In a world of increasing visual clutter, has the traditional logo lost its impact? If so, what can marketers do to identify and differentiate their brands?
A visual logo is not a brand, of course. Its job is to represent the essence of its brand’s character – to introduce it if we don’t know it, or to remind us of it if we do. As a photograph is to a person, a logo is to a brand. Visual logos have started to run into diminishing returns.
We call the problem ‘over-messaging’. Each of us now encounters 30,000 commercial messages every single day. And the vast majority of them are visual.
This brings huge power to audio branding and sonic logos. By sonic logo, we mean a short sonic mnemonics that are the exact audio counterparts of the visual logo. Sonic logos are still quite rare, compared to visual logos. Used wisely, they work exceptionally well. They also have a surprisingly long pedigree.
Sonic logos have actually been around for hundreds of years. Tradesman used to advertise their services through street calling. A modern equivalent is the ice cream van. Just watch the effect of its chimes on a hot summer’s day to understand the potential impact of a sonic logo, used in the right place at the right time. (Most ice cream chimes are generic, but in Sweden the Hemglass ice cream tune is a well known and loved sonic brand.)
As soon as audio-visual advertising came to be, jingles and tag-lines were born. The dividing line between jingle or a tagline an a sonic logo is blurred. In general, jingles and taglines come and go with campaigns and rarely live for more than a few years. Even the most memorable usually get retired.
Over the years, some sonic logos have even been registered as trademarks or service marks. The roar of the MGM lion and the old NBC three-tone chime are two examples.
But it wasn’t until the 1990s that sonic logos started to be taken seriously. The change came with Intel. Its five-note sonic logo has become one of the best-known sounds in the world. It has spearheaded Intel’s success as a brand – given that this is a product nobody ever sees and nobody ever buys.
Today, sonic brands are more in play then ever before. Apple, for example, has a consistent start-up sound. (This is in contrast to the sound of Windows, which has changed with every successive version – so now there is no sound of Windows!) McDonalds is “loving it”. Even sports teams, political parties have started turning to audio branding.
More and more major brands are creating a sonic logo as a matter of course. And with the continuing rise of mobile internet and devices, marketers have not yet scratched the surface of the sonic logo.
Is it time your brand found its voice – before your competitors find theirs?