Gather 'round kids, it's time for the story about the sonic identity of Danmarks Radio.
As part of a big and still on-going rebranding of Danmarks Radio (the Danish equivalent to BBC), DR Design, their in-house design agency, commissioned Unmute to develop a sonic identity - to co-exist with the new visual identity and aligned with their new brand strategy.
Being the biggest media brand and public service provider in Denmark this audio branding project was of high priority with many stakeholders across a rather complex organisation. But also a classic audio branding project, because it’s based on all the fundamental principles: a clear creative concept, an iterative creation process and deployment of many unique audio brand assets for various platforms followed by written guidelines for best practice.
Because of the complexity of DR with its many channels, sub brands and platforms, the project is still on-going, meaning that it’s being implemented over time, bid by bid. The core audio DNA and basic elements are in place but assets for all their sub brands are still being created as we speak.
The story of Danmarks Radio
Danmarks Radio was established back in 1925 as a state owned radio station with classical orchestras and choirs. In the 1950’s TV was introduced and up until 1988 DR was the only TV-station in the country.
A lot has happened since then and the media market in Denmark looks completely different now. To adapt to the new digital, streaming-first world order DR has undergone a huge transformation, putting all their focus on online platforms. Making them competitive with streaming giants like Netflix and Disney+ without losing their non-commercial public service heritage.
Being a public service station DR also delivers on education, culture projects and social initiatives which makes them a brand almost every Dane uses one way or the other.
Coherency through audio
For almost 100 years Danmarks Radio has been a media and culture institution serving the Danes public service and entertainment. For the first time ever, and together with Unmute, they set out to find their own sonic DNA and create a unifying sound identity to go across all their brands and channels.
The new sound identity for Danmarks Radio should represent the corporate brand, TV-channels, online platforms and radio stations but also leave room for the individual identity of each of the sub brands. With that in mind a holistic audio concept and a flexible sonic architecture was developed – all aligned with the new visual identity and brand strategy of Danmarks Radio.
The strategy was clear from the beginning: create coherency through audio.
Danmarks Radio needed to be more present as the mother brand above all. So whenever you’re visiting one of their 6 TV-channels, 7 radio stations, numerous websites or 3 streaming services you should always feel the DR brand shine through. And this is something sound is perfect at.
Therefore a specific “DR Sound” was needed - a sound or musical theme so distinct that it could appear in both a news show and as a UX sound on an app - without stealing focus from the content.
Another important point is that the sound should be sustainable and stand the test of time. Due to the high exposure there’s always a risk of fatigue so timeless and long lasting were two important keywords in the brief.
A sound we all recognize but never have heard before
The creative concept was based on the legacy of Danmarks Radio and the role it has in Danish music history. Like no other media brand DR has been part of Danish music, both performed and recorded, and therefore the sonic identity should reflect what is called the “treasure of Danish song writing” but also point towards the future as a modern media brand.
The short two-note melodic motif was a perfect match between the two letter brand name and a harmony typical for many Danish compositions over the years. Being short and yet memorable also met the demands for implementation on today's digital channels.
Among the deliverables are a main sonic logo, opening sound for streaming apps, idents and music beds on flow-TV channels, music idents for news programmes and various radio idents. All supported by written guidelines to secure full implementation.
The sound has played a big part in the rebranding of Danmarks Radio and especially on a competitive streaming market it has differentiated DR from other similar services. It has also built a sense of unity across the whole organisation and created higher recognition among users.
Throughout 2021 and 2022 DR and Unmute will continue to roll-out the sound identity by adding it to various shows, channels and brands.