When it comes to crafting a sonic identity, no one person is bigger than the brand. Not the CMO, not the customer or client, not you, and especially not me. One of the great things about sonic branding is the opportunity to create without your ego in tow. You’re not expressing yourself. You’re expressing the brand. And you can do this because personal taste in Audio Branding is more or less irrelevant. One of the biggest mistakes you can make when crafting an audio brand is applying too much personal taste, or even worse, the perceived tastes of your audience.
This is a great time to be in this business because we have more data and insights than ever before, and it’s confirming some of the things that many of us had suspected for years. In this case, we learned from SoundOut’s 2021 Audio Index that music really is a universal language. They found that there is no significant connection between demographics and efficacy. And this works very much in our favour when crafting sonic identities.
The world of neuroscience has also offered a wealth of empirical research on the relationship between emotion and music in recent years. We’ve learned that there’s a difference between emotions expressed by music and emotions induced by music. Emotions expressed by music refers to the qualities you perceive in a musical piece (this music is sad). Emotions induced by music refers to your own personal emotional reactions (this music is making me sad). It’s the universality of perception that allows film composers to make a living. Regardless of how strongly you react personally to a piece of music in a scene, you always know what sort of tone the composer is trying to convey. If music didn’t have this universality, films wouldn’t make sense.
It’s about expressing the brand’s personality; not your personality.
Audio Branding works in a similar way. It’s not about what you like personally, it’s about what is being expressed. If we were to impose our own egos and tastes on the brand, we would end up with something that expresses us rather than the brand (solopreneurs are sometimes an exception that we may cover later). Plus we’d never get anything done because it would become an endless clash of personal preferences.
Audio branding also parallels film scoring in that what we’re after is not so much entertainment, but congruency and immersion. It’s a way of saying, you’re in our world now. After you see a movie, do you go home and listen to the score? Probably not. If people enjoy the music, that’s great, but you’re never going to please everyone in that way. Everyone has their own individual tastes and preferences. But if everyone understood, and was immersed, you did your job right. Instead of asking, do we like it, we should be asking, is the music getting the point across? Does it reflect the values and unique attributes of the brand? If the answers are yes, we’re on the right track. It’s about expressing the brand’s personality; not your personality.
I talk a lot about building a sonic brand from the inside out. We want to get to the emotional core of the brand if we’re going to express it properly. This often takes more digging than visual branding. Quite often visuals convey information, but sounds convey emotion. Visuals can be very superficial. With sound, we often have to go deeper. And the deeper we go, the less personal bias we need to impose. It’s a bit like what Michelangelo said about the marble. The statue was already in there. He just had to carve away the extraneous pieces. In the case of Audio Branding, the sound is already there. We just have to put our egos aside, and remove all the irrelevancies until we have a clear vision of what we need to express.