BlackCoffee.com has a great post discussing ‘brand sonification’. It highlights how important sound can be when potraying a product – “Sound is an opportunity to communicate and differentiate because it provides an opportunity to interact even when no one is looking.”
“Call it music branding, mnemonic branding, acoustic branding or sound design, brand sonification is an integral part of the brand experience, yet is often overlooked. It adds yet another opportunity for the brand to interact with people. Sonification cannot only improve a product’s usability, it can become a primary brand signal, connecting people and brands.
Much like visuals, sound isn’t restricted by the limitations of language. Sound is a metaphor for emotion, one that as humans we are pre-wired to understand. Our brain is registering sound 24/7. It never turns off that sense. The sense of sound triggers memory, second only to that of the sense of smell. Sounds, songs and jingles time stamp our memories. Sound takes us back and helps us to make sense of our world.
Functionally, sound can improve the usability of a product by guiding the user through a series of actions. However, sound can also be used to guide consumers’ perceptions of both a product and a brand. By manipulating auditory brand signals, a brand can manage consumers’ perceptions and expectations. So, it is essential that acoustic brand signals work in concert with the total brand experience, echoing its values and aesthetic.
On a category level, video games are a great example of the effective use of sound in experience design. The sonification of the interface helps user’s to navigate setup and enhances play. On a brand level, proprietary sounds provide the same level of guidance. Harley Davidson’s signature exhaust note, TiVo’s sound effect navigation, The Nokia ring-tone or “Nokia tune”… Each of these iconic sounds is so distinct that you are able to identify the brand without ever having to “see” the brand. Each sound equates to its respective brand.
Mobile devices have long lead the market in brand sonification. This may be driven by the fact that the core function of these small devices is sound delivery. Their high quality sound output makes audio easier to implement. If we apply this same logic to other industries, we can assume automotive is another industry that is sure to see great advancements in brand sonification. Their advanced theater systems provide automotive designers with a ready-made platform to leverage sound as they sculpt the interaction between car and driver.
While there are brands using brand sonification as a competitive advantage in a visual world, few do so well. Sound is an opportunity to communicate and differentiate because it provides an opportunity to interact even when no one is looking. Sound design shouldn’t be limited to technology products. Many household products such as glass cleaner, ball point pens, or even food packaging have an opportunity to link a proprietary sound and experience. The mechanical action of opening a package, dispensing a product or squeezing that trigger on the Windex bottle could transform kinetic energy into sound. Because the sound is the direct result of a physical action, the sound can, over time, become a brand ritual.
Acoustic brand signals have been undervalued for far too long. Any and every sound that potential buyers experience is an opportunity. As technology becomes cheaper and products become more and more interactive, brands will increasingly need to leverage the auditory experience as well as the visual. There will be a greater need for a cohesive experience with those interfaces that align with the brand image. Those who start now will have an advantage over the competition.”