How Brands Use Sound to Express their Personality

What Is Sonic Branding? Part 1

By Listen Staff

January 2023

Every brand does not need a sound logo.

That might sound strange coming from a sonic branding agency, but there are many ways to use sound to engage consumers and deliver on a product truth, and a sound logo is just one of them. Depending on the industry, product or service and the intended audience and platform, a sound logo may not necessarily be the most effective or even relevant way to amplify a brand message or enhance a product experience.

Some of the world’s biggest brands don’t actually have a sound logo.

Take Apple: they don’t use a signature sound to represent the brand in their commercials, but their devices do all utilize custom-designed, highly recognizable product sounds, from the classic MacOS startup sound to iPhone ringtones. Apple has also historically had a strong curatorial point of view on selecting music for TV commercials and digital ads, which accentuates the dynamic visuals and sets their iconic product design apart from the competition.

For over two decades, Red Bull invested in sound through branded experiences aligned with emerging electronic music culture that appealed to their target audiences. As a growing brand entering new regional markets at the time, Red Bull curated their own branded music events in major cities across the world, published music editorial content, and broadcast radio shows online in order to build brand awareness and affinity with discerning young audiences over many years.


But Apple and Red Bull are both global giants who have ponied up considerable budgets for sound and music across marketing and product development efforts over decades. It’s an enviable position to be in, but not as feasible for most brands.

A better place to start might be to identify a few key touchpoints – like an app startup or notification sound for a product-focused brand – where sound might enhance or amplify a brand message through the product experience, help build awareness, differentiate from the competition or grow affinity with audiences.

For a brand focused on building awareness through advertising or branded content, efforts might be better spent on selecting a voice actor that strategically represents the brand personality in an audio ad. The right solution could be curating the music experience for a retail space so that it aligns with the brand’s values and appeals to its intended customers. Maybe it’s about identifying a music event or podcast to sponsor that's culturally aligned with the brand in order to build brand awareness or affinity with desired listeners.

Even modest but thoughtful, strategic investments in branded sound can have a big impact. Research has shown that custom sound experiences play a strong role in consumers’ purchase intent and affinity with specific brands. Using stock, generic sound or music is a turn off to audiences and doesn’t help to differentiate a brand within a competitive market.

All that said, a sound logo can still be a powerful brand asset and a foundational tool for defining a sonic brand identity. Throughout our series on sonic branding, we’ll go into greater depth on a range of approaches to sound, music and voice for brands. But in Part 2, we’ll cover what a sound logo is, and how it can be a powerful and foundational sonic brand asset.

Memorable brands begin here.


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North, A. C., Hargreaves, D. J., & McKendrick, J. (1999). “The influence of in-store music on wine selections.” Journal of Applied Psychology, 84(2), 271–276.

Wilson, S. (2016) "The Effect of Music on Perceived Atmosphere and Purchase Intentions in a Restaurant." Psychology of Music, 31(1), 93-112.