Why Mumbrella is refreshing its sonic identity

Mumbrella has a history of creating content across a range of platforms, yet when it comes to the brand's sonic identity, there hasn’t been anything cohesive, ever. That is about to change, writes Mumbrella’s head of content, Damian Francis.

On 14 October 2009, Mumbrella launched a weekly edition of the Mumbrella Podcast. It is what morphed into the Mumbrellacast of today. At the time, it was ahead of the curve, particularly for a trade media and marketing website. Now, podcasts are very much the norm.

Over the years, Mumbrella has had more than a fleeting need to focus on audio representation of the brand. The importance of sonic identity is obvious when it comes to podcasts, but it was Mumbrella’s move into conferences that increased that importance.

At the start of every Mumbrella Marketing Summit, a sound track is played to get the delegates in the mood to learn and network. It’s generic music usually with a bit of a dance beat. But at Mumbrella360, it kicks up a notch with a custom video accompanying a sound track played prior to the welcome speech.

Despite this, there is nothing that connects the conferences with the podcast, or indeed provides any sort of uniform audio identity for Mumbrella. There was the acknowledgment that it needed to happen, but there were a number of reasons (often time-related) as to why it didn’t.

According to Resonance founder Ralph Van Dijk, Mumbrella isn’t alone – sonic identity isn’t something that is often top of the mind for marketers.

Van Dijk

“Marketing is necessarily dominated by the pre-eminent technology,” he says. “And that has been screen-based since the 1950s when television came onto the scene.”

When it comes to audio, the pay-off for getting it right has been obvious since advertising carried sound. Whether it is the Meadow Lea classic, ‘You oughta be congratulated’ jingle, Qantas’ ‘I still call Australia home’ all the way to the other end of the spectrum, the short and sharp signature style sounds like the Apple start up hum or the Netflix drum beat or the Bunnings melody – these are the sounds that stay with the consumer and can affect purchase decisions.

A well-executed sonic identity has the ability to stick with the consumer and automatically communicate the brand to them.

Mumbrella’s mish-mash of sounds was, admittedly, not best practice.

As with many other brands, COVID lockdowns provided Mumbrella with the chance to hone in on its own branding, including its sonic identity. To do this we are working with Resonance and Van Dijk. He’s well known in the industry as one of the leading audio experts, a long-time Mumbrella360 speaker and someone who has been on the Mumbrellacast more than most guests, including from our early iterations.

Resonance’s workshop with Mumbrella

Upfront disclaimer, Resonance has volunteered its time for this project and Mumbrella will be documenting the process. As of today, the project is coming to an end after months of work that have been a bit stop/start due to lockdowns and challenges around Mumbrella’s second-half plan.

Originally, Mumbrella was planning on launching its new sonic identity on stage at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney for Mumbrella360. Despite this, the project has carried on due to the significance of the work.

According to Van Dijk, there are three main reasons a brand should consider its sonic identity.

“Audio-only content such as podcasts and music-streaming services are growing in popularity. Secondly, increased wearing of earbuds/headphones means that online content is being played with sound-on. And also, brands are planning for the era of voice. Voice commands will soon overtake screen/touch interfaces so brands need to establish their sonic assets now in order to thrive in the future.”

Van Dijk believes that an investment in sonic identity could pay off significantly in the future.

“The marketers/agencies that are thinking and planning five to ten years ahead understand it. They are exploring not just sonic branding in isolation, but as a part of broader multi-sensory branding strategies,” he says.

“These progressive brands will be the ones who have developed valuable brand assets to capitalise on the opportunities that occur in audio, olfactory, haptics and beyond.”

Van Dijk leading the first workshop

Step one in the process is like most creative beginnings, a survey completed by the client that shapes an initial workshop to give Resonance a better understanding of who the client is, who it needs to serve and how it wants to be perceived.

The first workshop is then used to frame a sonic audit – essentially analysing the different music used across assets and begin the practical work to discover an updated sonic identity.

Mumbrella and Resonance undertook this stage all the way back in May. Unfortunately for Van Dijk and the team, the feedback was quite broad. Unsurprisingly, it was discovered that the use of varied audio has given different members of the Mumbrella team a slightly different idea of how Mumbrella should sound.

Goals for the sonic identity were identified to be adding a sense of reliability to the brand as well as to help it stand out, conveying a sense of independence and uniqueness, and carrying a tone that is informative, opinionated and reliable.

This was the first two steps of five out of the way. Firstly, the discovery phase, secondly the workshop. These will be followed by design and iteration, asset testing and finally implementation.

Next week Mumbrella will run a long-form interview with Resonance detailing the middle stages of the process before revealing the final work on October 5.


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.