The recent history of the sound logo

How to reinforce a communication strategy through sound? How can we resonate with our targets? How to harmonize a brand's communications?

For almost a century, the sound logo has been part of the arsenal of brand communication and marketing departments. Whether used tactically or strategically, let's see how its use has evolved.

The advent of the jingle

A sound logo is the little notes that stick in your head, a set of sounds associated with a brand. Jingles have been around since the advent of commercial radio in the early 1920s.

1926 - Wheaties

The first radio transmission dates back to 1900. It wasn't until 1926 that the Wheaties cereal brand became the first to be announced on the radio via a jingle.

Radio jingles flourished in the 30s and 40s, and even reached a boom around the 1950s, when radio was competing with television. The aim of the jingle is simply to capture attention with an easily memorable melody.

Although they are still used today for radio advertising, there has been a slowdown in their use. The jingle is now replaced by commercial music to draw attention to commercials.

1928 - MGM

The visual logo was created in 1916. The lion first roared in 1928 to introduce the film White Shadows in the South Seas. Since its creation, the sound logo has evolved very little and is used with great regularity.

The lion's roar heralds the start of a thrilling, immersive experience. This logo shows us that a sound logo doesn't necessarily have to be made up of musical notes.

From jingle to sound identity

For most of the 20th century, the sound logo was constructed like a jingle: little notes to catch the ear. It wasn't until the end of the century that a new approach emerged: sound identity.

1994 - Intel

Intel's three-second sound logo is one of the best known. It consists of a simple five-note melody. It is estimated that it is played somewhere in the world every five minutes.

It works because it's a catchy sequence of notes, but also because of the sound of those notes. The unique composition, accessible to the general public, is in line with the brand's identity: innovative, technological and accessible. It was the first sound identity to spread worldwide, becoming iconic.

Slightly updated, this sound logo is very often associated with the visual logo. In 2015, Werzowa, the creator of the sound logo, composed a mashup of the sound logo and Beethoven's 5th Symphony to create "Symphony in Blue".

1996 - Audi

Since 1996, Audi's sound logo has been a heartbeat. In 2016, the automaker developed a strategic approach that adds a new dimension to the brand experience. The aim is to ensure that the brand's values can be recognized at all touchpoints.

Audi Corporate Sound contains a description of the Audi tone and exclusive sounds such as instruments, elements, voices and car sounds.

It's a true global sound identity approach with a sound charter that is developed to make the brand's audio universe coherent. In recent years, however, we have noticed that the sound logo is less and less present at the end of commercials.

2003 - McDonald's

The company, first launched as a franchise in 1955, waited almost half a century before launching its first global marketing campaign, in 2003. And to accompany it, a sound logo was developed.

The slogan "I'm lovin' it", accompanied by a super-catchy vocal hook "ba da ba ba ba" (always 5 notes), has this ability to embed itself in people's memories. It's universally popular and instantly recognizable.

The secret of this sound logo is that it's ultra-flexible, integrates easily with cultures all over the world, and is adaptable to specific campaigns. Partly because of this, it always looks fresh and relevant. Since 2020, the sound logo is simply whistled:

2015 - Netflix

In 2015, Netflix VP of Product Todd Yellin was on the hunt for "something that screams Netflix". Yellin is a former filmmaker with an affinity for sound design and led the creative process for ta-dum.

Oscar-winning sound designer Lon Bender (Braveheart, The Revenant, Drive, Hunger Games) tried out a bunch of sounds before finding the right balance, the right sonic textures. This sound logo isn't really memorable, but it has a very specific and distinctive sound color. It creates a sense of surprise. Its uniqueness enhances the feeling of strong personality.

A longer sound logo was composed by Hans Zimmer (The Lion King, The Dark Knight, Gladiator, Interstellar, The Crown, ...), to be played in cinemas.

Find out more about the creation of Netflix's Tadum.

2019 - Mastercard

Mastercard has developed a short, unique and memorable melody to validate the transaction payment. Sound identity is even more useful for brands you can't see or touch.

The aim is to create a truly complete sound architecture, flexible and adaptable to all regions, all points of contact. The melody created resembles a signature sound.

An audio brand architecture was developed based on a sound charter. Raja Rajamannar, Marketing Director, says it's all a question of context. There are "playful", "cinematic" and "operatic" versions of the sound identity.

Mastercard has conducted its own research into the performance of its audio logo, claiming that 77% of customers believe that sound makes transactions and retail environments "more reliable". In 2021 and 2022, Mastercard's audio brand was ranked No. 1 in the Best Audio Brands study.

But where does sound identity go

In a cluttered marketplace, where consumers are bombarded with information, it's essential that every element of a brand works to attract attention and re-connect. Sound identity can help a brand to bring meaning and emotion to its message.

Brands such as McDonald's and Audi have created a sound logo to encourage the public to remember it subconsciously. If used consistently across every touchpoint, sound identity can help companies reach their audience effectively and sustainably.

As we can see, brand-building is shifting more and more towards the customer experience and away from pure communication. A truly multi-dimensional sound expression is increasingly being developed, as a form of "Audio DNA".

Is global sound identity the future of brand attention?

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