You must change your tune about audio branding

Despite the success of jingles and brand sounds from the likes of Mojo, they went out of fashion in the 2000s, explains Southern Cross Austereo's Matt Dickson. But brands need to return to the audio logo, and, in the age of smart speakers and non-visual purchases, do so quickly.

Try and picture the Lube Mobile logo.

You will probably struggle to remember which colours and shapes it uses, and how they’re displayed. Now, think of the Lube Mobile jingle. Chances are you know it off by heart, and if asked, could probably (perhaps reluctantly) sing it in the right key. Studies have proven that musical memory is so accurate that 80% of people are able to identify the correct pitch for a song or audio logo.

Because of audio’s unique relationship with the brain, musical melody offers effortless memorisation of words and musical notes. Music can even bring back long-lost memories or ‘islands of remembrance’ in the brains of  people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Big brands around Australia and the world have known and used this for decades. We’ve had ‘Happy little Vegemites’, songs about a ‘Hard-earned thirst’, and requests to call ‘firteen firteen firty two’ should we require the services of a mobile mechanic. Iconic ad agency Mojo’s success was built off the catchiness of its jingles and ability to create brand fame and desire with them. So when did we forget how effective audio branding can be?

For some reason, in the 2000s jingles and audio logos went out of fashion, and we started looking for other ideas. The problem is that people are busy – they only have so many hours in their day and would probably prefer to spend it with family and friends than brands. The power of audio was forgotten as the quest for engagement continued.

People made Flash games for cat food brands, flashmobs for protein bars and flashy viral videos that captivated us for several minutes.

None of them delivered the desired memorability and mental availability for the brands that created or commissioned them. Everyone has seen the ‘Bride has massive hair wig-out‘ video but does anyone know the shampoo brand it was made for?

Throughout all this fascination with engagement, one brand was using an elegantly simple strategy to become more and more famous and desirable in one of the least interesting product categories: computer parts.

Intel used repetition of the ‘Intel bongs’ audio logo in TV, digital and radio advertising to build brand fame, feeling and fluency to a point where people were requesting an Intel processor be installed in their computers when they knew nothing about what it did, whether it was better than its competitors, or even what it cost. It was ubiquitous. The Intel brand was famous and desirable.


Intel’s melodic audio logo allowed it to be committed to memory quickly, instinctively, and easily. For a low-involvement purchase like computer processors, it worked perfectly. The audio logo stayed in your memory until you needed it. It didn’t ask for hours of your time. It didn’t ask you to play a game, it didn’t do a public dance in front of you, and it didn’t make you watch a video and try to figure out what brand it was for.

The rationale behind developing audio brand guidelines and an audio logo has always been valid, and many brands including Old Spice, McDonald’s, and AAMI have successfully done so.

Now with the advent of voice and smart speakers, we have another reason to go back to audio logos. Voice offers consumers an ease and functionality that is helping make smart speakers the fastest-adopted device in history. Hospitals are trialling smart speakers to handle non-urgent requests for patients who are bed bound. Hotels are beginning to adopt smart speakers for in-room guest services. Kids are using smart speakers to help with homework.

And coming soon to Australia will be voice commerce. You’ll be able to order products delivered straight to your door over your smart speaker, following in the footsteps of the US where last year 50% of smart speaker owners surveyed by PwC said they had made a purchase on their smart speaker. Of those respondents, 39% shopped again with the same retailer.

Back at home, smart speaker adoption sits at about 14% of Australians owning one, according to a recent Nielsen survey. And a quarter of Australian smart speaker owners use them every single day.

In a world where a purchase can be made without any pictures, the way your brand sounds will only become more and more crucial.

Matt Dickson is the national head of creativity, The Studio at Southern Cross Austereo


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