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Visual Branding? Check. Sonic Branding -- What The Heck is That?

By David Meerman Scott

Visual Branding? Check. Sonic Branding -- What The Heck is That?

In today’s crowded marketplace of companies, ideas, and products, branding is critically important.

People who do not yet know your organization will give you mere seconds of attention before moving on, so all your strongest branding elements need to be in place when the moment is right.

While most marketers understand visual branding with images, colors, logos, and even with the written word, very few of us understand that it is possible to create (and own the rights to) your own sounds and music that align perfectly with your brand attributes.

 Join the IMPACT coaches for a deep dive on a new topic every month in our free virtual event series.

But what is Sonic Branding exactly?

It's quite simple really.

Sonic Branding (also sometimes called audio branding, sound branding, or acoustic branding) is the practice of using auditory elements to brand your product or service.

It is the use of sound to reinforce your brand identity, just as you would certain colors or words. 

Sonic Branding Isn’t New -- It’s Underrated!

Whether you realize it or not, sounds are already used by many organizations as part of their marketing/brand strategy. (I’ll be talking all about this at IMPACT Live 2018. Don’t miss it!)

For example, music is commonly used in the introduction of podcasts, background of videos, in TV and radio commercials, on the floor at trade show booths, before the the CEO walks on to give a speech, within software products, and as part of online learning programs.

Some of the most famous uses of original sound for branding purposes are “sonic logos,” or a few easily remembered musical notes that capture the essence of an organization or product.

Here are a few you may recognize:

The Skype Ringtone

Apple Startup Chime

NBC Chimes

Intel Inside Leap Ahead

I’m so excited to be at IMPACT Live 2018 discussing the immense possibilities and benefits of Sonic Branding with the extremely talented composer Juanito Pascual!

Get your ticket here before prices go up!

Music on the Cheap and Outright Stealing Isn’t Good Branding

Sonic branding is an exciting way to showcase who you are and make it memorable,  but most marketers either ignore it or simply figure something out on the cheap as a branding afterthought.

They don’t give it the strategic attention and effort it deserves.

Common poor sound practices include using the default on-hold music that comes with your phone system or buying random stock music for your video that countless other companies also use.

Some marketers outright steal popular music, using it in their campaigns without securing rights.

Sure this music is well-known and probably well-liked, but I’m sure your company’s compliance officer wouldn’t be happy if they knew what you were doing on the sly..

My friend, Mitch Jackson, is a lawyer who is very active on social networks, and he has some suggestions regarding the use of music you don’t own:   

“If you didn’t create the content, don’t use it without the written permission of the owner or person with legal use rights,” Mitch says. 

“Yes, there is the Fair Use Doctrine that permits the use of someone else’s copyrighted material, but the exceptions are narrow and the law is gray.

Don’t count too much on this exception protecting you unless (1) your lawyer is better than the other side’s lawyer and (2) you have more money than the other side to win your case in court (sarcasm).”

Commissioning Your Own Sonic Logo and Original Song

The best way to ensure you are in compliance with the law and to have music that is perfectly aligned with your organizational culture and your brand is to commission custom sound.

Organizations are in brand harmony when they have music created especially for them.

Working with a composer or a team at a sonic branding studio can be a rewarding experience, but it is best if you are an active participant in the process.

Here are some tips and best practices to remember:

1. Share a deep understanding of your organizational goals, current marketing and branding efforts, and aspirations for the future with the people composing your music.

The more the composer knows, the better the outcome.

2. Share the profile of a typical customer of your product or service.

Who are your buyer personas? What are they really buying from you

3. Create a list of your one- or two-word brand attributes or values.

Knowing that your organization is, say, “professional, conservative, and reliable” sends a composer in one direction while “fun, playful, and experimental” will drive something quite different.

4. Consider all of the uses of the music and share this with the composer.

Will your song be used as background only in a video series? Or will it be an introduction to your podcast?

Most organizations have multiple uses, so a good composer will create different lengths of the song for you use from 15 seconds to several minutes long.

5. You should be able to provide feedback as the song takes shape through several rounds of revisions. 

Take this process seriously and really listen to what is presented.

Do you like the overall approach of the music? The instruments selected? What about the tempo?

Done right, your music should feel “right” for your brand.

6. Make sure the composer assigns the rights to the music to you so you can use it in any way you want to.

7. When you get your music, get it out there and use it! 

How Does That Sound?

Sound branding holds a great deal of power and potential, especially since so many small and medium-sized organizations haven't given it the attention it deserves yet. 

Commissioning a sonic logo or original song can be surprisingly affordable and accomplished on nearly any marketing budget.

I see custom compositions as a wide-open opportunity to create a memorable organization or product offering because very few entrepreneurs and marketers are using customized sonic branding today.

Not convinced? Then come see me discuss it with me in person at IMPACT Live! Get your ticket today before prices go up!

Join the IMPACT coaches for a deep dive on a new topic every month in our free virtual event series.


Published on June 13, 2018

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