Sonic Zoom Series: Audio Branding



Sonic Zoom is a series that features leading names from the worlds of brand-side marketing, branding and the international music scene. Together, we discuss the biggest trends in music for advertising and the possibilities for sonic branding to cut through the noise. Want to join? Email us at or subscribe to our Sonic Zoom newsletter.

There are Zoom meetings and Zoom meetings, if you know what we mean. Some you could easily skip and some others that are unmissable. And don’t get us wrong – we don’t want to say our Sonic Zoom series is unmissable but it truly is.

Well, the audience was all ears at our inaugural panel devoted to discussing everything related to advertising, music and sonic branding. There was an international audience for the session with attendees joining from countries including Germany, the US and UK.

They were there to hear Rachel Swift, Brand and Creative Director at O2, and John-Paul (JP) Hughes, Group Creative Director Communicorp UK at Voiceworks & Mind Field, discuss some of the big topics relevant to sonic branding.

Our own Paul Reynolds chaired in inimitable style, with Massive’s Jonny Beck introducing the session with a 5-min piano piece.

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The guests laid out their take on what sonic branding means. Rachel described it as “the audio equivalent of digital branding – it’s important to have an audio brand as strong and compelling as the visual identity we have as O2.”

Only a few short years ago sound was treated as an afterthought by marketers and creative agencies and the quality depended on whatever budget might be left in the pot after a shoot.

JP added the granular definition of “a unique and ownable sound world across all touchpoints.” But why is this brand asset rising quickly in importance?

“Sonic branding was previously seen as a jingle – a signature to sign off a commercial,” JP said. “But now it represents so many opportunities for brands.”

The increased attention is thanks to the growing number of digital channels which consumers interact with on their customer journey.

Many of these brand touchpoints are not visually-led, they could be podcasts, bots or smart speakers like Alexa or Google Assistant. Smart speaker penetration is on the rise with 34% adoption rate in the leading market of the US – and this technology is spreading into vehicles and the workplace.

Purchases are growing via these devices. In the UK, 60% of smart speaker owners have used them to make a purchase within the past year.

Brands have to explore and figure out how they can gain attention and engagement – and that’s going to be with audio.

O2 worked with MassiveMusic on its latest sonic brand identity and Rachel agreed the project was driven by the range of expanding consumer channels.

“We really wanted to create a sound that was instantly recognisable to get to the nub of what we feel is an authentic sound for O2.”

Music is in O2’s DNA and it has a rich music heritage in its marketing, bolstered with its association with The O2 entertainment venue in London. “Connectivity is the oxygen of our digital lives,” said Rachel describing the brand’s positioning.

This idea was pursued in the sound of a human breath – the audio starts with an intake of breath. The sonic branding is now being used in elements of marketing and will be rolled out over TV, radio and user experiences like the O2 Priority app.

A discussion on the value of distinctiveness was prompted by the spate of pandemic-focused advertising with similar messaging, visuals and soundtracks.

In defence, Rachel pointed out companies were now acting under production constraints and having to use stock footage or user-generated content – and they were all trying to reflect the same mood.

JP threw down the gauntlet and said: “I don’t think many marketers think outside the box in regard to music – the vast majority still try to follow a formula and a shortcut to success.”

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Wisdom pills, my friends. And should you want to watch the full panel, feel free to email us at You can use the same email address to ask us any questions you might have.

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We hope to see you there ✌️