So, what makes sonic branding so powerful? Let’s go back to the NBC chimes for the answer. It’s repetition. Success in this area is simple. The only real requirement is commitment.
Anyone who’s ever created anything for someone else knows that’s easier said than done. Getting any one person to commit to something as subjective as a custom sound can be a challenge. Getting a group of people or a boardroom full of people to make that commitment is the branding equivalent to summiting Everest.
It’s easy to think of the NBC chimes now, after nearly 100 years of use, as creative brilliance. Or to hear the Netflix “duh DUM” when that bright red N emblazons our TV screens and think “Wow, that’s really something special” but if we step back for a second and listen to what’s really going on, it’s not that special. What makes it special is the effect it has on us. We don’t need to even be in the same room to know that the Netflix app has just launched and I better get in there if I want to have a say in what we’re going to be watching tonight. If you click on the Netflix app on your smart TV or computer and you don’t get the “duh DUM” it’s only a matter of seconds before you’re clicking around madly and asking yourself, “What’s going on? Why isn’t this loading? Who messed up the TV!!!!?”
It’s the commitment Netflix has made to this sound and the way they’ve used it that gives it this connection.
Now, on top of that, it’s a pretty great execution as well. As someone who does this stuff for a living, I often think, “I wish I had made that one.”
At this point you might be thinking that if all it takes is repetition, an investment in time to build equity in a sound, a commitment to just hammering it over the heads of my audience until they can’t remove themselves from it… then I can just go out on the street with the voice memo app on my phone and make up a sonic brand right? Maybe… but remember that part about getting other people on board? It’s probably not going to be easy to get a business owner to believe that two burps and a hum played over and over with their logo is going to drum up business. Sure, it’ll create a connection but probably not a good one.