What Is ‘Sonic Branding?’

“Sonic branding” sounds like a complex concept, and it is a relatively unexplored aspect of the PR/marketing world–but it surrounds us every day. Think about sounds or jingles that you associate with brands: surely you’re familiar with this one or this one or this one. You might even remember this one.

That’s sonic branding in action.

The power of music and sound transcends language, culture and all things visual, which makes sonic branding a huge part of the promotional game for many companies. For example, anyone anywhere in the world can hear the simple tune “I’m Lovin’ It” and instantly think of McDonald’s (in fact, Justin Timberlake wrote a track around the original five-note jingle). The process of “distilling a multimillion dollar brand into a few seconds of sound” can be long and challenging, but it pays off–sonic branding signatures can be more recognizable than company logos or spokespeople.

How can sound help an established company rebrand itself? Here’s a great case study: Univision, one of the biggest names in Spanish-language news and entertainment, recently chose Man Made Music as its sonic branding agency of record in an attempt to establish a fresh image. Here’s the final product, a reworking of the network logo spot:

A blog post on the development describes Man Made’s efforts to create “a new sonic identity that captures the essence of the dynamic multimedia company” by using “Latin rhythms with a vibrant, heartfelt tone” to convey the Univision experience to viewers.

Man Made’s founder and lead composer Joel Beckerman explains the big idea:

“Great Sonic Branding projects a brand’s image in an instant. It immediately tells an audience who you are and what you stand for. It’s one of the most powerful ways to attract an audience and invite them along as your brand evolves.”

PR pros: have you worked with sonic branding agencies? Can you think of other popular cases of sonic branding? And how important do you think a signature sound is to the overall branding process?

@PatrickCoffee patrick.coffee@adweek.com Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.