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Huh? Audio Branding?

music note

Audio Branding, aka a Sound Logo, is a sound branding tool that you can incorporate into your web site or blog and used as the acoustic equivalent of a logo.  Think: Intel, NBC, T-Mobile or THX.  Typically a short distinctive melody or sounds, these sounds are typically used at the beginning or end of ads. 

Sneaky, in a good way

Sound is a powerful learning center in our brain.  Ever notice how the music in a scene of a movie leads you to feel something bad/good/funny, etc. is about to happen?  Our brain hears a sound then anticipates the ending. 

As a part of your brand toolkit, sound can help shape a potential client’s perception of you and potentially help you connect with them on a deeper level.  Plus, it works in a sneaky way your ads and blog posts can’t – people don’t need to pay attention to notice it.

You may already be doing it

Have you downloaded a customized ringtone to your phone?  It says something about you.  Admit it …  do you wonder what’s really behind the curtain when a relatively conservative person has their ring tone set to “I’m bringing sexy back”.  Better yet, have you assigned a “special” ring tone for someone – loved one, or an ex?  Did you choose that partially based on your opinion of them?  (Yeah, I admit it … I’ve assigned some “special” ring tones once or twice)

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(Quick Check:  If you were at an attorney or CPA’s office for your first consultation, and their phone rang with Jay Z’s “99 Problems”, 3OH!3’s Don’t Trust Me” or Katy Perry’s “Waking up in Vegas” could it make a bad impression?  If you need to explain your ring tone to potential clients, you may want to change it.  Just a thought. )

How?

The idea is the easy part.  Execution is a bit more difficult.  An audio brand must represent the emotion you want associated with your personal or company brand, be memorable and unique.  When in doubt, use a professional service. 

It’s not always custom-composed.  Nokia’s now instantly recognizable ring tone is actually a small excerpt of a guitar solo by Spanish classical guitarist Francisco Tarrega written in 1902.  They’ve trademarked the sound.  And, United Airlines has adopted George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” as its corporate theme.

Licensing required

Don’t dash off, find an old guitar solo and take a few notes for yourself.  The musicians/composers are protected under copyright laws.  If you are interested, contact a professional service that will help you identify the ideal sound based on what you want to convey as well as guide you through the licensing process.

Key takeaways

  1. Music won’t define your entire brand
  2. Use a professional service – If not carefully orchestrated, sound becomes irrelevant clutter
  3. Use your short music bumper (2 seconds) at the either the beginning or end of your videos, your voicemail, the beginning of your on-hold message, embedded in your enewsletter, when someone hits your blog or web site
  4. Be consistent when and how it’s used 
  5. Down drown them in it.  Don’t subject them to it every time they click a link or button on your site.

I think this is a really cool idea.  Those of you that jump on this and do it right could have a distinct advantage and appear innovative.  I don’t believe agents are tapping into sound as a way to brand themselves, but as always I invite you to correct me if I’m wrong.

Just for fun …

What’s your theme song?

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Written By

Brandie is an unapologetically candid marketing professional who was recently mentioned on BusinessWeek as a Top Young Female Entrepreneur. She recently co-founded consulting firm MarketingTBD. She's held senior level positions with GE and Fidelity, as well as with entrepreneurial start-ups. Raised by a real estate Broker, Brandie is passionate about real estate and is an avid investor. Follow her on Twitter.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Matt Stigliano

    August 18, 2009 at 9:43 am

    Brandie – Funny you should bring this up, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile Obviously with the @rerockstar moniker, I could use some sound to embed in things. Your thoughts only firm it up in my head. Now to figure out just what I want to do.

  2. Ian Greenleigh

    August 18, 2009 at 1:10 pm

    Brandie-

    This seems like a great idea in theory, but I’d be interested to see exactly what prospective customers think of it. I think I fall into the camp of being annoyed at unprompted sound on websites in general, and I’d be interested to hear (pun NOT intended) what others think as well. That said, just because something is annoying, does not mean it is not effective. I will almost certainly buy my next mattress at mattress firm, where the annoying-but-impossibly-catchy jingle informs me, “It’s easy to get a great night’s sleep.”

  3. Brandie Young

    August 18, 2009 at 4:18 pm

    Hi Matt – yeah, I would think this would be an imperative for you! Let me know if I can point you to any service providers.

    Ian – I am all for user testing … but you and I might be saying different things here.

    I hope I emphasized NOT to overdo the use of sound on the website making every link or button clicked a trigger to the sound bites. Yes, that is annoying and you can start to feel like you’re in Vegas! Think of the Intel commercials, where the sound bite (not jingle) is short and non intrusive.

  4. Ian Greenleigh

    August 18, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Bradie-

    Yes, you did emphasize that, don’t worry. I trust that you will execute this tastefully. And yes, if you could employ a sound bite that is truly pleasant and unique, this might work really well.

  5. Ian Greenleigh

    August 18, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    oops, meant “Brandie”.

  6. Brandie Young

    August 18, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Ian – oh, good. Sometimes even the best intended communications can miss the mark! If I see anyone that employs this, I will pass it along. And, re the spelling of my name – no worries! I answer to a number of names!

  7. Ken Brand

    August 18, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    You know, this is interesting stuff.

    I bet 90% of any outrageous experience includes music. We don’t see it in RE much because it’s an ART and feels awkward trying to layer it in as an amateur. But, as you’re sharing, if you can figure out a way to include it, well, you’d be playing beautiful music while others are bleating and howling at the moon.

    You can close your eyes and you can look away, but you can’t close your ears. Music is mood selection.

    Cheers Brandie, thoughtful stuff.

  8. Brandie Young

    August 18, 2009 at 8:37 pm

    Hi Ken – I thought it was interesting. Tech and big consumer brands have leveraged sound for years, why not service providers? I like and agree with your comparison to art. As you say, it all comes down to execution. Do you think you will give it a try? Be a pioneer?

  9. Brian Larson

    August 19, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Brandie: Terrific advice in a nice short post!

    I’ll add: If you will use a sound trade- or service-mark, consult your trademark attorney about ‘clearing’ and registering it. Better to spend a little dough on that up-front than to end up having to change your mark (and maybe pay damages and attorney fees) later.

    -Brian

  10. Brandie Young

    August 19, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    Hi Brian – thanks for the comment and compliment!

    Great addition! It’s always best to “do it right” up front! Will I *hear* that you’ve incorporated an audio branding strategy?

  11. Mark Eckenrode

    September 2, 2009 at 5:59 pm

    here’s a great website to browse for royalty free tracks and sounds: https://shockwave-sound.com.

    i’m with ian on not caring for sound on a webpage. however, i do use a 9 second track at the beginning and ending of most of the audio files i release. the track is lively, energizing, and transitions well into my speaking style.

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