Using Sound to Build Engagement and Brand Equity

Posted by Adrion Porter, Oct 04, 2012 3 comments

Adrion Porter

Is your brand being heard and not just seen?

That is the question that companies should answer with an emphatic YES! Yet many marketers focus their time and resources primarily on visual stimuli to create brand awareness. As the marketplace is becoming more crowded, brands are challenged to break through the clutter and distinguish themselves from the competition.

This calls for a need to embrace innovative methods of reaching consumers beyond the eyes, but also through the “ears.” Here lies one of the most powerful, yet under-utilized branding tools—sound.

Why is Sound Essential to Brand Performance?

One word…Emotion.

Research has proven that sound has a direct path to the emotional and memory parts of the brain. Think about those special moments when music and sound have altered our mood, enhanced feelings, and guided us to places long forgotten. Hearing the sound of birdsong in the morning; an opening theme from a television show; or the sound of our mother’s voice.

As more consumers make purchase decisions driven by emotion rather than function, having sound as part of an identity system allows for brands to resonate in ways that visuals cannot. Audio branding communicates those intangible brand associations that pull at the heartstrings and create unforgettable experiences.

Some brands have been successful market leaders at harnessing the power of music and sound with great effect. McDonald’s “Ba-da-ba-ba-baah…I’m Lovin It" is just as recognizable as the golden arches.

The start-up sound of a MacBook Pro provides an emotional trigger to Apple enthusiasts.

Along with the peacock, the NBC three-tone chimes are the network’s brand assets.

Probably the most famous sonic signature is from Intel, which has literally has created a sound of the computer processor. Consider the last time you saw (or should I say heard) an Intel Inside commercial.

I would argue that their ubiquitous 5-note “sonic logo” defines their brand probably more than the visual logo. You may not know what a computer chip looks like, but I’m sure you could easily hum the Intel sound.

Audio branding can even span beyond music, melody, and product sound. The human voice is also a powerful asset that can be effective at reflecting a brand’s personality.

Take for instance Allstate and how they feature the actor Dennis Haysbert in the bulk of their advertisements.

His commanding and resonant voice is a perfect match to help deliver Allstate’s brand promise of reliability, comfort, and security.

Monetizing Emotion

Consumers today are very fickle and picky about which brands they want to develop relationships with.

Time is precious and companies have short windows of opportunity to truly inspire and captivate their audience. Focusing on just the sense of sight only limits a brand’s quest to broaden awareness and truly define who they are.

A strategic application of audio branding has the unique ability to heighten the overall brand experience, and provide greater returns. Why? Because music and sound helps to not only increase mindshare, but also “heart-share.”

It is all about emotional engagement, which is the best brand investment for your marketing dollars.

3 responses for Using Sound to Build Engagement and Brand Equity


October 05, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Hey Catherine,

Thank you very much your response and glad you enjoyed the article. Also, great to hear that you are diving right in to the study of psychoacoustics and audience engagement with your masters research!

To your question regarding "power of sound" and symphonies - I definitely believe that there is a direct correlation between emotion and orchestra performances. Actually, orchestral music provides one of the most emotional audible experiences in comparison to other genres. The colorful and thematic nature of a symphony with its "movements" and collective of instruments, delivers such a powerful sound that can both heard and felt.

Some of the most famous symphonies, such as Beethoven's No. 5, have been used numerous times in television and movies because its emotional impact on the storyline, various scenes, opening sequence, etc. For example, try and think of Star Wars without the great musical score from John Williams. The orchestration of that music significantly amplifies the visual "grandness" of the Star Wars saga.

People attend a symphony to escape into an emotional and engaging journey. We want to be swept away in the magic of hearing the different colors and textures of woodwinds, brass, and percussion. This is a powerful experience that speaks directly to what a great performance and audience relationship should be about...emotion!

If only more brands would use these same principles in developing engagement strategies. But I have faith that they are beginning to see the light and "hear" the noise!

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October 29, 2012 at 3:52 pm

I apologize for not responding to you sooner, Adrion! What a wonderful response. I am so excited about these insights.

"This is a powerful experience that speaks directly to what a great performance and audience relationship should be about…emotion!"

Are there resources you would recommend for my research? I am focusing my project on Millennial audience/donor engagement with symphony orchestras. Ideas?

Thank you so much!


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October 05, 2012 at 8:14 am

I am intrigued by your article. Are you familiar with Andrew Kahn's Good Ear Music Supervision ( I am doing my masters research on audience engagement with respect to symphony orchestra performance. I believe so passionately in the power of sound and its emotional capabilities. How would you apply these ideas in the orchestra concert experience?



P.S. I love this ARTSblog week!

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