Wed Jun 8th 2011

What should your brand sound like?

What do a baby giggle, a vibrating phone and a cash register have in common?

According to a study by Elias Arts, a sound identity company, these three sounds are more capable of eliciting physical responses than any other sound in the world. The only sound as capable as these of triggering cellular, ocular and neurological responses is an audio logo for a thing most of us have never seen-an Intel chip.

In February of 2010, Fast Company published an article that identified the 10 most addictive sounds in the world. To identify these sounds researchers wired subjects to instruments that would measure different “micro-responses” to determine which sounds people were more drawn to.

In the end, a baby giggle was the number one most addictive sound in the world followed by the familiar Intel audio logo, vibrating cell phone and an ATM/cash register respectively.

Yet for all the opportunities that exist to create brand appeal using auditory devices, 83% of all the advertising communication we are exposed to daily focuses almost exclusively on our sense of sight. Meanwhile, all it takes is a couple of notes from a song that was popular when you experienced your first crush to transport you to another place in time. Sound is powerful.

Which begs the question, “What should my brand sound like?”

Quite simply, a brand should sound like it looks, like it smells, like it feels and/or like it tastes. Which sounds a little crazy until you consider the work of experimental psychologist Charles Spence whose work has had a major influence on the way many companies strategically develop auditory brand mnemonics.

In 2008 Spence received a Nobel award for an article about the role of auditory cues in modulating the perceived freshness of potato chips.

Other research in crossmodal studies has shown that dark flavors and smells like chocolate or coffee tend to be more congruent with low tones whereas colors and flavors that are bright, tangy or sour tend to be more congruent with higher pitches.

In much the same way as a potato chip can make a right sound and a wrong sound, so can a brand be properly and improperly represented by the sounds people experience when they come into contact with it.

The impact of sounds that are congruent with other brand attributes is so profound, in fact, that sound properly paired with imagery, flavor, smell, texture or any other tactile “instrument” makes a communication 1107% more effective, according to Steve Keller, CEO of the IV group, an audio branding firm with offices in Nashville and Frankfurt, Germany.

Branding with sound is something few brands do well, and is quite possibly one of the final frontiers in connecting with consumers at the deepest level possible.

What is the sound of your brand?

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