2. Sonic Branding: An Introduction

13 years ago, our CEO Daniel M Jackson wrote a book that marked a seminal moment in the history of sonic branding.  It emphasised the importance of sound and the missed opportunities that brands face when they don't take the time to consider how to use music and sound in their brand communications. The book is called ‘Sonic Branding: An Introduction’ and has been described as 'fascinating... erudite and entertaining in equal measure'. Over the coming weeks we will be sharing sections of the book.

PART I

What is Sonic Branding?

There is nothing new under the sun but there are many things that go unnoticed. Sonic branding seemed like a new idea in the 1980s but its roots go back much further. The primordial value of music in our culture has meant that history is strewn with lessons that are of value to the discipline of sonic branding today. This is lucky, because our understanding of brands and how they interact with us is sophisticated enough for us to relate that sonic branding can mean many different things in many different scenarios.

There is a rich history of brands using music or sound in their communications. Similarly, there is a fantastic amount to be learned about how the dominant art-form of our age, the movie, has influenced what we hear and the way we hear it. Movie music has provided us with a common musical language. Thanks to the movies, for example, we all know that violins playing fast, high-pitched notes repeatedly rising (as in the shower scene of Hitchcock’s Psycho) are very scary. Similarly, we know that a rising minor second interval (the smallest gap between two notes on a piano), bowed on a double bass, means that a shark attack is about to take place (John Williams, Jaws). Perhaps more importantly, the movie business, with its three-way creative relationship between writer, director and composer give sonic branding its working model. For us, the triumvirate of brand, client and sonic branding composer, are inter-related in very similar ways.

In this chapter, we will briefly examine the scope and nature of sonic branding, defining a few key terms as we go. We will then examine the parallel histories of the jingle, music in advertising and the Hollywood music industries as they form the foundations for the strategic and creative lessons of sonic branding. They are also areas of the culture where new technology has presented challenges and opportunities for communications, the solutions to which are applicable to almost all brands in the electronic age.

Daniel M Jackson, CEO - CORD