Case Study:
American Express

the big picture

American Express came to Made Music Studio seeking a global sonic solution that would scale all of their brand touchpoints; from payment sounds and advertising to their premiere Centurion Lounges, and across a multitude of activations, from Coachella to the U.S. Open. Their goal was to heighten their emotional appeal, elevate the customer experience, and futureproof their brand.

Made Music Studio knew the solutions to reach the goals of increased appeal and an elevated brand experience would demand a powerful brand theme, an iconic sonic logo, and an intuitive sound of pay as a start. It was imperative that these brand sounds could flex across all platforms and into experiential physical spaces.

The world is really marching toward a sonic audio environment, and it is so important that we stand out.

– Elizabeth Rutledge, Chief Marketing Officer, American Express

the challenge

American Express needed a brand solution to address the seismic behavioral shifts taking place with consumers as they moved to mobile, voice and audio-first technologies for purchasing. The iconic physical representation of the American Express brand — the card — was rapidly declining in use. In 2019, the majority of card transactions were completed without an American Express card in hand.

With contactless payments quickly becoming the de facto method for payments and experiencing the American Express brand, they needed an ownable suite of sounds that also communicated security, speed and confirmation. The required suite of sounds would need to work hard across the brand’s ecosystem from mobile payments to music festivals. They needed an iconic sound that day-to-day customers would come to know, trust, and recognize for years to come.

As a truly global brand, American Express needed a sonic identity that performed consistently and positively across international markets.

the approach

Our creative team needed to develop a full sonic identity system that could flex across the entirety of the American Express brand – including an iconic sonic logo in communications, a wide range of custom soundscapes for sponsorships and experiences, and a payment sound designed specifically for contactless payments.

We took a “thinking big to deliver on small” approach to the creative process. We knew that the piece of music/theme was going to have to speak to a global audience that manifested the heritage, security and trust of the brand. We also knew that the one of the most important consumer touchpoints moving forward would be the payment experience. So, we asked the question: from this theme, could we create a short form sound that evoked security while establishing brand recognition? Our final creative solutions were each tested, as part of our SonicPulse® research, to ensure that we had significantly enhanced the emotional appeal of the brand as well as created an intuitive sound of pay that was positive and reassuring to consumers.

We can’t just be in people’s wallets, we need to be in their hearts

– Andrew Goldberg, SVP, Global Brand Planning and Content, American Express

the results

From across social media and embedded into all campaign ads, throughout the Centurion Lounge and at Amex sponsored event access points, hundreds of millions of people across the globe have heard the new sound of American Express…and counting.

In the highly competitive payment sound space, American Express significantly outperforms every other pay sound in the market on key payment experience attributes, including Venmo, Apple Pay and Visa.

In fact, research shows that the American Express sonic identity transformed a typical, anxiety-inducing in-store transaction into a positive emotional experience for the consumer. Consumers were almost twice as willing to repeat the sonic experience of American Express versus that of Visa and Venmo.

There will be continued rollouts of the American Express sonic identity, including across all their pay terminals globally. The new sound of American Express is already on its way to iconic status, recognizable to consumers around the world.

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