A sound logo, more commonly referred to as a “sonic identity” or “acoustic branding” in the industry, goes one dimension beyond your usual graphic design logomark by engaging our ears.
This is different from a jingle, which is longer and relies on words.
Although Confucius did say, “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember…” experts have recently noted that audio identities often lead to better brand recall in today’s Reel and TikTok-dominated age.
This may be in part simply because they are too many visual logos bombarding our eyes when we step out of our homes (or even open our mobile phones).
But very few brands manage to capture the true essence of their entire brand personality, mission, and/or story in a short burst of notes. Satisfying our auditory senses is no easy feat!
Today, we’re going to look at some of the best audio logos ever created, in terms of how many people can instantly recognize the brand after hearing them!
You’ll notice some common features across these examples. Some of the core tenets of a good audio logo are:
- It’s clearly distinct & custom – not a generic sound we hear often in nature.
- It has some hint of a human personality to it, which can range from fun (Britannia) to dominating (IBM) to dramatic & provocative (Netflix).
- It’s short i.e. no longer than 10 secs.
- You can actually pronounce, sing, or even write it down (not a lot of complex sounds)
Without further ado, let’s open our ears this exciting new world of branded waves!
Netflix – Ta Dum
Netflix Vice President of Product, Todd Yellin, wanted to commission for their Netflix Originals a sound that “makes you think of ‘Wow, I’m going to get a treat. I’m about to get an amazing story, that’s relevant to me, that is most importantly cinematic in my home.'”
For this he assigned Lon Bender, an Oscar-winning sound editor who had worked on films like Braveheart (1995).
They tried all kinds of sounds, including that of a goat bleating.
Eventually, they grew a collective appreciation for the “Taaa-Dummmm” effect, which is actually a wedding band knocking on a cabinet, mixed with other audio identities to give it that sweet effect.
Britannia – Ting Ting Ti Ting
Britannia being a house of FMCG food brands has always been focused on appealing to kids and their parents, so its fitting that their audio logo exudes a cheerful personality that you can chirp with a smile any time of the day.
Louis Banks who created it said, “I do hope my tombstone has that four note signature I wrote for Britannia — you know, ting ting ti ting!”
Fox Studios – Drum Rolls
Century Fox Studios, owned by Disney since 2019, has managed to make an audio intro that’s almost synonymous to the feeling of going to the movie theater.
It packs in all the drama in a brilliant orchestra combining drum beats and trumpets that rise and fall throughout the length of the sequence.
One notable feature here is that it naturally invokes a distinct emotion of excitement and wonder, which sets the tone for the entire movie ahead.
HBO – Heavenly Static
Like the Disney intro, the HBO audio mark is split into different elements that work together to convey a message.
We start with the familiar switching on of a TV screen, followed by a burst of static reminiscent of the 90s radio quality, and end with the rising crescendo of a choir singing “AAhhhh,” which opens us up to all the possibilities of storytelling that lie ahead.
I first heard this intro sequence while watching Westworld on HBO Max, and learned that it was actually a new extended version of an old audio identity that has gone through several transformations over the years.
Metro Goldwyn Mayor – Lion
It’s a very smart decision to associate the brand with an animal sound. It’s something we can recognize easily but don’t hear often in our daily lives (unless you’re a zookeeper or wild life ranger).
Curiously, the MGM Lion, whose name was Leo/Slats from the Dublin Zoo, first appeared without sound in their productions’ intros but once the roar was added, there was no going back.
Fun fact – the Latin motto that surrounds Leo’s face in the logo reads “Ars Gratia Artis” i.e. “Art for Art’s Sake.”
I will never forget this audio, especially as it was paired with the tunes of my favorite childhood show Tom & Jerry.
McDonald’s – Para Pa Pa Pa
McDonald’s positioning has been creating a family-friendly place where everyone could go and be happy, so that is the same personality that spills over into their tagline “I’m lovin’ it,” which has its roots in Pharell Williams’ pop single with Justin Timberlake.
This tagline has often been accompanied by the joyous “Para Pa Pa Pa” singing in the outro of their legacy ads. A more simplistic whistling version has been commonly adapted in recent times.
Either way, what makes this audio logo work is its universality across countries and cultures. You don’t have to know any language to feel happy and amped up after listening to it.
Disney – When You Wish Upon a Star
Disney has always banked on its nostalgia factor, positioning itself as the place where every child’s dreams come true.
Its audio logo, used consistently with its iconic castle sequence, captures its Founder’s imagination in the most beautiful way possible.
Each element has a distinct flavor to it, starting from the tinkle of a star to the rising orchestra, to the heavy crescendo of trumpets towards the end – listening to the piece once will instantly take you back to your wonder years.
Intel – Switch on
For B2B brands, getting their audio mark right is one level trickier because ideally, it should also convey the brand’s functional purpose or industry along with the personality.
After all, business decision makers are interested more in the baseline and use for the products they’re incorporating into their operation.
Intel’s legacy sound is a good example of how to nail this challenge. After being used for over two decades, it has become almost synonymous to the experience of switching on a new PC. It does take some cues from the older Microsoft Windows startup sound.
It’s just the right amount of fast but for some reason has a corporate office-y vibe to it, which works given the industry Intel is in.
Curiously enough, Intel went through a major brand revamp in 2020, adopting a 2D flat logo that’s more modern, standardized, and clean.
Their audio mark is also now faster, more muted, and a bit robotic, leaning more towards digitally generated music than acoustic symphonies.
This follows a major trend of rebrand efforts in the last decade, with Burger King, Subway, and many other brands compressing their identities to work well on flat screens in the digital age.
Which one did you like more? The original or the new one?
THX – The Deep Sound
For a company that literally deals in audio technology, having a grand sonic logo is non-negotiable.
You’ve probably heard this royal & heavy tune in theaters a million times, and the acoustics are perfectly designed to echo in that kind of environment.
I like that it takes its own time to evolve into a full-fledged deep “aummm” over a span of 22 seconds, probably the longest in our list of examples.
Coca Cola ~ Taste the Feeling
Coca Cola recently revamped its sonic identity, and while this is too complex of a logo in my personal opinion, I still want to include it in the list because I loved the entire thought process behind it.
Watch this video to understand how you can develop a sonic brand for your business by understanding & translating your core consumer experience into a memorable tune.
This campaign looks like it was done in collaboration with Paramount.
In this article, we saw, or rather heart some of the most iconic examples of audio branding from both Western and Indian brands.
Audio logos are now becoming so common that brands like Britannia and Netflix have started using them in other mediums as well, such as print copy and OOH.
With AV content taking over, having a distinct audio association for your brand is something that should be on every marketer’s list.
Furthermore, with the rising demand for devices like Amazon Alexa-powered Echo and Google Home Assistant, it only makes sense to have a custom audio intro/outro for your brand’s skill/app.
Research has shown that investing in this area will not only lead to greater brand recall but also increase your sales over time.
Which example did you like the most? Did we miss out any good ones? Let us know in the comments below!
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