Sonic branding is catching on. Just last week, Mastercard unveiled their new sonic identity not long after their move to a new wordless logo.
Mastercard, unlike so many others, recognizes the power of sound to help distinguish themselves in a crowded marketplace. Furthermore, with the explosion of smart speaker devices on the horizon, the time is right for brands to figure out their sonic brand.
For brands or agencies taking the plunge into this emerging field, there are a few lessons I believe we can take away from Mastercard’s work.
1. Sonic branding goes beyond mnemonics. Mastercard was smart to zero in on one core
The Mastercard melody is the foundation of the company’s sound architecture and will extend to many assets, from musical scores, sound logos
I believe with enough time and consistency, this strategic approach to music will boost brand equity.
2. The sound of a brand needs to be flexible to fit different markets and messaging. The core melody is adapted to connect with different cultural aesthetics. Listen to the change in style and instrumentation for Dubai and Bogota for example.
Thankfully, it’s not a one size fits all situation. There’s nuance in tempo, harmony
3. A sonic identity should help consumers feel the brand’s values. Mastercard’s CMO, Raja Rajamannar, said that Mastercard should convey “safety and security”. The creative choices of the composer, Mike Shindoa of Linkin Park fame, makes sense on a gut level but the music translates to the brand values on an analytical level. The melody is in a major key — the sound associated with good feelings as opposed to a minor key which is sad. The melody rises and resolves back to the root note — the musical home of the key and a reflection of the card’s functionality sliding up and down at checkout.
Have Sonic Backdrop? Will Play
Mastercard has the ingredients in place. Now they just need to be consistent and patient to let that little earworm work it’s way into our collective memories while serving as a sonic backdrop to the values of the brand. To Fast Company’s ears, “the company’s sonic logo is something akin to a folksy Coldplay cover.” A brand could do worse.
Sonic branding’s not new, but the time is ripe for more people to develop their own. According to Techcrunch, voice shopping is set to hit $40 billion by 2022. Audio identities not only connect brands with consumers on a new dimension,
“With the explosion of podcasts, music streaming, and smart speakers, an audio strategy is no longer a “nice-to-have” for brands – it’s a necessity. A sonic identity — the audio calling card for a brand — is now just as important as a brand’s visual identity,” said Gimlet’s co-founder Matt Lieber.
Gimlet, the podcasting behemoth, was just acquired by Spotify for hundreds of millions of dollars. It was also started by one of the pillars of This American Life, Alex Bloomberg. Needless to say, they know their audio.