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  • Writer's pictureRekha Padmalaya

The Power of Sound - Part 4: Masters of Sound

Discover 5 brands that are using sound to add a distinct dimension to their brand.

What does a cycling clothing brand, an airline, one of the biggest digital industrial companies in the world, a candy brand and a soft drink have in common? All these brands have recognized the power of sound in creating more immersive, intimate or interactive brand experiences.

Say hello to these 5 masters of sound:

1. Virgin Atlantic:

The Virgin brand has always stood for the maverick, innovative pioneer who challenges the status quo and goes on grand adventures disrupting industries in its wake. Closely resembling Sir Richard Branson’s personality, Virgin has defied many naysayers to become an international conglomerate that controls 400 companies in industries ranging from airlines and tourism to banking.

Virgin Atlantic, the Group’s brand in the sky used a branded podcast called ‘The Venture’ to appeal to its business flyers. The Venture, made in collaboration with Gimlet Creative has 6 episodes, each told by a maverick pioneer entrepreneur in his or her own voice. Each story brings alive the adventure of starting and running an industry-changing business. Entrepreneurs featured include the founding team behind the satirical news outlet, The Onion, Jonathan Murray, the godfather of reality TV and other pioneers in their fields.

2. Rapha:

Rapha, the cycling clothing and accessories brand is another brand that’s used sound design to bring their brand story to life. The brand caters to cycling enthusiasts and uses a community based approach to brand building. Started in 2014 by cycling enthusiasts Simon Mottram and Luke Scheybeler, it’s an approach that paid off handsomely when an investment fund owned by the Walmart family bought majority stake in Rapha for £200mn.

Rapha’s content routinely features videos that capture the experience of cycling - with all its irritants, using just sound and illustration based videos. The videos make you feel what a cyclist must go through while cycling, building a great context for the relevance of their product. All these sound stories are told in their engaging, tongue-in-cheek voice.

3. General Electric:

The world’s fourth largest B2B brand, GE has built a brand around values such as innovation and progress through technology. In marketing and communication, GE has a long history of experimenting with new platforms. They were early adopters of most mediums and formats including Snapchat – remember GE’s Snapchat ‘Stories’ at their facilities using Snap ‘spectacles’ or their livestream series, Drone Week in which a drone visited a GE factory for five days.

The use of sound to create a memorable, immersive experience debuted quite early in GE’s channel mix.

In 2015, GE started experimenting with podcasts, an emerging medium at the time. Their first attempt was ‘The Message’, an eight episode podcast that followed reports and interviews by a fictional cryptologist who’s trying to decode a message from outer space received 70 years ago. In 2016, GE followed The Message with another hit sci-fi thriller series, LifeAfter. Described as an AI adventure, LifeAfter explores the question of what happens to our digital identity after we die and the role that AI can play in the grieving process. The Message and LifeAfter have been wildly successful. At last count, there have been 8 million downloads of the series globally.

4. M&M

How does a 75 year old candy brand stay relevant, year after year? M&M’s answer – Staying true to their fun, colorful brand personality while innovating both in terms of their product and the way they connect with new consumers. In 2017, M&M wanted to drive a stronger connection with a whole new generation - Millennials and Generation X using their passion points – music and creation. With this objective, they came up with a user generated marketing campaign M&M Bite Sized beats.

Bite Sized beats was a web based social music platform featuring beatboxing M&M characters. Users had to record their own beats on the platform by running a band of M&M's spokescandies. They were also encouraged to share their creations through social media. Select submissions were featured on M&M commercials and the brand’s social media channels throughout the year. M&M also did a collaboration with Jessie J where users had a to choose a combination of loops to unlock a music video by the artist.

5. Coca-Cola.

Perhaps nothing written on the power of sound in marketing is complete without the mention of Coca-Cola. Through the years, there are few brands that have used the power of sound as effectively and consistently as Coke.

Coke started creating earcons (that’s audio icon for a brand) when the word was not fashionable to use. Way back in 1927, the first radio commercial of Coke incorporated sounds associated with enjoying the beverage to make listeners feel thirsty. The sound of the bottle opening, the clink of ice-cubes, the sound of the liquid pouring, the characteristic glug and the aaah of satisfaction are all sounds that have stayed timeless even as the brand has seen numerous reinventions.

Coke has also used music to connect emotionally, almost viscerally with people – think about the use of jingles like Hilltop, Always Coca-Cola, Taste the feeling or music properties like Coke Studio.

These are just a few examples of brands that recognize the power of sound. As we finish our exploration on Sound, we would like to leave you with a few questions:

What is your brand’s sound? What is the distinct, memorable, brandable sound that people can easily associate with your brand? How can you use sound as a part of your marketing mix to create positive associations and trigger the right ones?


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