How a peacock introduced the first sonic brand. A true story. By Stephen Arnold
Way more mellifluous than a squawk. More memorable than than any chirp, hoot, cluck or quack could ever be. Over ninety years ago, the National Broadcasting Company—the broadcast network that years later would be canonized as the proud peacock—aired three distinctive chimes on radio for the very first time. Chimes that global marketing experts have long identified as the first use of a “sonic” brand. A series of sounds so unmistakable that just by reading this article, you can summon those esteemed chimes in your mind at this very moment. That’s some pretty strong mojo.
Let’s dig into the science behind sonic branding. Sound has long been recognized as a powerful vehicle that can influence behavior and color our perception. And there is solid science behind it. Our brains’ auditory neural pathways are less complex than their visual counterparts, which means humans can respond to sounds up to 100 times faster than they can to visual images.
Sound informs our deepest emotional instincts and slips past our rational brain. The combination of music and sound is unrivaled in its power to deliver emotional potency and deep resonance. It commands attention, arouses intrigue while at the same time engendering customer engagement and loyalty.
Brands have to fight clutter and chaos everywhere. Tens of thousands of messages and experiences bombard us every week. It’s never been more important to establish clarity, differentiation and consistency for your brand at every point of interaction. Including the ears of your customers. Brands that stimulate our senses evoke emotion, creating a deeper, more resonant brand experience.
What does your brand sound like? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t thought about this. In the same way a brand has graphics guidelines and a logo to help differentiate it from its competitors, its brand stewards must also develop a sonic identity to round out the brand personality. And they must manage that identity with the same zeal with which they manage the visual brand.
Sonic branding should be integral to any brand’s journey. Advertisers now have the ability to harness the power of soundto connect in new and meaningful ways with consumers, to grab attention, create emotional bonds, strengthen recall and drive purchasing intent. Your brand needs a coherent sonic strategy which compliments its visual, social and cultural equity, across all available touch points; a soundtrack that’s so indelible to your brand, that should your consumer hear a piece of sonic collateral for the first time, the integration of its core sonic DNA makes your brand instantly identifiable. Just like those three simple chimes still do for NBC.
Stephen Arnold is the founder and creative director of Dallas-based Stephen Arnold Music, creators of classic sonic brands for Augusta National, CGTN China, CNN, ESPN, FOX, Gearbox, GuideStone Financial, HBO, NVIDIA and Sony Interactive. “NBC”, the “Peacock” and the NBC chimes are all registered trademarks of the National Broadcasting Company. © 2019 Stephen Arnold Music, The World’s Leader in Sonic Branding®