This month, brandchannel launched a set of new glossary terms for the practice of sonic identity or sonic branding, working with Man Made Music. To kick this off and help people better understand sonic, brandchannel spoke with Kevin Perlmutter, SVP, Chief Strategist at Man Made Music, to learn more about the practice and terminology.
brandchannel: What is sonic branding and is it top of mind for brands?
Kevin Perlmutter: Sonic branding is the strategic use of sound to better engage with your desired audience. And sound is being used in brand experiences to great advantage. However, many CMOs, brand managers, experience designers spend a lot of time developing how their brand looks (visual identity) and even what it says (verbal identity), but they often neglect how their brand sounds to the detriment of customer experience. When done well, a brand’s sonic identity can be as iconic and memorable as a visual identity.
bc: Sonic identity has been around for a while, why should marketers pay more attention to it now?
KP: Today, sonic identity is more important than ever. As brands are moving well beyond advertising and becoming more experience-focused, new tools are required to successfully connect with audiences in digital touchpoints, in spaces and at live events. The strategic use of sound can be seamlessly woven through brand touchpoints to provide more familiar and more desirable brand experiences. There’s a lot of research around this—the right music improves brand experiences and metrics, where the wrong music can have the opposite effect.
bc: So, sonic identity is also about customer experience?
KP: Yes, very much so. There are a lot of correlations between customer experience and sonic identity. For example, we all know that music and sound are tied to emotion. Consciously or subconsciously, it triggers a feeling and it can change your mood in an instant. There’s new research out this year from Temkin Group, a leading authority on customer experience, which has declared 2016 as “The Year of Emotion.” Temkin notes that “emotion is the component of customer experience that has the largest impact on loyalty, but it is also the area where companies are least adept and often seemingly ignore.” In 2016, Temkin adds, “We expect to see a major jump in the number of companies that discuss, measure and design for emotion.”
bc: What does a CMO or brand manager need to know about sonic to get started?
KP: While sonic branding is a unique specialty, the process to create a sonic identity will probably feel familiar to most marketers. It involves determining where sound and music make the biggest impact in the experience, setting the strategic brief, developing core music and sound elements, and activating the sound of your brand in relevant ways across touchpoints.
Core sonic elements include a brand anthem or theme that conveys the brand story and personality. It becomes the anchor expression of the sound of your brand. There’s also a sonic logo, which is a short, two- to three second expression of the anthem and analogous to your visual logo. Those two elements can set the tone for all the other music and sounds in your brand experience. From there you can create brand navigation sounds that guide and ease navigation in digital touchpoints, or longer pieces of on-brand music for videos, retail stores, call centers or live events.
bc: How do brands know if they got it right? Is it mostly about gut reaction?
KP: Yes and no. If working with the right team of talented pros, you can trust their guts to guide you in the right direction. But you need to be sure that they are working off of the right strategic foundation—knowing what the identity is meant to communicate and what reactions it should evoke?
At Man Made Music, we like to take it a step beyond gut reaction, so we created a proprietary research capability called SonicPulse® Research. It’s like copy testing but designed specifically for how people engage with and react to music. It allows us to assess the impact and effectiveness of the music or sound, often while still in creative development. It has helped our clients know that the work is successfully delivering on the brief.
We recommend three points when using sound or music to improve the brand experience:
- Be purposeful in your approach.
- Use music and sound to convey meaning and deepen connectionwith your audience.
- Take out sonic trash—eliminate sound that is not improving the experience.
SONIC IDENTITY GLOSSARY
Brand Navigation Sounds®: Man Made Music’s proprietary approach to user experience sounds. Typically two to three seconds in length and used in digital environments, they intuitively provide guidance with functional and emotional feedback rooted in the brand’s sonic voice.
MicroCatalog™: Man Made Music’s proprietary approach to creating a set of unique, on-brand music tracks that convey brand attribution and audience relevance for any brand experience.
Music Supervision: The strategic curation, selection and placement of music that is on-brand and experience appropriate for media, spaces, call centers or live events.
Sonic Anthem: The long-form musical hero piece of a brand’s sonic identity. It’s a theme that embodies the brand’s story and personality in a way that it could not be any other brand, and becomes the anchor for all of the brand’s sonic expression.
Sonic Branding: The strategic use of music and sound to help brands better engage with their desired audiences, achieved through the use of proprietary and/or familiar sound and music that over time becomes increasingly associated with a brand in media and experience activations.
Sonic Identity: A brand’s proprietary sonic voice that conveys the brand story, enhances emotional connection and builds brand attribution. It seamlessly ties together touchpoints across communications, live and digital experiences.
Sonic Logo: The short-form expression of a brand’s sonic identity. Analogous to the visual logo, the sonic logo serves as an audio brand signature to convey meaning and personality, and to heighten attribution.
Sonic Strategy: The strategic foundation for creating a unique and proprietary sonic identity, for curating brand music or activating music and sounds for specific brand communications or experience.
SonicPulse® Research: Man Made Music’s proprietary research methodology designed specifically to assess impact and effectiveness of music and sound in triggering emotion, sparking behavior, conveying meaning and improving brand metrics.
Voice Bank: A collection of recommended on-brand voice talent that align with a brand’s sonic strategy.