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5 Biggest Sonic Branding Mistakes

Sonic Branding Mistake

Most of us know what big companies look like. They’ve spent millions of dollars on market research, focus groups, graphics designers, social media and televisions spots. Some of these companies are iconic brands: Apple, Microsoft, Intel, General Motors, Nike, etc. And they all feature highly refined logos and graphic consistency.

But what do they sound like?

Branding has been a hot concept for the past 20 years, but with the advent of social and digital media, companies are starting to pay more attention to their audio brand. At Stephen Arnold Music, we call it Sonic Branding. It’s that audio chewing gum that sticks in your head, an aural logo of a company or service. Think Intel, McDonald’s, Netflix, HBO, or T-Mobile. And then there’s that Microsoft sound every time you turn on a Windows computer. Those are some great audio signatures and pretty memorable too, right? But their success was not a given.

So, what mistakes should a company avoid when developing a memorable sonic brand? Here are a few:


1. Doing Nothing

A lack of sound is NOT an audio brand. Since sound triggers the brain much quicker than visuals, it’s not only a missed opportunity for a company, it’s a brand equity loss whenever your company’s visual logo is presented. You live in a very competitive marketplace and it’s critical for your company to strategically distinguish itself. A strong sonic brand can go a long way in extending your company’s imagery and memorability.


2. Doing Something, Badly

Simply attaching any random, nice sound to a company logo is neither distinctive, nor prudent. Don’t do it.


3. Relying on a “Jingle”

“Hey guys! Here’s cool little rhyme we can put to music. My sister made it in GarageBand!” OK… so that’s not a strategy. While it may sound fun in the short run, chances are it does not reflect the overall brand strategy and company vision. Jingles are generally cheaply made, overly long, and usually lyric-based. Most are less than memorable. Aligning an effective audio signature with a company’s brand is a strategic process which involves hard work, and best not attempted in a relatives’ basement.


4. Not Being Consistent

So, you’ve done your research and developed an effective, memorable audio signature for your brand. And it sounded great on the last marketing presentation. But that’s just the beginning of the process. Your sonic brand should exist with every single piece of video, digital and social communications when possible. Over time, that consistency will become a shorthand for your brand. Listen to this Coca-Cola 2019 Super Bowl commercial. Their classic 8-note signature has consistently and strategically evolved over decades of advertising, but it still says “Coke”.


5. It’s Too Complicated

A great sonic brand is not a 2 minute-long opus. It’s a short sequence of notes that resolve in a way that reflects or elevates a company’s brand or vision statement. It is brevity combined with the right melody that evokes the emotion you want the customer or client to feel and remember. Simplicity is the key. But making something simple and memorable is not as easy as it sounds. For inspiration, here’s a great playlist of some of the simplest and most enduring sonic brands of all time.


There are plenty of mistakes you can make while developing a sonic brand. The best way to avoid them? Simply contact us at Stephen Arnold Music – Sonic Branding is what we do!

Email us here or give us a call at 214.726.1600.  We’re here to help.

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