Sound Branding: Exploiting the Auditory Human Sense for Multi-sensory Communication and Emotional Connection




By James D. Roumeliotis

It is said that the human ear reacts to certain sounds which is telling that we’re wired for sound. Sounds, most notably music, trigger emotions, auditory pleasures, memories and associations. For branding, sound is multi-sensory communication and a holistic corporate model which drives perception, creates attention along with a familiar association. It’s also a means of differentiation from the plethora of advertising media.

The auditory effect to enhance brand identity

Whether it’s a memorable Intel or Coca-Cola jingle, a mega artist’s association with a soft drink or lifestyle brand, Harley Davidson’s distinctive and trademarked motorcycle exhaust sound, or Kellogg’s investment in the power of auditory stimulus with its cereal crunching sounds, marketing strategically through proprietary sounds is increasingly becoming a prevalent means of forming a distinctive brand personality. The advent of digital media and devices with built-in audio, such as smart phones, tablets, streaming media or podcasts, increases the opportunities for companies to utilize audio branding in their overall communication strategy and brand experience. Samples of audio identity can be viewed and heard here.

Consider, below, what some brands are doing with sound to entice new clients and retain existing ones:
– Automobili Lamborghini developed “The distinct sound of Lamborghini” — a stirring and thunderous video soundtrack and the prelude to a potent new driving experience.
– Hip boutique hotels such as Puro Hotel in Mallorca, whose beach bar has been voted one of the world’s 50 best by CNN Travel, surrounds you everywhere with lounge/chill-out genre of music compiled by its in-house DJ ‒ whether you open their website, choose to listen to their on-line steaming player, purchase a CD, relax by the pool sipping a passion fruit mojito or come nightfall, gather around to dance to their house tunes.

Martin Lindstrom, branding expert and author of several books on the subject of ‘neuromarketing’, wrote in his book “Brand Sense” (on “Branding the Sound of Falling Aluminium”), that the Danish luxury audio/video brand, Bang & Olufsen, has raised the bar in the manufacture of corded phones with the Beocom 2 model phone ring tone. He is quoted stating, “By refining this existing sensory touch point, additional brand equity is established, and a new aspect of the Bang & Olufsen brand is raised in the universe of the brand.” Birgitte Rode, CEO of Audio Management adds, “The difference between the BeoCom2 sound and other ringing tones is, that the Bang & Olufsen sound is human, it makes you feel at home, and it´s instantly recognizable.”

Producing a desirable ambiance best suited for your target

The late fashion design icon Karl Lagerfield once stated that “Fashion and music are the same, because music express its period too.” Music, effects, volume and vibrations ‒ the tone and the energy of any place can be set with the right music selections. Upbeat music that would be appropriate in the evening may not appeal to morning customers who may yet be fully alert. If you have an Italian-themed bar, you may want to interject some Italian music from artists like Zuccero or Eros Ramazotti. If your theme/branding and ambiance is geared to a very hip, young audience, it will likely suit your customers to include songs with a driving beat from cutting-edge alternative and electronic artists.

Emotionally anchoring a brand to its clients

Designing and implementing custom music and visual strategies emotionally anchor a brand to its clients. A 1982 study published in the Journal of Marketing determined that “it is possible to influence behavior with music.”

In 1934, a company named Muzak, now owned by Mood Media, launched a pioneering idea of low-level instrumental background music which they termed as “stimulus production” which improved worker productivity in offices. This was eventually taken to other areas most, notably retailers, as well as the hospitality domain as a means to enhance the ambiance in and around surrounding areas.

Retail background music which is curated though licensed music/songs, as well as scent marketing, and various stimulating visuals, such as video walls and digital menu board, indirectly captivate and influence clients’ mood to make purchases and improve sales. These help create emotional connections between the retailers and their shoppers.

DJs or Music Stylists, as they are more urbanely referred to, include Felix Cutillo at Sonodea, who compile the playlists to complement the client’s (retailer, hotel etc.) brand identity along with input from their client.

Taking this even further, with live music event sponsorships, brands can enhance their image on their clients which in turn can positively influence their sales ─ as a 2015 study from live event promoter AEG and marketing agency Momentum Worldwide uncovered. “When it comes to connecting with consumers, especially millennials, music is one of the most effective ways. For brands, the opportunity exists within music to create value for their customers and build a lasting relationship unlike any other,” according to Glenn Minerley, Momentum Worldwide’s VP, Group Director – Music and Entertainment.

At the end of the day

A brand’s identity is comprised of visual, auditory and other sensory components that create recognition in the mind of the consumer. The power of music has the ability to seduce the soul, raise the spirit, build social connections, wiggle our bodies to the rhythm, increase purchases, as well as develop, strengthen and recognize brands. Sound branding supports refining brand communication and in designing a better sounding environment.

In some fashion, all business is show business and storytelling. Brand image is all about the experience, perception and differentiation you create in the customers’ mind. Sound branding forms part of the equation and bringing all this into meaningful consideration by applying its multi-sensory approach to attracting and retaining clientele to your brand and business establishment. It is, therefore, essential to consider audio brand management and strategic use of sound in the total branding equation.

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Filed under Branding, Business, lifestyle branding, sound branding, sound marketing

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