Sonic Branding: What is a Sonic Logo Anyway?
by Joe Bush
As a creative in the Sonic Branding world, I’ve come up against a lot of challenges and resistance towards sonic branding.
It’s not uncommon for clients, brands or agencies to misunderstand or feel confused when I use the term ‘sonic logo’ so freely.
I know, my bad, I might take it for granted sometimes but, over the years, this has taught me that context is everything, especially during the early phases of our process. From this was born a level of education, a degree of hand-holding, and my willingness for everyone to be on the same page – or shall I say… wavelength?
‘Sonic logo’ does not by default mean ‘jingle’, ‘bing bong’, or annoying tune. It’s not a sequence of notes, or someone singing the brand name. That would be reductive. A sonic logo is the audible version of a visual logo and a fully-fledged piece of brand work. In Ehrenbergh-Bass speak, it’s a distinctive asset in its own right. A good sonic logo is sophisticated, detailed and, most importantly, has a story and a reason to exist.
The bigger picture (and the sound it makes)
When a sonic logo has a story, it feels like part of a wider brand ecosystem. It fits with the colours, the creative and the VO because it’s been designed this way. It speaks the same language as these other assets. But also, it stands on its own.
Just like any good visual logo, a sonic logo with a story has grown a pair of legs. It has a legacy and tells us about a brand in a matter of seconds. This means it can live on the radio, TV, and wherever else, regardless of what comes before it – whether that’s a piece of branded music, a licenced track, or just silence.
There is also an argument for simplicity within the world of sonic logos. Aesthetically, fluffing up a sound with layers of sound design or big sweeping effects leads to a lack of clarity, drifting into the background noise of TV, adverts, offers and movie trailers.
That means we need to distil our craft and get to the very core of what makes a sonic logo great. Looking for a simple, short sound that represents a brand distinctively and completely is difficult, sometimes comparable to a unicorn but hey, once you’ve got it, it can become extremely powerful.
Another challenge we are increasingly coming up against is less time for end frames and logos on communications (literally two seconds or less). This is becoming more and more common with snackable content getting even snappier (sad but true) in order to get along with our shorter-than-ever attention span and the Gen-Z social revolution.
5 sonic logos that are spot-on
TED’s logo is a fantastic execution of painting pictures with sound, a sonic logo with a story. The brand is all about spreading ideas (their TED Talks are influential videos from expert speakers on education, business, science, tech and creativity). The sonic logo perfectly represents a drop in the ocean and its ripple effect.
The kings of consistency. The golden arches’ five-note whistle has been used for over two decades now. Because of this relentless commitment to the sonic branding cause, they have also been able to adapt the sound per campaign creative, yet still, retain recall and distinction. Minions anyone?
The Apple ‘bonggggg’ (also known as the start-up sound) is arguably one the most famous examples of branded audio. It was created to welcome the user into the Apple experience, specifically after a machine crashed, hence the zen-like, calm, refreshing aesthetic. Great strategic thinking that led to a world-famous sonic asset. Also, side note – It vaguely reminds us of ‘Born Slippy’ by Underworld – and now you can’t unhear it, can you?
Colgate’s new sonic logo was developed by MassiveMusic to represent universal optimism in its truest musical form. An uplifting, short and snappy melody, hummed in order to remove language barriers and be understood by a worldwide audience. Story and strategy combining.
For O2, we created a sonic logo with a strong story. Designed to be super flexible in order to live across the brand’s enormous touchpoint ecosystem, the sonic logo owns the human breath, with its variations exploring this unique and very familiar sound in a variety of ways. So that… every breath you take, every move you make, you’ll be with O2.
Want to craft the perfect sonic logo? Remember, it’s all about the three S’es:
- Strategy: Without a good strategy, it won’t be effective. Using a sonic logo consistently (and in the right places) is the key to a killer sonic brand that stands the test of time.
- Story: Make sure the logo has a reason to exist. Arbitrary melodies or random sounds won’t cut it!
- Simplicity: Remove the fluff. If a sonic logo is overly complex or sounds like a movie trailer, it’s going to get lost in a sea of noise.
Or get in touch with us, so we can craft it for you.