3 Things You’ll Learn from the Sonic Branding Process

by Elizabeth Kasper

VP, Head of Client Services, Made Music Studio

So you’re deciding whether to stop worrying and embrace sonic branding. You are not alone in your new interest in audio. In fact, in the last year we have seen a 21% increase in brands adopting sonic identities for the first time.

But you may be wondering: what does it mean to embark on a journey to develop the sound of your brand? It’s a tricky one. You can’t hold sound in your hand or look at it on a piece of paper. It’s not a visual identity defined by color palettes and fonts, nor a logo printed on a box.

The process can feel intimidating, especially for those who have never explored sonic branding before. Yet with the growing ability to quantitatively measure the impact of sound for your brand, and sound’s proven ability to create enduring emotional connections with consumers, sound is becoming more than a nice to have — it is a must have. It’s a process that will challenge you to understand your brand on a deeper, emotional level and change the way your brand is experienced in the world.

As a member of the Client Services team at Made Music Studio, my favorite part of the job is ushering clients through the trials, tribulations and triumphs of creating a sonic identity system.

In collaborating with clients over the years, I’ve noticed a few universal lessons learned that may inspire you to take the leap into sonic branding.

1. Music feedback comes in many forms.

Often new clients assume that they lack the training in music to be a good partner in the sonic branding process. In actuality, you don’t need to be a professional musician or an educated critic in order to provide helpful feedback on music. On almost every single project I’ve worked, I have heard a client say, “I’m not an expert,” “I’m going to use the wrong words,” or “I have no idea what I’m trying to say.” Indeed, creative reviews and providing feedback on music is a muscle that’s tough to stretch.

After over 7 years working with Made Music, I can assure you that an experienced creative team can tease unbelievably productive, profound and insightful feedback from almost any reaction. You know your brand better than anyone — and sometimes we find those instinctive, gut level reactions end up being the most helpful as we home in on your sonic identity! After all, music and sound are meant to generate emotional responses. You know what feels right for your brand.

2. There are always new things to learn about your brand.

When we begin evaluating musical ideas for a new sonic identity, the question we always ask is “Does this sound like your brand?” or “Does this feel like your brand?” Part of our role is to hold up a mirror to challenge you, the brand expert, on finding the right fit and telling the story your brand wants to tell. You’d be surprised how that question cracks open thoughtful conversations on a brand’s identity and aspirations, the meaning of a brand’s mission statement and how a brand wants people to feel.

Throughout the process, you’ll find yourself questioning brand attributes, solidifying messaging and gaining a more holistic understanding of your brand, resulting in a sonic identity that is uniquely iconic.

3. Sound can reach consumers wherever they are.

When we get into the actual building of your bespoke sonic identity, we always start by developing a brand theme (a long musical piece that tells the entirety of a brand’s story) and a sonic logo (and a short form analogous to a visual logo that lasts about 3 seconds long). But in an audio-first world, those sounds don’t just live at the end of TV and radio spots.

While developing the sound of your brand, we explore all the places that music & sound can make an impact in your brand’s ecosystem. This may include contextualizing music at every sound-on touch point — within your retail space, your on-hold music, your advertisements, your products and even your aquarium tank, if that is an important touch point of your brand experience. Along the way, you’ll learn about speakers and specifications, acoustic materials and file delivery formats. But most importantly: you’ll be challenged to imagine all the possibilities for music to enhance your brand’s relationship to the customer.

While the many challenges of working with sound and music can seem daunting for newcomers, the good news is by the end of this process you will have deepened your knowledge and expertise as a marketing leader on what it takes to build a sonic identity. And besides that, I can assure you: it will also be one of the most fun projects you’ve ever worked on.

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