Taite: Why Sonic Branding Works

John Taite is EVP, Global Brand Partnerships + Development, Made Music Studio. John began his career as a music journalist and documentary filmmaker before working as a senior programming and brand executive at MTV, AMC Networks and the BBC. He’s driven by a passion for connecting creators, brands, and audiences to create moments of cultural impact. His growing list of brand partners includes AT&T, American Express, Walmart, PepsiCo, Amazon, Apple, ESPN, Burger King, Verizon, Panera, Corona, Mercedes-Benz, Dunkin’, Subaru, General Mills, Lexus, BMW & the David Bowie Estate. At Made Music Studio – a leading sonic branding agency – he leads the award-winning marketing, content, and partnerships team.

Sound Impacts Consumers On Emotional Level

Sonic branding has emerged as a powerful way for brands to connect with consumers, becoming a valuable asset in any marketer’s toolkit. But for some agencies that are well versed in the world of graphic design and visual identities, the idea that music and sound could be strategically crafted raises eyebrows. If you’re a visual designer, you might be wondering, “How could audio make the same impact if they can’t see the brand?” or, “How could sound dimensionalize the brand world we’re designing for our clients?” or even, “What are the use cases beyond video advertising?”

First off, we hear you! As a Sonic Branding Agency, you might be surprised to hear that we always prefer to collaborate with visual designers. Brand expression is always more powerful if you’re appealing to multiple senses. And while the output may be very different, our goals and processes are more alike than you think.

The most successful brands we’ve worked with over the past 25 years have one thing in common: they’re committed to creating a cohesive brand identity that connects with consumers across multiple touchpoints. In fact, there’s a lot of data proving that great sonic branding not only works, it improves the performance of a brand’s visual assets.

Because sound impacts consumers on an emotional subconscious level, it’s incredibly important that you get it right. A study by the research company Sentient Decision Science found that there is an 86% correlation between a person’s emotional response to sound and their desire to engage with or avoid a brand.

Sound also delivers brand information incredibly fast – 30 milliseconds faster than visual reaction times. So even before a person is aware of a sound or how it makes them feel, they’ve experienced an instinctive emotional response to that sound. When we’re designing sonic assets, we pay extra attention to ensure those emotional first impressions capture a brand’s personality correctly and deliver the right attributes, just as a visual logo would.

Think of some of the world’s classic visual brands — the Golden Arches of McDonald’s, AT&T’s Globe or Apple’s logo and custom typeface. These design elements are ironically ownable and have helped those brands cement themselves in culture. Those same 3 brands have built out their ecosystems to include distinct audio expressions and sonic signatures. “Ba-da-ba-ba-ba” is as recognizable as McDonald’s brand colors or typography. AT&T’s chimes are their second most recognizable brand asset behind their visual logo. And if someone plays you the MacBook start-up sound with your eyes closed, you don’t need to guess who made the computer. By taking a holistic approach that equally values both visual and sonic identities, a brand can move past influence and become part of the fabric of our lives.

So, let’s compare the design tools at our disposal. The same way visuals designers use color, iconography, and typefaces to bring meaningful personality to a brand, we evaluate the complementary construction of notes, tempos, and frequencies – it’s important to know what to take out as much as what to put in. When we collaborated with Wieden+Kennedy on the global sonic identity for Corona, we were invited to create a new sensory piece of the brand’s already-iconic brand architecture. Our approach had the same level of rigor, design and research as our partners did, but we were also tasked with capturing the soul of the brand. The resulting sonic identity is not only a timeless vibe, it’s also deeply connected to their brand story and delivers KPI uplifts across their entire ecosystem.

Human beings perceive the world and form impressions with every sense they have. So, it makes sense that brands are more powerful when they consider a holistic multi-sensory approach. When its approached strategically, sound is another canvas for brands to tell their story, create meaningful connections and leave memorable impressions. A sonic identity is just as powerful, unique, and effective as a visual identity, and it’s fast becoming recognized as an indelible part of a brand’s DNA.