Sensory branding and PR… What does it sound like to you?

posted by Brendan Hodgson

The April 28th edition of the Economist included a brief yet fascinating article on sensory branding, entitled ‘Sound Effects: Companies tune in to the potential of sound’.

The article considers how ’sonic logos’ such as Intel’s highly-identifiable five-note jingle, are potentially the thin edge of the wedge for companies exploring how sound can help them sell product and boost employee productivity.

So what is the implication for PR? Does sound (beyond the spoken word) even have an effective role to play in the PR space in the same way that it does in advertising? (Anybody else still remember the Speedy Muffler song…?) To that same question, is it even appropriate or ethical from a PR perspective to apply sounds in such a way as to generate a specific response, much like some restaurants do to speed up the flow of diners, or to encourage consumers to remain longer in a specific store, and yet do it in such a way that it impacts such intangibles as reputation? Would that be construed – rightly or wrongly – as shameless manipulation or tugging on heartstrings?

The entertainment industry clearly understands the importance of sound to intensify our emotional response to certain scenes or experiences, proving that specific sounds can generate a shared reaction among large audiences. That BAA, through its testing of certain ambient sounds, was able to increase revenue in its Glasgow terminal by up to 10% clearly indicates the potential in a business context. But to what extent can that same experience be applied beyond a controlled setting such as a theatre, terminal or shop, or outside the context of a television advertisement? In a world where we are bombarded by thousands of sounds every day or, alternatively, using devices such as MP3 players to shut out any and all ambient noise, is it even possible or worthwhile to make your ’sonic logo’ stand apart?

Moreover, in the same way that companies link themselves to visual brands that may be construed as the antithesis of what they represent, could a company in a heavily industrial sector realistically link its brand to a sound – or collection of sounds - that represents its newfound commitment to the environment, for example?

A lot of questions. It’ll be interesting to see – and hear – what the answers are.

1 Comment
15

Jan
2014

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