6 April 2022
Everything you always wanted to know about sonic logos (but were too afraid to ask)
Guides & explainers
‘Sonic logos’. A marketing buzzword or rebranding essential?
At PHMG, we believe it’s the latter.
Let’s start with the obvious question…
What is a sonic logo?
One of our composers, Charlie Wilkins, described it in 2020 as ‘the audio equivalent of a brand’s most recognisable icon – a melodic motif that conveys the identity of a company.’
Like McDonalds’ five-note whistle at the end of every ad to Netflix’s all-too-familiar ‘Ta dum’, with time and repeated exposure, your sonic logo can become as iconic and associated with your business as your visual logo.
Who created the first sonic logo?
That’s up for debate, but we’d argue it goes all the way back to 400AD, when Roman senator Paulinus of Nola introduced bells into the Christian church to call worshippers for prayer.
Perhaps an early inspiration behind Pavlov’s famous experiments with dogs, it conditioned people to associate a sound (in this case, bells) with an action (going to church).
Nowadays, we’re conditioned to respond physically to all sorts of sounds: think of fire alarms, a ringing telephone, or even a whistling kettle.
So, why do you need one?
Sonic branding isn’t just for giant consumer brands. In fact, many smaller companies benefit from a distinctive sound, too. Peppy and upbeat? Serious and impactful? Your choice of sonic branding can instantly communicate your brand’s personality and values.
If done well, your target customer will immediately associate themselves with your business – helping your company, product, or service stand out.
So, whether you’re investing in a full rebrand or simple refresh, updating your signature sound is the perfect way to retain familiarity whilst modernising your image. The result? A bigger, better brand impression.
And the real beauty of sonic logos? They’re multi-functional, relevant across a variety of platforms including:
- Company videos
- Radio / TV adverts
- Social media clips
- Telephone systems
- Mobile apps
- Physical spaces
And the list goes on! The more you use it, and the more frequently your audiences hear it, the sooner and deeper you’ll build an association between it and your brand.
Who has sonic logos?
Businesses in every category can use a sonic logo. They’re particularly popular with consumer brands
The audio consumption of today’s users is at a record high; with smart speakers proving crucial in advertising strategies.
And in turn… businesses from a variety of food, fashion, retail industries and more are taking the time to invest. If you’ve got a product, there’s a brand sound to match!
How are sonic logos used?
Originally created to go alongside content, sonic logos have evolved to be a fully-fledged piece of brand work.
Initially, they were repetitive jingles and haphazard signatures at the end of adverts. But nowadays, any short sound that’s associated with your brand can be considered a sonic logo.
If your business has an app, you could create a unique chime or bong to deliver push notifications (although this could be a double-edged sword). Twitter is full of stories from users familiar with dating app Grindr’s new message ‘chirp’ and how it has a habit of going off at very inopportune moments…
How do you create one?
It all comes down to one, specific formula:
Appeal + authenticity + exposure = memorability.
Of course, the production process isn’t quite so simple… with many specialists, thought-leaders, and creatives involved in the finished piece. Read Charlie Wilkins’ analysis of McDonalds’ universal ‘Bad da ba ba ba’ melody, and learn why it’s so iconic.
We’ve rebranded ourselves in 2022. So when it came to creating a new sonic identity (including a new sonic logo) the pressure was on. A&R Manager Alice Salmon explains how we went about it:
“We developed the new sonic logo in response to the visual animation and wider rebrand. It was in part inspired by the success of our existing sonic logo, and the broad memorability of percussive – rather than melodic – idents popular with global brands.
“Listening to PHMG’s sonic logo, the metallic sweep leading to a declamatory single hit replicates the cool, understated confidence at the heart of our new brand personality identifiers, and continues the clean-cut, slick precision of the visual logo.
“It’s derived from our new exclusive music track, but none of the sonic logo’s elements can be found within it. Instead, we worked with the composer to create an atmospheric timbral soundworld, aiming for an implied sonic relationship that leads the listener towards the PHMG brand, rather than shouting for attention.
“With ‘Create waves’ at the front of the rebrand’s creative direction, it was important to ensure there was lots of space for PHMG’s waves – in every sense – to oscillate.”
Sonic logos in action
In the company’s words: ‘The sonic signature is a reflection of the Xbox 360 – you can hear the human energy, duality, cultural diversity and excitement.’
Demonstrating brand audio doesn’t necessarily have to be a piece of music.
Bright, simple, and upbeat notes emitting confidence in a mobile carrier you can trust.
A harder edged sound that evokes the thrill and excitement received from gambling.
A short teaser opening, pouring, and enjoying a refreshing beverage.
Our sonic logo spotlight
Brand sounds are ever evolving, and one recent example is Kia.
The automotive brand with a reputation for value and generous warranties. But how is this conveyed? In 2022, they launched their new sonic logo featuring ‘symmetry, ‘rhythm’, and ‘rising’ elements to ‘ignite its bold transformation for the future’.
This, paired with their all-new ‘Movement that Inspires’ tagline, launches a new promotion into popularising electric vehicles, mobility services, and securing their title as a leader in the global car market.
Brand spotlight: Airbnb
The latest in our series of deep-dives into brands successfully using audio looks at the phenomenally successful vacation rental platform.
Research & analysis
Why do we find the sound of rain comforting?
And how can you leverage our collective love a good night’s sleep to your advantage?
Eurovision Song Contest 2023: Our experts’ picks
Our Music team have given all 37 of the runners and riders a spin, so you don’t have to. (You’re welcome.)