When we think of branding, we tend to think visually. From your storefront sign to your company letterhead, your colours and logo are consistent all across the board. Even your font is often the same.

This is all very important stuff, but branding is not limited to the visual realm. For example, there are many businesses that reinforce their brand using scent. Seriously! You ever notice how whenever you go into Canadian Tire, the first thing you smell is rubber? This is very deliberate (but don’t ask me how they actually achieve this).

Of course, scent branding might not be for everyone. Being in the business of sound, branding with scent is not something I’ve tried myself. I’m not really sure what scent one might associate with audio production. Tyton’s visual branding incorporates Tony the owl, but I don’t know what owls smell like. I can’t imagine it’s how you want a studio to smell.

No, I’d like to talk about branding with sound. I touched on this a bit in a previous blog, but I’d like to expand on it a little. This is not a new concept, but it’s one that is overlooked far too often, and since this is what I do for a living, I hope I can offer a unique perspective. So here goes.

When I want an example of branding and marketing done right, I often turn to McDonald’s. They don’t tend to make a lot of mistakes in this department. Here’s a company that has a strong and simple logo that is recognized around the world. But that’s not always enough, and they’re well aware of it. As long as I can remember, McDonald’s has always had an auditory branding component running in tandem with that big yellow ‘M’. About ten years ago, they started using the ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ jingle, which in more recent years has been represented by its instrumental melody without the vocal component. Some people might remember their “You deserve a break” slogan and jingle from many years before.

Jingles, and the more subtle audio logo (a jingle without singing), are a great way to brand your business with sound. Not only are they a very simple way to brand yourself, but they are great for making an impact on the passive audience. Someone might not even be paying attention to the ad, and still know it’s your ad. If the jingle or musical cue is catchy or memorable enough, it may linger in their brain long after the spot has ended – free commercials in people’s heads!

If you’re going to advertise on radio, audio branding is crucial since none of your visual branding elements can be carried over. Like the “golden arches”, your logo could be recognizable all around the world, but on radio, it’s basically useless.

Most markets have more than one local radio station. Most of these markets have several, in fact. And in most cases, a local business doesn’t advertise with one station exclusively. They might advertise on one station for several months and switch to another, or they may advertise concurrently on a number of different stations. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this practice, except for when it comes to the actual writing and production of the spot.

Most radio stations have their own creative team, which can be very helpful to the advertiser, especially for one with a more limited budget. Unfortunately, when the advertiser switches from one station to another, suddenly their ad has a different voice, different music, and a different writing and creative style. They might even end up with a new slogan. When this happens, there’s no opportunity to build a brand since you’re basically starting from scratch every time you make the switch. Imagine having to change your company logo every eight to twelve months.

Speaking of slogans, this is another tool that could be considered by some to be an audio branding tool. In some ways, I suppose it is, but in the end, I would have to disagree, and for a couple of reasons.

First of all, yes, you can say it, and therefore it has an auditory component, but it’s also made visual via text and graphics. It doesn’t necessarily work exclusively as an auditory component to your brand.

Secondly, slogans are tricky to begin with since there are so many similar ones out there. Here in Kingston, we actually have two businesses that are using the exact same slogan. I’m currently working with one of them to possibly produce a jingle to help them take ownership of the slogan which I think would be a great move. Once the jingle becomes part of the public consciousness and people associate the words with the music, suddenly the competition’s ads become your ads to the passive audience, and maybe even to the active audience.

Of course, not every business needs a jingle or audio logo. Sometimes the solution might be a consistent voice – a spokesperson. If your company voice is distinct and used consistently, it becomes just as much a part of your brand as your logo and colours.

Audio branding isn’t exclusive to radio either. Audio branding elements can be used in TV and internet ads, public address audio, and even on your company telephone via auto-attendant and on-hold messaging. Audio logos and jingles can be reinforced with visual elements, too. Logos can be animated to the sounds or music. Duracell and Intel are great examples of this.

Of course, if you’re building a brand over multiple media with overlapping elements, it’s best to avoid campaigns that rely on more than one medium in order to function. For the sake of brevity, it would probably be best to explore this subject in a future blog.


Image By Allan-Hermann Pool (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons