Can customers identify your brand with their eyes closed? The strategy behind the sound

“Can customers identify your brand with their eyes closed?”

It’s a question posed in the popular blog Marketing Profs about an area of brand identity that deserves a closer look – or listen, as the case may be.

The article rightly calls out Sonic Branding (or audio branding), as a part of a “multi-sensory approach,” which, “when used correctly, has the ability to deliver a distinct branding message – and make it stick once it gets there.”

Undoubtedly, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to make branding messages stick these days. An April 2013 study sponsored by the Coalition for Innovative Media Measurement found that 30 – 40% of TV ad viewing occurred concurrently with mobile device usage. Fahey makes the case that brands need a sonic identity just to compete with the digital distractions consumers are inundated with on a daily basis.

The author offers a general recommendation for brands considering a sonic identity: “I encourage you to think beyond licensed music to create distinctive audio signals and compositions. Use them to bring your customers home to the brand and what it represents.”

But the original question – “can customers identify your brand with their eyes closed” – deserves a follow up question, which is, “how does a brand go about achieving that goal?”

First, brands need to understand that there are sonic opportunities beyond the musical notes that appear when a company logo flashes across the screen (also known as a sonic logo). At Man Made Music, we have created original compositions, or brand anthems, and fostered the music licensing process to connect brands to their audiences. Both approaches have appropriate use cases. It’s not a “one size fits all” by any stretch of the imagination.

Second, and perhaps most important, before the creative work can begin, there needs to be strategy. The first step of the strategic engagement is to understand the brand’s audience and brand metrics for success. Instead of asking, “How do we want to sound to the rest of the world,” brands should first ask, “Who is our audience and what should they feel when interacting with us?”

Like visual identity elements, your sonic identity will evolve over time, but the core strategy concepts and brand equity – if done right – will be immutable.

Ultimately, it’s encouraging to see discussions Sonic Branding in the marketing space, and the need for a sonic identity based on current market conditions. But going from a brand without a sonic identity to one so powerful that consumers instantly recognize your brand with their eyes closed is no small feat – and that’s where we come in.