The Rise and Rise of the Sonic Logo

A logo is not a brand, but it has an important role to play in branding: it instantly represents the brand’s character, introducing us if we’re not acquainted or reminding us if we’re old friends. A logo is like a photograph – not the real thing, but a good reminder. Logos have been so effective that every company has at least one – which is where the problems begin.

I call the problem ‘over messaging’. Each of us now encounters a staggering 30,000 commercial messages every single day, and the vast majority of them are visual. This means that for the next few years at least, sonic logos – by which I mean short sonic mnemonics that are the exact audio counterparts of the visual logo – are going to be worth considering simply because they are relatively rare and can thus act as powerful differentiators. However there’s more to sonic logos than curiosity value alone: used wisely, they work exceptionally well. The also go back much further than you might think.

Sonic logos have actually been around for hundreds of years: street calling used to be the main way tradesmen advertised their services, as wonderfully romanticised in the film Oliver. It’s only a few decades since that practice ended: I can remember the ‘rag-and-bone’ man’s mournful shout of “anyoldiron?” from my childhood in London. The modern-day equivalent is the ice cream van: just watch the cathartic effect of its chimes on surrounding buildings on a hot summer’s day to see the potency of sonic logos deployed in the right place at the right time. Most ice cream chimes are generic, but in Sweden the Hemglass ice cream tune is a universally known and loved sonic brand.

As soon as the advertising industry got sound to play with, it saw the potential of memorable music/voice combinations and the jingle and tagline were born. The dividing line between jingle or a tagline an a sonic logo is blurred. In general, jingles and taglines come and go with campaigns and rarely live for more than a few years. Even the most memorable usually get retired. “For hands that do dishes…”; “It’s the real thing”; these and many more once-mighty jingles or taglines are now languishing in retirement homes, though the brands are still very much with us today.

Some taglines have become sonic logos through sheer memorability. One in particular has outlasted entire generations of customers: Tony the tiger has been saying “they’re gr-r-r-r-reat!” since 1951. This is probably the longest-running sonic logo in the world, and it has now outlived its voice-over artist. Thurl Ravenscroft voiced many Disney characters but Tony was his greatest achievement. He was Tony’s voice for over 50 years until his death in 2005; today, Lee Marshall carries the baton.

Some of the most successful sonic logos have even been registered as trademarks: the roar of the MGM lion and the old NBC three-tone chime are two examples.

These examples notwithstanding, it wasn’t until the 1990s that sonic logos started to be taken really seriously and their use considered by many major brands. The sea change came with Intel. Its four-note sonic logo, composed by Austrian musician Walter Werzowa, has become one of the best-known sounds in the world, and has spearheaded Intel’s extraordinary success as a brand – given that this is a product nobody ever sees and nobody ever buys.

Today, sonic logos are more in play then ever before. UK insurance giant Direct Line has a sprightly bugle call, which speaks volumes about urgency, assistance and playfulness in just three seconds. Apple has its comforting, uplifting start-up sound, engineered in 1991 by Jim Reekes and still shipping 16 years later. (It is inexplicable that the mighty Microsoft has never seen the value of a single start-up sound; the sound of Windows has changed with every successive version of the software, so that now there is no sound of Windows. They may be learning through: huge amounts of time and money were invested in ‘a language of sounds’ for the Xbox 360.) Lufthansa has invested in a corporate sound, comprising four rising tones that are aimed to convey feelings of taking off and wellbeing. Siemens has recently added a seventh element to its branding: sound has now joined logo, claim, typeface, colours, layout and style as one of the basic building blocks of the Siemens brand. The company has created both an ‘audio signature’ (aka a sonic logo) and also some mood sound as part of its new palette. Even political parties are joining in: Wales’s Plaid Cymru has a short sonic logo to welcome you in peace and harmony to its website.

The evidence is that more and more major brands are creating a sonic logo as a matter of course. With the continuing rise of mobile devices (along with custom ring tones and downloaded digital sound) I believe we have not yet scratched the surface of the sonic logo.

Is it time your brand found its voice – before your competitors find theirs?

Paris to New York in 2 Hrs – New Super Sonic Business Jet

Imagine flying at speeds of up to 2,664mph – Mach 3.6 (twice as fast as Concorde) onboard a private jet with 20 other fellow passengers. Nobody has ever travelled that fast before. Flying from Paris to New York would take less than 2 hours and London to Sydney in three and a half hours. SonicStar is set to achieve these world record passenger flight times with it’s new futuristic VIP jet.

The project was founded by HyperMachs CEO Richard Lugg. HyperMach claim that the SonicStar will be 30 per cent more fuel efficient than the Rolls-Royce engines which were used on it’s predecessor – The Concord. It will also fly at twice the speed of the Concord – radically cutting journey times. High tech light weight materials such as composite metals and titanium will be used in the build of the aircraft to reduce weight and maintain structural integrity.

HyperMach have named the propulsion system: S-MAGJET. Unlike conventional jet engines the S-MAGJET system is based on a hybrid gas turbine engine technology. This will dramatically lower it’s Carbon Footprint.

