Transform Magazine: 25 years of the Sonic brand – 2021


Daniel M Jackson, Sonic Brand Agency Partner, Sonicbrand, explores the changes he has witnessed over the past 25 years of the Sonic Brand and what the future of the industry holds.

In 1997, I was working as a radio media planner when I fell in love with sonic branding. It wasn’t called that back then, it was just a great radio commercial that used music as connective tissue with TV commercials. I fell in love with ‘it’ anyway, even without the cool name.

What has changed since then? All and nothing

The media have changed. From print to digital. From radio to audio. From broadcasting to interactive. From TV to… TV +. Brands have changed, from corporate logos to goal-driven movements. From a few to many and from companies to promises.

People have certainly changed. For starters, there are about 2 billion more on the planet today than in 1997. But so many other things have changed as well. We are better educated, better informed, more productive and we consume more of everything. I also believe that the world is much more caring, understanding and tolerant of the needs of the individual. But, we are also much less patient and less able to concentrate. Our attention has been fully monetized, but we have less to do.

Amidst all of these changes, the Sonic brand has hardly changed. In a sense, it is very comfortable, because it is a timeless concept. In many other real senses, this is a source of great frustration.

Sonic branding means using sound to connect a brand to its audience at all touchpoints through the emotional power of music, voice and sound. So conceptually, we’re open to any media, brand, or audience, and the job is always to make things sound good individually and connect the dots between multiple touchpoints.

Most brands still request a sonic branding for a single point of touch, for example, a TV commercial or Alexa Skill. And most brands still think of the Sonic Mark as a jingle or a sound logo rather than a full suite of harmonious sounds that bind a brand identity together. The great 4-D vision that was defined so long ago is still rendered 1-D, with a few notable exceptions. The good news is that the stars are lining up for the Sonic brand in 2022, more than at any time in the past 25 years.

The future has already arrived

Apple’s Airpods are the third most profitable piece of technology in the world (behind Tesla and Netflix). It’s not Apple. They are only Airpods. The world listens 24/7; music, podcasts and voice assistants in smart devices. We live in the age of audio where we can converse with the internet as well as with our social connections. Smart technology speaks to and supports us every day, but brands are only just starting to understand the opportunity that audio truly represents. A new internet has been created without screens, keyboards or touch screens. What can we do with it? The Sonic brand holds the key.

We walk, drive, shop, work and even sleep with audio as a constant companion. Our ears are filled with thousands of podcasts and millions of songs. Now our smart devices can serve us brand ideas, engage in automated conversations, and deliver seamless experiences where the physical and the digital are combined.

“Hearing aids” and portable devices (as well as smart home devices such as Google Home and Alexa speakers) have the ability to track every sound and movement to provide us with relevant time-based information. location, mood and needs. From simple alerts (it’s raining on the way) to positive affirmations (let’s go! It’s been 10,000 steps today) until “it’s 7:00 p.m., your return home will take another 30 minutes, let’s go. will we order you pizza? There are human needs that sounds can meet, even when our attention is elsewhere.

The opportunity is therefore to use the tools of the sonic brand to create audio (or multimodal) user experiences, which begin by improving our daily lives with quality content. It starts out in a long form, with a podcast, social audio, or music experience, and then serves as signature moments where a relevant conversation can be initiated. Listening to your favorite foodie podcast? Why not ask Alexa to deliver the ingredients to your home? Are you talking about your next car purchase? Why not ask Google to send information to your phone?

Naturalistic and conversational relationships between the brand and the listener. Dynamic experiences that can be delivered programmatically. The reality of Jarvis from Iron Man or KITT from Knight Rider. All unlocked with branded audio and screen-less internet.

I am as excited about the Sonic brand today as I have ever been. And maybe a brand’s journey always begins with a sound logo for a TV commercial, but who knows where that can lead? I will definitely listen carefully to find out.