There's a new sherif in town when it comes to key elements in sonic branding. The ultra short, instrumental brand signifier which seems to fit perfectly with the demands and requirements in todays digital marketing.
You have probably stumbled upon at least one of the following phrases: sound logo, audio mnemonic, audio ident, sound trademark, acoustic signature, sonic logo—and most likely other similar ones.
These are all interchangeable labels in circulation, describing the same rapidly growing phenomenon of using a short-lasting (typically between 2 and 6 seconds) and rounded sound event to aurally connote a given brand. This definition also distinguishes it from other auditive brand elements such as brand song/music or background music—which are often longer-lasting.
The most frequent use is found in the classic audio-visual symbiosis: A brand’s visual logo accompanied by a distinctive sound or melody.
(We won’t mention the extremely tarnished examples of Intel and McDonald’s so here is a slightly tarnished one instead:)
A great contemporary example is the Netflix “Ta-Dum” sound kinda reminiscent of the percussive hits of the Universal Studios ‘ballyhoo-fanfare’ and excitement-inducing sustain from the THX Deep Note—both classics in cinematic culture.
An equivalent to the visual logo
The fact that a sound logo can be seen as an acoustic equivalent of a visual logo and because they often play into each other’s hands—providing a multi-sensory enhanced brand asset—explains the reason behind the highly used “logo” in the name.
Moreover, we often see sound logos as an integrated part of a holistic sound identity and sometimes they can even be the pivot, since they are able to express the very motif (a short musical idea or melody) of such identity.
Check this one out! The Renault sound logo is used as the main musical idea (melody) for the background music of the brand film forming a synthesis and defining an auditive identity.
Sonic branding in short form
Two major functions are relevant to highlight when seeking to understand how a sound logo works in the wild: One is namely of a ‘heraldic’ function: drawing the listeners attention to whatever the logo is a logo for, whether a company, product, organisation, service, radio/TV, et cetera, and the other one is regarding identity: Aurally expressing the values of the brand in question.
As a guideline we at Unmute like to divide sonic logos into melodic or sonorous according to which one of them is most significant. We can then determine their sonic character depending on whether the function is as an opener or a sign-off:
The opener is often powerful (like the melodic 20th Century Fox fanfare) or suspenseful (like the sonorous Netflix and THX) to indulge excitement and anticipation. The sign-off, on the other hand, is more free and varying and it is the most common one in advertising today—Renault’s sound logo would fit in this category as a melodic sign-off.