Loyalist College recently did a huge overhaul of their visual identity as well as reassessed their position in the market. The time was right for an audio identity. This was very exciting because in their 50+ year history, Loyalist had never developed any audio strategy or assets. Fortunately when I entered the picture, most of the broader brand work had already been done by east coast based Target Marketing. Together with the college’s marketing team, they decided to position themselves as Ontario’s small college. Small means accessibility. Small means profs know students by name. Small gives us the power to do big things.

From a sonic branding perspective, this was very exciting. So many brands try to go big, often without knowing why. This was an opportunity to do something unique that would stand out in the market.

We developed a whole sonic style guide which addressed music, voice, style, application, etc., but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll look specifically at the audio logo.

Since the brand was so well defined, I decided to go timbre first. This was very important because there were some careful balances we needed to reach. It needed to sound small without feeling inferior. The music should bring a feeling of fun and levity without sounding frivolous. And the instrumentation needed feel unique but still accessible.

I eventually decided to build the sound around the xylophone. Like the college, it’s a sound that’s small that allows us to do big things. It’s the smaller sound in the orchestra that always cuts through.

Of course we needed more than just a xylophone. The sound would later be buttressed by woodblocks, a kalimba, and a variety of keyboard percussion.

But it needed something else. Since we’re trying to present ourselves as small, too much bass presence wouldn’t have been appropriate, but it needed one more element to thicken up the sound. As luck would have it, a friend happened to send me this clip.

I asked a music teacher friend of mine what those were. Turns out they’re called boomwhackers, which has to be the greatest name for a musical instrument since the hurdy gurdy. This helped to give the logo some texture while also injecting a sense of fun.

Now that the timbre was established it was time to develop a melody. It was tricky at first trying to find a strong melody that also conveyed a sense of humour. Here’s an earlier attempt at a quirky melody.

Early Draft

After several iterations it became apparent that the humour was already built into the instrumentation.

The final melody was built around a sung melody.

Sung Melody

This gave us something that was strong but also adaptable. We wanted our sonic identity to be future-proof (more on that in a moment).

The final audio logo sounded like this.

The delayed last note was very deliberate. It gives us the opportunity to frame spoken elements to strengthen attribution and recall.

Audio Logo with Voiceover

But it didn’t stop there. The advantage of having a strong melody is the ability to adapt to different campaigns where required. For example, one member of the marketing team mentioned an upcoming golf tournament.

Variant 1

And of course with most businesses, holiday campaigns are almost inevitable.

Variant 2

But part of being future-proof is also being crisis-proof. As we saw in the early days of COVID, most brands were not ready to adapt to a changed social climate. For more on this, check out the Crisis-Proof Blog from a few months back. While this is not a final variant, this is something we presented to give the marketing team an idea of how Loyalist might sound in a crisis.

Variant 3

Of course everything’s better explained in context. Here’s a recent spot with all the branding elements in place, including logo, music, and voice, both written and vocal.

Open House Commercial

This was a very fun and challenging project. I look forward to seeing (hearing) its development in the coming years.