Sonic Branding at MIDEM and beyond


The value of a sound…sound strategy is still a dim second in advertising briefs but smarter brands are catching on. Audi achieved sonic branding two years ago, with its sport for the A5 sportback —a steady, pumping heartbeat, breath and a piano as seen (and heard) above.

Last month, in an industry first, Unilever brand managers for its Comfort fabric conditioner hit MIDEM, the world’s largest music industry trade fair, with an unusual proposition.[more]

Looking for new sonic branding to update Comfort’s “Exhilarations” range of fabric conditioners, the brand’s agency (Ogilvy) issued the following creative brief to solicit original music and a fresh audio twist on the brand:

“The world’s #1 Fabric conditioner is looking for a fresh new sound! What does freshness sound like? What’s a musical wow sniff? If you have a track that could make freshness an aural experience, Ogilvy is all ears! If you make the cut, your song could be used in Comfort’s next global campaign seen by millions worldwide.”

Crowdsourcing has gained traction as a cheap and effective way to generate brand buzz and (hopefully) garner a winning idea. But does it work for music?

According to Ruth Simmons, CEO Soundlounge, not so fast.

“To get some perspective on the breadth of the challenge of the brief for Comfort, let’s think of music in terms of film,” she commented. “Would a director ever make a general appeal to film composers with a one-word music brief? (“We’re doing an action movie, so we need something intense!”)”

In the average commercial, the music has roughly 28 seconds to craft a story from beginning to end, she adds — “it does not have the same luxury of time and space.  And not only does it need to cut to the picture, because advertising is about aspiration, it needs to sell an emotion and stick to the product, so that we remember the product first and then the track.”

Two examples cited by Simmons of smart brands that understand the ‘sound of their brand’ are Apple and Marks and Spencer.

The first MacBook air ad, which launched in 2008 with New Soul, a track by Yael Naim:

And Marks and Spencer’s 2010 spot featuring Cheryl Lynn’s disco track, Got to be Real (and 60’s icon Twiggy as a model, who also appeared in M&S’s Christmas ad featuring Shirley Bassey covering Pink) —

Indeed, there is a symbiotic relationship between bands and brands. Soundlounge’s top five picks for brand campaigns that broke bands —

5) The first stop-motion TV commercial for Amazon‘s Kindle, featuring singer-songwriter Annie Little’s original song Fly Me Away, and Little herself: 

4.  The 2009 TV ad for the Mazda 2, featuring Don’t Upset The Rhythm by the Noisettes:

3. Apple‘s iPod commercials have helped break many bands, including The Asteroids Galaxy Tour (featured in Heineken’s current global campaign):

2) Sony dropped 250,000 multicolored balls in the streets of San Francisco for its Bravia TV, and Jose Gonzalez’s Heartbeats a hit: 

1. Apple also helped catapult indie Canadian singer Feist onto the global stage:


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