provide the background music for commercials. But it can do so much more.

  • It can help you reach a new demographic. One of our clients, an outdoor footwear company, wanted to reach a younger demographic, while appealing to consumers looking for outdoor gear, streetwear, and work footwear. It also needed modern energy to help it move from strictly outdoors to a more fashionable brand.
  • In another instance, a women’s beauty brand needed to convey power, confidence and glamour. A sonic identity was built on the pillars of femininity, confidence, and positivity, and also stood as a beacon against everyday sexism.
  • In retail, a sonic brand can be inviting. For a bank that wanted to be seen as a friendly, vital part of a thriving community, we created a sonic identity that included a door chime as a friendly sound you might hear in a local shop, helping to evoke the brand’s down-to-earth and welcoming personality.

Consider all touchpoints

For maximum impact, infuse your sonic elements into every touchpoint imaginable. Think about physical spaces like retail stores, trade show booths, and corporate events. Make your sonic brand a part of digital experiences on your website, social platforms, mobile apps, podcasts, call centers, corporate videos, and even the metaverse for those brands exploring new worlds here, especially travel and tourism.

Work with an expert who has a proven methodology

The development of a sonic brand begins before any music is written. It begins with a discussion around brand goals, a competitive analysis, and generating sounds and moods that capture the essence of your brand and match the demographics of your target audience. This is best achieved by working with a sonic branding agency that has a market-tested methodology. It’s not your role to manage the process; you can work with a sonic agency that has the experience to lead you through it. Your strategic music partner can create a branded library with music beds designed to be looped, cut or repurposed to provide you with an assortment of moods or musical genres that can perform on different platforms, and across multiple geographical and cultural regions. 

Test, test, test

Do your research before and after. A competitive audit will help you identify (and stay away from) the tired sonic habits of the category.

Test the elements of your sonic identity, and develop metrics for measurement. For example, does it:

  • communicate the values you want to express?
  • have attention-getting, memorable properties?
  • promote brand recall?

Once you’ve adapted your music to the narrative of a radio or TV commercial, you can test again, exploring for instance, “Do people perceive the brand attributes you want to convey?”

If your brand has never considered audio branding, now is a good time to start. The power of sound is undeniable. By designing a strong sonic identity, you allow the brand to leave a consistent earprint across all touchpoints, increase its attribution and recall, and build brand equity.

About the Author

Daina Todorovic is Chief Client Officer for Sixieme Son, the leading global sonic branding and sound design agency. She brings more than two decades of international branding expertise from working with some of the world’s largest brands. She believes sound holds the key to measurable brand impact, and enjoys helping clients create transformative brand experiences.