HyperMach SonicStar Specification:

  • Maximum cruise speed – Mach 3.6
  • Long-range cruise speed – Mach 3.1
  • High-speed cruise speed – Mach 3.4
  • Engines – Two SonicBlue S-MAGJET Hybrid Supersonic 4000-X Series
  • Landing distance – 4,800ft
  • Range – 6,000 nautical miles
  • Highest Altitude – 62,000ft
  • Length – 64metres
  • Height at maximum – 2.6metres
  • Width at maximum – 2.7metres

An electromagnetic current will be passed across the fuselage to suppress the sonic boom. This means that at supersonic thrust speed – spectators on the ground will not hear a supersonic boom. This technology empowers the super plane to overcome the noise regulations that currently restrict supersonic travel.

The British Department of Trade and Industry is investing in the project and the plane is set to be airborne in 2021. The project will have a huge impact on both the commercial and private aviation sector and no doubt create thousands of jobs. The sheer demand for an aircraft of this type will result in most mainstream jet manufacturers being forced into manufacturing rival jets of this calibre. In the future many private jets may be able to travel at super sonic speed.

The SonicStar will revolutionise private jet charter by cutting journey times making more achievable in the business day. Until 2021, jet operators and jet charter consultancy firms will have wait until the SuperSonic is released.

The Sound of Business – Part III

How to Give Good Sonic Personality©

We live in an age of metrics. Traditional and new media advertising
agencies often substitute metrics for understanding. Mathematical
models create the appearance of scientific analysis, when in fact they
are often manipulated to support a preselected agenda. We all know
data can be massaged to conform to almost any conclusion. Besides,
most small owner-managed companies can’t afford the expense of
these agency-driven number crunching solutions. The real question is,
do these metrics actually help us connect to our customers, who just
happen to be people?

Emotions Win Over Rationality

After all, we are dealing with people, and people react to information on
both a rational and an emotional level. If everyone bought goods and
services based on a strictly rational basis, we would all be driving Smart
Cars and wearing Old Navy jeans. People make decisions based on a
perception of reality, rather than a rational analysis. Without getting too
metaphysical, in business there is no reality, only perception. We
believe what we think is true, or what is presented to us as true.
Information is colored by who and how, the message is delivered.

Trying to Make ‘Senses’ Out of Life

We experience our lives through our senses. We see, hear, touch, and
smell. It is through these senses that we create what passes for reality,
and on that perceived reality we make our so-called rational decisions.

Left on their own, people will interpret what they sense in very individual
ways. What tastes good to you makes me gag. The woman I think is
beautiful you think is ugly. That is until we our told in some convincing
communication, what we should think.

Skinny, shapeless, superior super models are beautiful because we are
told over and over that they are, and ultimately we mostly learn to agree.
So what does this all mean: reality is a managed state of mind. We are
either the managers or the managed. Sounds pretty icky, doesn’t it, but
there it is, and I for one rather be one of the managers than one of the
managed.

Managing Perception

We have all been told from early on that ‘a picture is worth a thousand
words.’ How many times have you quoted this famous saying? And you
actually believe it, after all Confucius wouldn’t lie, would he? According
to Jack Trout, in his book ‘The New Positioning,’ what Confucius actually
said was, “a picture is worth a thousand pieces of gold.” Not the same
thing at all is it? There is actually no evidence that Confucius made
either remark.

The documented origin of the famous expression has been traced back
to a guy named Fred Barnard who sold tram advertising in the 1920s by
stating the claim in his advertisements. Originally he claimed it was an
old Japanese proverb, but later changed his story and issued Chinese
lettering with a translation in his ads. Who knows what the truth is,
maybe old Fred invented the expression himself, but most people
believe Confucius said it, and that’s reality, even if the damn thing was
made up.

What You See is Nice, But What You Hear You Remember.

People want to believe what they see is the most important element in
delivering a message, but I would argue that what you hear outweighs
even what you see. Think about it. Companies spend millions of dollars
on attractive logos and pithy corporate names, and I have no argument
with developing a proper logo or a great name. But successful company
names and logos have an element inherent in their design that goes
beyond how they look. It is how they sound. When you see a visual
brand representation, a signal goes off in your head and a little voice
whispers that company name. Try to think of a popular corporate logo
without the name of that company sounding silently in your head.
Sound, and more specifically the human voice, is the most under utilized
marketing tool we have at our disposal. And it’s ready to hit The Web,
big time.

The Web is Made for Sound

The Web is a multimedia platform and your website should utilize every
possible tool available to create your reality and to deliver your
marketing message. No one was able to stop the flood of images from
overtaking the Web, and soon audio will follow. Now I hear the screams
of some crying out against the multimedia pollution on the Web, and I’ll
agree that it will surely come. But here’s the thing, agreed most
companies will implement sound on the Web all wrong and it will be just
more noise, but if YOU do it right, you’ll be the winner. Your message
will get through the noise, and you will define reality, and manage the
perception of your audience. The question then is how do you effectively
implement voice-audio on the Web?

Audio – The Human Connection

I started this series of articles by stating that the way to break through the
liquid crystal barrier was with a human voice that delivers a Sonic
Personality¬© for your business. We’ve talked about how you must create
the basis for a business personality by first defining who you are, what
you do, and why you do it better than the competition. We’ve also talked
about focusing on the core values of what you want to do for your
audience, and not confusing them with all the things you can do. So now
we are ready to craft your Signature Voice Рyour Sonic Personality©.