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Why Sonic Branding Matters Now More Than Ever

Jourdan Aldredge

May 12, 2022

Believe it or not, every major brand in the world has a signature sound associated with it. Whether it’s a subtle noise like the single chord you hear when you turn on a Mac product, or the very distinct melody you hear as part of NBC’s three-note jingle, these brand sounds are all around us.

Yet, as prevalent as this form of marketing is, sonic branding is not as well known or discussed as other forms of branding. For example, everyone knows the Pixar visual branding and intro video, but very few of us instantly think of the sounds behind them. 

But what are these sonic logos, and how can a few notes of acoustic branding actually create an audio identity that elicits brand recall?

Let's explore what sonic branding really means and how sonic branding helps to evoke an emotional response in your target audience. We’ll explore some basic definitions, go over some great sound branding examples, and finally help you develop your own sonic brand identity.


What is sonic branding?

Let’s start by going over some basic definitions at first:

  • Sonic: denoting, relating to, or of the nature of sound or sound waves.
  • Branding: the promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.

As such, when you combine the two, “sonic branding” refers to how sound (or sound waves) can be used to connect a listener with a particular brand or company. As mentioned above, these sounds can be anything from a short audio clip to a full song or jingle — all it really needs to do is make this important auditory connection.

Why sound branding is important



But what is this connection and why is it important, you ask? Well, sonic branding is important for the same reasons that visual branding (or any other types of branding) is important: It conveys all types of information about your company or brand.

Branding has been used by advertisers for hundreds of years as a way to subtly (or overtly) allow customers and clients to know what to expect from your company. Branding makes an instant impression and can also be used to distinguish your brand from your competitors, as well as reassure consumers that your brand is the best option.

Similar to how customers feel when they see specific colors or images, sonic branding can incorporate audio cues which gives instant connotations to specific feelings which you might want associated with your brand.

Good examples of audio branding

Now, let’s check out some audio branding examples in action. From McDonald’s to Xbox, these companies have distinct sonic branding to go along with their logos and animations. 



In fact, if you were to close your eyes and watch the video above, you’d be very likely to recognize each of the brands. And you might even be surprised by some of the ways your brain associates the audio notes to your feelings.

Here are several more great sonic branding examples:

  • AOL’s “You’ve Got Mail” notification
  • Apple’s iPhone ringtone
  • ESPN’s “da-da-da, da-da-da” jingle
  • Sony’s Playstation startup sound
  • Window 96 startup sound

But it’s not just large conglomerates that we can use for sonic branding examples. In fact you could argue that pretty much any brand that has any sort of video or audio footprint has used sonic branding (whether they mean to or not) simply in how they’ve decided to add audio to their logos and animations.

Which brings us to the discussion of how and when you should be using sonic branding for your own brands and projects

Tips for developing your sonic brand identity

When starting on your own sonic identity, a good number to keep in mind is 0.146 seconds. That’s because it only takes 146th of a second for the human ear to hear and respond to an audio cue. Which means that the sounds in your videos, radio commercials, podcasts, etc. are quite capable of immediate impact.

As such, the trick to developing your own sonic branding and overall audio brand identity really comes down to 1) understanding your own brand and goals and 2) learning how to use the right audio tones and tools to convey your brand’s emotions quickly and accurately.

Here are some basic tips to follow:

  • Work off your current logos and color aesthetics: Just as certain colors evoke specific emotions, certain sounds work the same way. So draw from your current colors and brand aesthetics as a base for forming your own sonic branding.
  • Keep it short and simple (and memorable): As you can hear in many of the examples above, the best sonic logo jingles are short, quick, and to the point.
  • Don’t be afraid to update your sonic branding (but keep it consistent): Just like with logos and animations, it’s perfectly OK to update your sonic branding from time to time. However, keep the core elements the same so that audiences can still recognize it as yours.
  • Use pleasant tones and harmony: The best sonic brands are the ones that make customers feel happy. That’s in part because they’re using elements like major chords and harmonies as part of their musical theory arrangements.
  • Say something about your brand in your audio: The best sonic brands are the ones that are subtly telling you something about their brand. Try to incorporate elements from your actual product or offering into your audio cue or jingle.

At the end of the day, your sonic brand really should be a holistic part of your complete brand identity. Whether you work with a marketing agency or have developed your brand identity yourself or in-house, these audio elements should really be an embedded part of your brand’s core.

Further reading

Hopefully this new understanding of sonic branding will help you create the right sounds for your own brand moving forward. If you'd like to check out some other cool tricks for developing your own sonic identity, check out these great articles from the Soundstripe blog: