Sound is often the most neglected of the senses when it comes to branding, although it is only second to the visual senses in terms of its importance and has a very specific role that helps the brain to create stories from cause and effect.
There is more to using sound in branding than music and song, important as they are. Of course, music and song are particularly powerful in creating links to specific emotions. However, in the esSense® framework outlined in Brand esSense, other aspects of sound can also contribute to building a brand through the senses, symbols and stories.
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“Music can move us to the heights or depths of emotion. It can persuade us to buy something, or remind us of our first date. It can lift us out of depression when nothing else can. It can get us dancing to its beat. But the power of music goes much, much further. Indeed, music occupies more areas of our brain than language does – humans are a musical species.” – Oliver Sacks
We all know the power of music to move both our bodies and our emotions. So how can you use music to create more immersive brand experiences giving you the commercial edge over your rivals?
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As the authors of The Social Psychology of Music point out, although music has many functions in human life, they are all essentially social. We use music to communicate, even when from very different backgrounds and speaking different languages. Music has the ability to trigger very powerful emotions., forming the basis of shared experiences. Music always conveys meaning, but that meaning is always situated in a social and cultural context. Meaning can never be free of context. Read more »
“Unify, simplify, amplify” – Ken Carbone
When asked to define brand identity, many people brand logos and names as well as the history and values of brands. Some even mention the design of a product or experience, but very few immediately mention the role of the senses in creating distinctive and memorable experiences. Many dictionary definitions focus solely on the visual look and feel of brands, but a better definition might be, “the elements of a brand that together identify and distinguish the brand in the consumer’s mind”.
For Keller, Aperia and Georgson, brand identity answers the fundamental question, “Who are you?” However, my favourite definition comes from Alina Wheeler’s Designing Brand Identity. She states that, “Brand identity is tangible and appeals to the senses. You can see it, touch it, hold it, hear it, watch it move. Brand identity fuels recognition, amplifies differentiation, and makes big ideas and meaning accessible. Brand identity takes disparate elements and unifies them into whole systems.” Read more »
“Music is so naturally united with us that we cannot be free from it even if we so desired” – Boethius
I have loved music all my life, and visitors often mention my music collection as one of the first things that strikes them. As well as being large, my tastes are quite diverse, and it’s always fascinated me how different music can radically change the mood, both at home and also in the cinema or in a retail outlet.
If you have ever watched a film with and without the musical score you’ll notice a huge difference in the way you react to events on the screen, and music is still often undervalued for its profound effect on how we experience the world. Read more »
I recently wrote an article for Singapore Institute of Management on the perils of changing branding, citing examples such as the GAP logo change and Pepsi’s disastrous reducing of the Tropicana packaging (which cost them millions of dollars). It seems that brand and marketing managers never learn the lessons of the Tropicana disaster (which I discuss in more detail in Brand esSense) and still love to tinker with brands, moving strategies, changing logos and ‘updating’ or ‘modernising’ their packaging.
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Sensation: The new science of physical intelligence by Thalma Lobel connects a number of themes from the Inspector Insight and Doctor Disruption blogs. The focus of the book is on the practical implications of the theory of embodied cognition connecting this idea to ideas of metaphorical thinking and symbolism in the environment, themes explored in Brand esSense and in many previous articles (see Thinking about analogy, Metaphors in thinking, Metaphors in semiotics, Sensory metaphors and Creativity and metaphor). Sensation is the clearest explanation I have read of embodied thinking, linking the results of years of stand-alone research studies to an underlying theory of the relationship between human thinking, sensory perception and the interactions between humans and the environment.
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A recent paper by a team from Princeton University and the Free University of Berlin has shown that taste related words engage the emotional brain more strongly than equivalent literal words. They showed that the brain processes everyday metaphors differently from more literal language, with greater emotional engagement. For example, ‘she smiled at him sweetly” created more activation of the emotion centres of the brain than the expression “she smiled at him kindly”, even though they have equivalent meaning and were understood equally well.
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“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how things look. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how things work.” – Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs was no fan of branding and marketing and is revered as a design hero. But the reality is that he was a supremely successful brand manager, because he was a great designer. In fact, I believe that branding is all about design, and no area of branding highlights this more than sensory branding.
Sensory branding is a relatively new concept, best known through Martin Lindstrom and his book Brand Sense. Although the discipline is so young, even in the last year concepts of cross-modal design and multi-sensory marketing have gained great traction, as the work of Charles Spence and others has shown. Read more »