Importance of Sound in Branding

The impact that sound creates on anyone is profound. Sound being one of the major five senses plays a vital role in everyone’s day to day activities. In a country like India, which has an extensive oral culture where even a form of medication has been passed on to the next generation orally; sound is something that matters to every single soul in one way or the other. Sound is prevalent in almost all traditional forms in India ranging from festivals to discourses. In a vast country like India, each state has its own culture and each culture has its own representation of sound in its own unique ways. Right from the birth, where a special song is sung to represent the birth of a new child till the death, where in some states there are different instruments played during funeral. There are different sounds that represent different emotional states and thus it is a part of everyone and each variation of it causes a different impact.

Importance of Sound in Branding

Every religion has its own usage of sound, for instance, ringing of bell and chanting has always symbolized the Hindu religion, similarly Sunday carols and Friday prayers at Church and mosque respectively. In a similar fashion and following the trend, various brands have started using sounds in all possible ways ranging from ad jingles to brand name associated music like the one Nokia has been using for years now. The main reason behind brands using sound although visual medium is still in vogue is because of the impact a particular sound creates on the user and the association with the brand name. Association of a particular sound to a product stays longer in a person’s lifetime than probably a logo that one would associate with the same.

There are sounds that one can easily recognize like that of a police siren or one from the ambulance which creates the sense of emergency and this sound creates a deep impact at least for a small period of time. Sound can be regarded as the best medium to communicate as the auditory signals can spread through thin air reaching a lot of people around and unlike vision which is restricted to the view of the reader. This way the reach increases and the impact is so huge that many companies have started using sound as their important means of communication.

There are cases where the usage of sound has proven to increase the brand image and brand association of a particular product with the sound, for example Kellogg’s hired a Danish Lab to design a specific crunching sound for their cereal so that the customers will be able to differentiate their product from their counterparts’ based on the sound. Similarly, Nestlé’s Kit-Kat has used the wafer cracking sound in its advertisements’ extensively thus bringing in an association between the cracking sound and their product.

Sound Association with products has become so common that there are lots of products in the market which can be associated with its own song, jingle or even simple theme music. The underlying fact is that the sound that one experiences once stays forever in the minds and thus strikes a chord whenever they come across the product. This long term impact of sound makes it a more viable option than other means.

According to the Harvard Business Review, the right sounds can positively differentiate a brand by creating customer preference, improving recall, and building trust.

There are cases where silence is the last thing customers would want, like in the case of a lounge where a mild music would help the customers ease out. This is probably the reason why a convention of sound based alerts in an elevator has come up to reassure people that they are safe even when they are alone. In the same lines was the first personal stereo developed because of which a person will not feel lonely and that sound will help him overcome his loneliness which eventually became an all time super hit product.

As we all know that radio is one of the most welcomed invention and the reason why it is still popular even after the invention of television and other fancy gadgets is because of the ease of use and because sound does not require one to sit tight to get the fullest experience, a person driving his car can just tune into his favourite station and keep listening while doing the driving and so is the case with a housewife who can listen to it doing her daily chores alongside. This is one reason why people are still happy advertising through a radio.

Considering Cinema, the impact that the sound creates and the value add that it provides to the movie experience is huge. Imagine a horror movie without sound and the impact it creates is not even half when compared to the one with the soundtrack on. There are many interesting cases which proves the point that sound is really a factor in any one’s business; one such example would be the case of IBM’s introduction of new range of ‘noiseless’ typewriters in the 70’s which did not sell well in the market. The reason that they found was that what they termed as ‘noise’ really turned out to be a core attribute of the product and hence they re-launched the product with an artificial sound which simulated the original one.

There is also the case of Las Vegas Gambling machines which were made coinless and hence the absence of the sound made by coins inside the slot machines shooed away the customers thus resulting in a drop in the revenues. There are certain products which are so attached to sound used by the vendors to sell the products that the change in the sound or absence of it might pose a threat to the product. The best example is the roadside pushcart seller who uses his distinctive voice to cry out loud and sell what he has got. There could be no better way to sell ice creams or cotton candy’s without using the bell attached to their push cart.

When we look at various commercial products, like say a coke tin when broken open gives this unique sound which reassures the buyer of the freshness and quality of packing involved and same applies to various other food products. This kind of a sound association with every attribute attracts the producers to give more and more importance to the involvement of sound in their products.

There are other instances which acts in the exact opposite fashion from what we have seen so far, the negative impact of sound associated with a product. An example to quote here would be that of a computer which produces less noise or no noise at all. In that case also sound association plays a vital role but in the opposite sense, that is, no sound or silence. Another major example here would be that of a generator which is more welcome when it produces less noise than one with a lot of sound. In this way even the absence of sound is associated with a select few products. Hence here sound might produce a negative impact on brand image.

There are certain products where the sound association comes in the form of sound made by the product itself, like for example, a motorcycle which has its own distinct sound by which it is well recognized in the society. It is imperative that for these products the sound attribute must never be replaced with or removed from the product.

If we run a search on product promotion using sound, there is no escape without going through our own traditional methods of product promotion or brand strengthening using sound as the major medium. Right from selling fish in a market till promoting a political party, Oral culture seems prevalent throughout our country. Processions, awareness campaigns all use sound to promote their products or ideas.

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