Sounds Like Creativity: Finding Your Sonic Identity

Eric Suliga, Creative Director

This blog post is part of a series celebrating Cannes Lions and creativity in advertising. If you missed the kick-off, you can catch up here

Many brands focus exclusively on perfecting their visual identity--a logo or “look and feel” that uses specific typefaces, colors and imagery to communicate what the brand is all about. But thinking about visuals only can leave behind another important sense for establishing brand awareness and recall: our sense of hearing.

In it’s simplest form, a “Sonic Identity” is exactly this--the translation of a visual brand into audio. At Pandora, we’ve talked a lot about how impactful determining the sound of a brand can be (you can hear more about this in the first two episodes of our Power of Audio podcast series here and here). Despite living in a mostly visual world, we do pick up on auditory cues whether we realize it or not. Think about HBO’s static white noise, Intel’s familiar chimes or even McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” tune--odds are the average consumer can recall any of these examples at the drop of a hat.

The trick to creating a successful Sonic Identity is knowing that it doesn’t have to be a silly jingle (unless that’s what works best for your brand). It can be a specific music track or Voice Profile, or even just a short sound effect. But most importantly, it needs to be consistent across devices and platforms so that the words, tone and mood can begin to form a recognizable sound for the brand.

When done right, a good Sonic Identity can be extremely memorable, even if the consumers is only passively listening. And now more than ever, in this connected world we live in, it’s become a marketing essential to capture passive attention.

Let’s see an example...

[audio m4a=""][/audio] This ad from Esurance is one of our most favorite examples of Sonic Identity because the brand consistently uses a bouncy music bed and relatable, down-to-earth Voice Profile to deliver brand messages to their target audience. This sound has since become synonymous with the Esurance brand so that as soon as you hear the track and the voice, you instantly know who's talking. Esurance goes one step further to optimize the script to provide a natural tie-in to the Pandora listening environment, drawing a parallel between ad-supported listening on Pandora and Esurance saving their customers money on insurance.

Esurance also successfully checked the boxes on our proven best practices for telling a brand story with sound:

1. USE A CONVERSATIONAL TONE Most audio is consumed through earbuds, so there is no need to shout anymore. Consumers will appreciate you more for speaking to them like you would a friend.

2. ADDRESS THE INDIVIDUAL LISTENER Digital audio allows brands to reach millions of people, one listener at a time. So make it personal! A natural tie-in to the platform will make your message stand out as part of the experience, rather than another ad.

3. EMPLOY A CLEAR CALL-TO-ACTION Tell the listener exactly what you want them to do and why. Be specific and straightforward, and they’ll be more likely to follow your direction.

4. COMPLEMENT WITH DISPLAY In an ideal scenario, audio and display go hand-in-hand. Let the audio message deliver the hardworking information, while the display captures the eyes.

Still need some help identifying your brand’s Sonic Identity? Our internal Creative Services team can help with custom music beds, sourcing key voice talent, composing mnemonic devices and writing copy to establish an instantly recognizable and engaging Sonic Identity for your ads. Get in touch so we can tell you more.