Sonic branding: how music works for your brand

Music is a magical illusion. A superpower. Transforming any given set of frequencies into a powerful force. A force that makes us smile, remember or embrace.

Now, we don’t want to take away any of this magic. But if you wish to use this power for your brand, there’s a thing or two we’d love to share. Unraveling a little bit of the mystery surrounding sonic branding. And enabling your company to think about music in a more practical way.

When defining music, it all comes down to three basic elements: rhythm, pitch and timbre.

Rhythm is a dancer

It all started out with rhythm, the master communicator. For a fact, words that are set to a rhythmic pattern get stuck in our ears. From nursery-rhymes to annoying radio-jingles.

People all over the world can detect the urgency of your message by the speed of your talking. Even if they don’t have a clue of what you’re saying.

And why would you hook up with a bunch of total strangers in a crammed and sweaty nightclub? That’s rhythm doing its bonding magic.

Pitch: everything is vibration

We humans translate the vibration of air molecules into a coherent set of pitches. In music, we call them melody and harmony. Creating the musical patterns we have learned to associate with specific emotions.

As such, melody and harmony play a refined game of expectation. It’s how a sudden harmonic change keeps catching you by surprise, even after a zillion plays. It’s the rush of satisfaction when that drop finally kicks in. In fact, melody and harmony is how we’ve learned to tell stories through music.

And if anything, we’re wired for story.

Timbre! Timbre!

Timbre is the tonal colour that distinguishes one instrument from another. How the same note on a piano sounds different on a trumpet. Timbre helps us to identify the source of whoever is sending us a musical message. How we can tell Biggie from Tupac. The Beatles from The Stones. In an instant. Yet only recently, timbre has moved into the centre of our appreciation of music.

For sonic branding purposes, timbre currently holds the greatest potential.

How we choose

From all the movies you’ve seen, pick one. Now.

That went pretty quick, didn’t it?

Yet, you have no clue why you chose that particular movie, and not Grease 2. Or any of the thousands of movies you’ve seen. Your brain simply dealt you a few options to choose from.

It’s exactly this game of mental availability that brands play on a daily basis. A game still more art than science. But there is a way. A strategy to increase the chance your brand will make it onto the mental shortlist of your audience.

Brands with a strong network of prior associations are in pole position.

That’s why you need a sonic brand. Your own sound. A unique combination of rhythm, pitch and timbre. When applied in a consistent way, this will reinforce existing associations. As such, it will guide your audience towards your brand. Triggering recall, fostering recognition and adding emotion.

What’s not to love?