Born from Entertainment: Sonic Branding as a Storytelling Tool

by Mike Stango,  Director, Global Brand Partnerships


Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

One of the most acclaimed films of the 20th century. Even if you haven’t seen it in its entirety, you likely know the famous shower scene. Filmed with 78 camera setups, pieced together with 52 cuts, running at 45 seconds in length and accompanied by one legendary score that slices through to your core.

The first time I watched that scene, the string trills shot shivers down my spine. It felt as though, in that moment, the knife was piercing my skin. It was without a doubt one of the most horrifying scenes I’d ever watched.

And then I watched it again, but this time? Muted. Everything I had felt the first time around was gone.

And then I watched it again, but this time? Muted. Everything I had felt the first time around was gone. It was a wildly different experience — the fear was replaced with humor as I then fixated on the comedic stabbing style of Norman Bates.

This is just one great example of the power of music and sound: the subconscious response that stirs your emotions in a way nothing else can. And I think this is what Made Music Studio Founder Joel Beckerman realized brands needed when he shifted his focus from composing for film and television to pioneering sonic branding.



Made Music Studio is, quite literally, born from entertainment. Founded by Joel over 20 years ago, we are now run by creatives that come from every part of the entertainment industry. From Broadway musicals, platinum records and world tours to studio jam sessions and basement shows, our team is deeply rooted in the world of entertainment.

For a myriad reasons, it turns out not that many brands have the specific goal of sounding like Hermann’s horror masterpiece, but the idea is to employ that level of rigor and tell the brand story through the lens of entertainment. When we take this approach and create iconic, enduring music and sound, we have the opportunity to build lasting emotional connections between brands and their consumers­. We do this for fortune 500 companies like American Express and AT&T, consumer brands such as Nature Valley and SmileDirectClub, and of course entertainment leaders such as HBO and ESPN.

Beyond typical marketing tactics, we’re now even utilizing our experience and understanding of the entertainment world for cutting edge technology, such as household robotic products, Amazon Echo voice skills, and electric vehicles in the Nissan fleet. As proven by SonicPulse® Research data that we’ve done with our partners at Sentient Decision Science, sound is a major subconscious driver in whether a user will engage or avoid an experience. Brands need to be sure their product experience is entertaining consumers and connecting with them if they want to build highly coveted brand loyalty.

Sound and music can immediately signal whether we will relate to a brand, its message, or the experience it’s providing us. It subconsciously answers the questions, Is this brand for me?, Does this brand see me?, and How will this brand make me feel if I buy what it’s selling?. Every brand touchpoint is an opportunity to both entertain your audience and drive home that emotional connection.

Hitchcock had initially planned to keep his shower sequence sans music, but thankfully for all of us, composer Bernard Hermann was able to convince him otherwise (and effectively double his pay at the same time). If your sonic identity is executed correctly, you’ll be remembered and loved. But if overlooked, you’ll end up with a forgettable shower scene and a huge missed opportunity.

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