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sonic branding

noun [uncountable]

the use of a special sound to identify and advertise products associated with a particular manufacturer

sonic brand

noun [countable]

'Although not a new phenomenon, sonic branding is becoming an increasingly strong vehicle for conveying a memorable message to targeted consumers … From non-lyrical sound bites to catchy snippets of tunes, these sonic brands take advantage of one of the brain's most powerful memory senses – sound.'

Brandchannel.com 22nd October 2001

Remember when you were a child and you heard the jingle of the ice-cream van as it meandered down the street, your heart leaping at the prospect of an afternoon treat?

the phenomenon of sonic branding is becoming a very important concept in online advertising

There's no doubt that sounds and music have the capacity to evoke particular emotional responses, a fact exploited over many years in the psychology of advertising. With the ever-more sophisticated technology of the noughties and the fact that computers now provide the opportunity to enhance visual information (text, images, etc) with audible features, the phenomenon of sonic branding is becoming a very important concept in online advertising.

Recognising the success of radio and TV advertising tunes such as the car horn jingle associated with insurance company Direct Line, advertising professionals sought to develop the concept of what is now referred to as a sonic logo, a piece of music about two-and-a-half seconds in length, which conveys the idea of a particular brand. One of the most powerful examples of a sonic logo is the series of musical beeps which represent the Intel® 1994 Pentium processor ('Intel Inside'). Although many people wouldn't know what the Intel® logo looked like, nor even have any idea of what a Pentium chip is, the vast majority nowadays would know the tune and recognise it as belonging to Intel®.

Professionals use the same expertise as would be involved in the development of visual logos, making deliberate choices aimed at translating a particular brand identity into sound. As well as visual cues such as particular imagery or design of packaging, many products can now be identified by acoustic cues, and the concept of the sonic brand is fast developing.

Background – sonic branding

One particular advantage of sonic branding is its potential to transcend the language and cultural barriers associated with visual forms of communication.

The term sonic branding has been around since the late 1990s, one of the early pioneers of the concept being London-based firm Thesonicbrandcompany, now operating through a website, which displays a range of auditory embellishments. In October 2003, one of the first books on the subject appeared (Sonic Branding: An Essential Guide to the Art and Science of Sonic Branding, Palgrave Macmillan), authored by Daniel M. Jackson, one of the co-founders of the company.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 13th December 2004.

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