Love Island: Why Sound Is Its Strongest Asset
by Joe Bush
The summer outfits, the neon signs, the luxurious villa, the monogrammed water bottles… all strategic signature visuals associated with the iconic and hugely-lucrative ITV reality series Love Island which is back on our screens.
The investment into the brand has led to big-name sponsors paying huge sums of money each year, desperate to be associated with it.
But it’s not simply the show’s concept or look that has led to its enormous brand equity. Its investment in a flexible yet extremely consistent sound strategy is successful enough to teach some of the world’s biggest companies about the benefits of an effective sonic brand.
But for those still in need of convincing, let me talk you through how Love Island has developed one of the most recognisable, valuable and flexible marketing assets on television, all through the power of sound.
The show’s concept is very simple – young, fun-loving individuals looking for love on an exotic island – so it makes sense to have a sound that matches that narrative. Using just a repetitive, synthesised melody, and four to the floor beats we are instantly transported to a nightclub in a resort town, or an Uber on the way to a party.
Love Island sounds like the viewer’s own experience, we are there with the contestants. The sonic logo that we hear more than anything else (DA da-da-da-da DAA da-da-da-da-da) has become an inescapable earworm rooted in the identity of Love Island.
Consistency is key. During the course of one episode, we hear the sonic brand in many different variations, lengths and styles. For example, we hear the theme tune kick in just after each episode’s preview. The ‘Da da da da da’ sonic logo transitions from one scene to another. We also hear the logo after every ad break, and there are alternate versions that play throughout the episode. Each episode, of course, ends with the theme tune to close out the sonic experience.
This consistency isn’t complicated – it follows a very structured format that becomes embedded in our viewing experience and something we expect without thinking about it.
Love Island’s consistent use of sound over the years is impressive. Its sonic brand can now cut through to evoke emotions directly in those watching. It has become stored in our long-term memories, which allows it to become a powerful brand asset, taking on a life of its own outside the show itself. It’s used in TV advertising, the app, website and social media platforms, increasing brand recall and emotional engagement every time it’s used.
Wider sound strategy
Love Island hasn’t just been strategic in its own sonic assets. As a show, it’s always used licensed music to generate emotion in the tense, more dramatic or romantic scenes. Just like TikTok, Love Island regularly influences the mainstream charts as a cultural tastemaker and has become a space for new artists to launch. In fact, the show is responsible for routinely breaking records on Shazam.
In 2019, Joel Corry’s ‘Sorry’ featured in an episode and became the most Shazam-ed track in one day in the UK as a consequence. It’s no surprise that Spotify holds countless Love Island compilation playlists, both official and unofficial. Love Island’s sound world is being brought into viewer’s homes, parties or holiday villas.
It has also demonstrated a great, long-term voice strategy with its consistent use of Ian Stirling as the witty narrator, grounding viewers in the familiar despite a different set of contestants each season. This adds to the consistent brand experience.
The brand teams have worked hard in getting consistent language associated with the show that is heard in each episode and can transcend into the vernacular. “Can I pull you for a chat?”, “I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket”, “Do you think your head can be turned?”. Every year contestants receive messages via a loud, now very recognisable text tone and shout ‘I’ve got a text!’
Now more than ever, having a solid sound and music strategy can help brands to stand out in the increasingly fragmented media landscape that we are facing, as well as to stay consistent across a plethora of platforms and touchpoints. Brands need to carefully plan and design how they will be perceived in these sonic spaces, or risk losing essential marketing opportunities in a competitive space.
Love Island has truly succeeded at this challenge. The brand’s consistent, simple use of sound has given it greater recall, presence and cut through, in the cluttered prime time television space.