at the intersection of brands, media and culture

The sound of branding

In advertising, communications, marketing, strategy on November 29, 2007 at 11:29 am

I think sound is an underutilized brand identifier. Only a few brands have been able to harness sound and most of those have been CPGs. Alka Seltzer has “Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz.” Rice Crispies built an entire brand around “Snap, Crackle, Pop.” Eating Rice Crispies just wouldn’t be as enjoyable in silence and I challenge you to make an Alka Seltzer cocktail and not think ‘Plop’ or ‘Fizz.’ It’s impossible, like peeing on command.

One of my clients, T-Mobile, has a subtle branding chime at the end of its television spots. Sprint used to have that gorgeous pin drop that not only served as a signifier but also reinforced its core brand message of clarity. They’ve done it less successfully, in my opinion, with Nextel.

A friend of mine in the film business pointed me to the Wilhelm Scream. Having been used hundreds of times in the last 50-odd years (hear it in movies from “A Star is Born” to “Star Wars” to “Reservoir Dogs”), the sound clip has become a brand in its own right. There is a ton of information on it here: http://www.hollywoodlostandfound.net/wilhelm/

Brands need the senses more than most of their managers realize. We talk a lot about emotional branding but senses provide the emotional cues and are able to creep past the rational gatekeepers in our minds.

If your brand fell in the forest and no one was around to hear it, would it make a sound?

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