What does your brand sound like? Does its audio logo reflect a modern, digital presence or a timeless, classical one? Perhaps it’s as sophisticated as a clip from Beethoven’s “Eroica”  or as country western as a Johnny Cash hit.
“Called audio branding, sonic branding, sound branding or acoustic branding, cognitive studies show that relevant sounds and musical cues can truly influence people in ways marketers want,” writes the Harvard Business Review.
Strong memory retention is triggered by auditory signals as well as visual. Frequently overlooked due to the emphasis we place on visuals and content, branding that relates to sound is every bit as compelling. And as a bonus for marketers, memory retention is aided by sound. It’s no coincidence that as children we learn the alphabet to a tune and can recall advertising jingles from decades ago.
The question is, are SME/SMB businesses and brand strategists and marketers using audio logos as part of their brand personality to their fullest potential?
The Science of Music and The Audio Logo
Successful branding reaches the parts of our brains that provoke emotions: happiness, sadness, humour, empathy, warmth, friendship, ego, needs, surprise, delight, even shock and disgust. As triggers, music and sounds play a key role to switch on one or more of these emotions, along with images and the written word.
Related: Use Psychology in Your Brand Strategy to Create Irresistible Brand Experiences and Increase Sales
Studies show that sounds can greatly influence emotions and the way we feel about something affects most purchasing decisions, too.
“Music affects the way your wine tastes. Research published by the British Journal of Psychology found out that wine tasters perceived the taste of wine differently depending on the music that played in the background. If the music was slow, the participants would describe the wine taste as ‘mellow.’
This study affects many brands because you can use music to give your brand a certain emotional appeal. In the marketing space, music can be used to speed up purchasing decisions. For example, in the high traffic retail stores, the music tends to be louder and high paced, prompting customers to shop faster, whilst in the luxury stores, the music is usually calm and slow.
Your Brand Personality Expressed Through Its Audio Logo
Strategic use of sound triggers strong emotions in its target audience which is an often underutilized but very powerful branding tool because it helps your customers identify with, relate to and recall your brand in seconds. A customised composed piece of music or sound expresses your brand’s personality through its own unique audio logo.
A jingle is one such application that’s been in use since Christmas Eve 1926 , when “The Wheaties Quartet” (perhaps this was the first boy band?) first performed on radio for the General Mills cereal.
Interestingly, General Mills’ executives had earmarked Wheaties to get the axe. However, a suddenly marked sales upturn in Minneapolis, the sole metropolitan market where the jingle was aired, indicated that there was life in the product . The Wheaties rebrand enhanced by the song was expanded nationwide and the cereal has since marked its 150th year.
Have you tried Wheaties?
They’re whole wheat with all of the bran.
Won’t you try Wheaties?
For wheat is the best food of man.
Audio Logos and Jingles for the SMB/SME Brands
According to one professional Florida-based jingle maker  in business for 50-plus years, simple, catchy jingles have a number of benefits for a small business owner:
- Audio Logos make your company more memorable, more professional
- Audio branding say a lot about your image that you cared enough to set it to music and develop a brand strategy and marketing plan for your business
- A jingle is good for the life of your business
- You can choose the genre of music that best suits your image e.g. country, classical, contemporary, rock, jazz
- Research shows that the memory retention of a commercial audio logo is 10 times faster than that of an all-talking advert and the distinct jingles are retained for years in people’s memories
- A jingle is like your letterhead or sign. It’s a musical brand logo
- If you have an audio logo or jingle, and your competition doesn’t, you’re ahead. If your competition has a jingle and you don’t, you’re behind
- A custom audio logo grabs attention, instantly identifies your brand and your message makes a lasting, positive impression and actually excites viewers and listeners about your product or service offering.
- Jingles sell.
Alka Seltzer “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz…,” since the 1960s
Create Your Audio Logo Sound With Due Care
Protect yourself. A cautionary note: Sound is intellectual property every bit as much as content, brand collateral, design, logos, and images. When considering an audio logo, it’s important to ensure that no legalities are overlooked in this context.
