Rice Krispies is a boring, boring cereal, with an equally boring name. Fortunately someone realized it made a sound. They took snap, crackle, and pop and they ran with it, and that has sustained them for close to a hundred years now. If you have a product that makes (or can make) a distinctive sound, you need to own that. So many brands are sitting on audio assets they don’t even realize they have.
I’ve often criticized certain brands for having audio assets that are arbitrary and meaningless. So many audio logos are just random notes or sounds that don’t have any deep connection with the brand. Musical assets are important, but they need to be part of a concept and strategy if they’re going to have congruency and meaning. Most product sounds have their congruency and meaning built-in, and they’re often inseparable from the broader brand identity.
So we’ve talked about Rice Krispies. Let’s look at some other brands that turned functional and incidental sounds into distinctive brand assets.
Car commercials are very quiet these days. Yes, they have music and often a voiceover, but you rarely hear the sound of the vehicle. This is very deliberate. They want to give the impression that the vehicle doesn’t pollute – both the environment and the sound space. Ferrari goes completely the other way with this. They know the people buying their product want that big, loud, sexy roar of the engine. They take that sound and weave it in and out of their brand videos with flawless precision.
Axe Body Spray
Not a lot of people know this, but Axe actually worked with focus groups and engineers to tune the sound of their spray. They wanted to give their spray a sound that was strong, distinctive, and unique.
Here’s a regular spray.
And here’s Axe.
They’re all about the cap. Snapple branded the snap of the cap to signify freshness. Today most bottle caps function this way, but Snapple was the brand that really owned it. They often put fun messages under the caps too. People even collect them.
UX and UI sounds are more prevalent than ever, and it follows that it’s more important than ever that they have a deeper connection to the brand or product. The folks who made the Apple watch got clever with their notification sounds. They took the metal frames and just dinged them with a small hammer. Those dings became the basis for some of their notification sounds. Click here to see how they did it. If you want to cut to the chase, go to about 17:15.
Product sounds don’t have to be limited to utility. Like Rice Krispies, they can be worked into your brand media. One of the first jingles I ever did was for a security alarm company. Every time you arm the alarm, it made a quick, six-tone beep. Naturally we incorporated that into the jingle. We even arranged it melodically so that it would resolve naturally with the key and tempo.
More and more brands are harnessing the power of sound with strategies and assets, but there are many that fail to stand out, or make a deeper connection to the brand. Product sounds can offer a distinctiveness and three-dimensionality that tones alone cannot.