Sonic Branding Process

Today's extract from Sonic Branding: An Introduction begins to describe the creative process associated with the development of 'sonics' - better known these days as brand anthems and mnemonics. This book was the first of its kind to introduce a process that combined branding strategy and creative thinking to develop long-term musical assets.

Chapter 18 - Creative Learning

The brand brief gives us an understanding of the brand, primarily through the verbal expressions of staff and the graphic and written expressions contained in documents. The next stage, creative learning, is where we truly start to uncover how the brand will eventually express itself in sound. We do this through a series of audits and group discussions of sonic moodboards.

Historical audit

As we saw in the first two sections, sound has been used for many years by many great brands, but in reality all brands already express themselves in sound. The vast majority have made no impact on their audiences because they have missed the crucial points of consistency over time and across touchpoints but even the most seemingly silent brands communicate through sound somewhere.

The first step in the creative learning stage involves listening to the brand's pre-existing sonic touchpoints. These will obviously vary by brand but can include historic approaches to advertising, telephone hold systems, office music, events or corporate videos. Wherever it may be, we always uncover some heritage, even if it is best forgotten. Sometimes though, the historical audit throws up some interesting, remarkable or even breakthrough information and even the most seemingly quiet brands can sometimes have a rich heritage in the use of voice or music. Music on a corporate film, for example, may have been absolutely spot—on for a brand but because of the way the project was undertaken or the cost of licensing the track, it will have become lost in the history of the brand.

The historical audit will uncover a brand’s own instinctive approach to sonics and use it as a reference for the future, consistent approach that will be implemented. Occasionally, it will even throw up a sonic branding property right under the noses of the brand guardians and when it does, it shows how uncovering a brand’s sonic heritage can be incredibly powerful for helping brand guardians to realize just how important sonic branding has been in the past for their brand.

When working recently for BP, we uncovered some sonic branding for one of their most respected sub-brands; Castrol GTX. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Castrol used a single piece of music consistently in its advertising. Even hearing it today makes me remember the ads with the oil running down the side of the can. Despite this, the BP folk, when asked if the corporation had any sonic branding gave a resounding no, until they were reminded of the sonic branding that their 1970s ad agency had provided for them. This discovery added much weight and reassurance to the sonic branding process and really brought home how powerful sonics can be.

Daniel M Jackson - CEO, CORD