Did you realize these sounds are trademarked? 
- “60 Minutes” CBS television show introduction by a ticking stopwatch
- Homer Simpson cartoon character by Twentieth Century Fox says the word “D’oh!”
- The call of Tarzan by actor Johnny Weissmuller
- Darth Vader’s breathing by LucasFilm
- Rue’s four-note Mockingjay whistle in “Hunger Games”
- The Taco Bell bell
- The giggle of the Pillsbury Doughboy
- The New York Stock Exchange opening session bell
- The “Ho Ho Ho” of the Jolly Green Giant of canned vegetable fame
We’re all super busy, so building the bedrock brand strategy supporting and directing your whole business to ensure its growth and sustained longevity may not be your primary area of expertise. However, If you’d like professional branding input to grow your business, get in touch. Alternatively book one of our transformational workshops, brand building intensives or masterclasses.
Audio Logo Actions Brand Owners and Managers Can Take
Once you create a unique sound for your brand, use it consistently, liberally, and spread it around. A brand audio logo or jingle can be applied in many ways:
- Social media
- Digital adverts
- On hold messages
- Promotional videos
- Company videos
- Product launches
Top Branding Examples Using Audio Logos
If a jingle doesn’t appeal, a mere chord can do the trick. How familiar and reassuring are these brand sounds that we uniquely associate with one specific brand?
Classic audio logo examples:
- The reassuring chime when you log on and the ‘whoosh’ on an Apple device when you successfully send an email winging its way through cyberspace.
- That timeless melody from Nokia when you turned on your mobile phone.
- The roar of the MGM lion at the start of a film.
- The three notes used by NBC television since the early 1930s represent the first time a purely audio service mark was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office .
Injecting Life Into Your Brand Using Sound
If you haven’t yet used an audio logo, or if an existing sound or piece of music associated with your brand is dated or inappropriate, consider the different ways a sound logo can be incorporated as part of a rebrand or brand refresh that serves to differentiate, amplify visibility, create preference, build personality, enhance recall, and increase sales.
Sound alone is unlikely to account for a complete turnaround, such as the 90-year-old Wheaties cereal example illustrates, in today’s digital environment. However, it is remarkable to see so many brands that do not take full advantage of all the opportunities that sound offers.
Harvard Business Review points out, “…There’s one powerful branding tool that has been generally overlooked — or perhaps undervalued — by most marketers: sound.” 
If you’d like to know more about the latest advancements in the branding field, check out one of our transformational branding workshops and masterclasses. On top of providing you with invaluable information about branding trends and using sound to amplify your brand visibility, these workshops enable you to increase customer loyalty, grow market impact, make your brand highly visible and increase sales. Check out the Persona Brand Building Blueprint™ Mastermind here.
At Persona Branding and Design, we’re keen to point out that a professional brand audit helps you determine whether a rebrand is actually the appropriate strategy. A brand audit provides you with clarity on where to increase your focus because it identifies areas of strength and weakness together with opportunities for innovation and growth, be that with existing or new ideal customers, to increase your brand penetration and sales.
Abberley Luxury Yachts is a modest SME operating in a sector with very large competitors and yet they’ve created a video which expresses their brand personality and captures target audience attention very effectively. Like many SMEs/SMBs it’s all been done on a modest budget but it still sells their offering to their primary target customer with aplomb—proving that developing your own audio logo and signature style reflecting your brand personality is totally doable!
Test Yourself on Audio Logos:
Sixième Son, a global sound marketing agency, has created a quiz to demonstrate how values get translated into sounds via audio logos. See if you can match the sounds to the meanings here.
What Do You Think Your Brand Sounds Like?
- Do you want your brand to be highly memorable and well-loved?
- What emotions does your brand trigger?
- Or, what are the emotions your brand should trigger that could use a boost?
- Can you see ways in which your brand’s emotional connection can be enhanced by sound?
- Is your brand personality strong and your tone of voice clear enough to take on an appropriate and fitting application of sound as well?
- Do you think your brand would benefit from a brand audit and potentially a rebranding that could result in a visual and audio makeover?