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Turn Up the Sound on Your Brand

Written By: Carter Kasdon

The other day, I heard a familiar jingling sound moving towards my office door. Without lifting my head, I knew it was Alexis, our junior copywriter, wearing her favorite silver necklace. If you think about it, most people have their own signature sound, if it is the cadence of their walk, whistling, snapping fingers, or in my case, obsessively clicking my pen. (I am trying to stop.) It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where Elaine gives a coworker, who continually sneaks up on her, a package of Tic Tacs, so she can hear him coming.

It got me thinking, if we all have our own individual sound that helps us stand out, then shouldn’t our brands? As marketers, we know affinity towards brands is based on emotions, and sound strongly connects to emotions and reactions. Think about how quickly you react when your phone dings that you have a new text. It is irresistible. As sound branding expert Karlheinz Illner put it, “Music sparks emotions and emotions control our brain’s decisions.”

So, is there such a thing as branded sound? Yes, it is called “sound branding.” And here’s a fancy definition I pulled off the interweb: “the strategic use of sound … in positively differentiating a product or service, enhancing recall, creating preference, building trust, and even increasing sales.”

Can it be trademarked? Yup, but it is very difficult. “Right now there are fewer than two hundred active trademarks for sounds. A surprisingly small number, considering sound has the power make—or break—a brand.” NBC trademarked their chimes, as MGM did for their roaring lion. But, many companies were unsuccessful. Harley Davidson tried and failed to trademark the sound of their motorcycles.

Trademarked or not, branded sound can be extremely effective for your company. Think about the success that Chili’s has had using the sound of sizzling fajitas, or as they call it “the fajita effect.”

So, though I do have my own sounds that I am not proud of (the constant roar of my 42-year-old stomach), I do see the value of associating brands with sound. Your budget may not be big enough to trademark the roar of an engine or the sizzle of a fajita, but there are many ways to make sound work for your brand. Let’s talk through that sound machine in your pocket, or just make our inbox ding at 508.861.2829 or