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For a long time, B2B brand managers believed that the benefits of sonic identities belonged to B2C companies. Unlike consumers, B2B customers supposedly made decisions based on fact and functionality, not emotions.

Today, however, B2B brands are learning that a sonic identity is just as important to their brands as the brand identity tools they have been using to stand out and forge deeper bonds with their customers.

Growing competition and the blurring of boundaries between B2B and B2C brands have brought home an important lesson: All customers, including those who work as purchasing agents in large corporations, are people and therefore they respond to the emotional messages that comprise a sonic identity.

But they have a unique challenge: how to build strong emotional assets without falling into B2C brand molds?

Sonic branding lets brands enhance all their communications with more precision, subtlety, and consistency while strategically addressing specific communication angles. It is the ultimate tool for generating brand momentum.

So what is sonic identity exactly?

It's the embodiment of your brand essence in sound. It's the range of auditory cues—sonic logo, music, voiceovers, or sound effects—used consistently across all of your brand's touchpoints and communications that say to the market: "These are our brand values."

How to Create a Sonic Identity

But how do you go about creating a sonic identity that works? Here are six tips to help you ensure yours breaks through.

1. Understand your brand's values and personality

Your team may love death metal or singer-songwriters, but your music preferences are not your brand.

Your brand has a set of values as well as a distinct personality; those are the elements your sonic brand needs to communicate. Those things become your North Star when designing a sonic identity.

A sonic identity works best when it is designed to tackle a specific challenge; that's an approach that allows you to be bold and take risks to establish or cement your brand's position in the market.

Consider these questions when developing a sonic identity:

  • Do you need to solve any perception issues with your brand?
  • What are your most important brand values to capture in audio?
  • Is there market confusion where you compete?
  • Do potential customers assume that your products are too difficult to use?

With the right library of sonic elements, your messaging and branding goals can be met.

2. Don't Sound like everyone else

Categories often have default musical styles—for instance, grand piano for hospitals, ukuleles for baby products, snare drums for military audiences, synthesized sounds for tech.

Adhering to default styles, however, is a surefire way to get lost in the crowd. Sameness is the enemy of any successful sonic identity.

Another risk: seeking a sonic vocabulary that will appeal to everyone. Widespread approval demands too many compromises. It will also lead to a sonic identity that sounds just like your competitors, so why bother?

If your sonic identity is indistinguishable from other companies inside and outside of your sector, it won't deliver any benefits whatsoever.

But a truly unique sonic identity will take risks so that your brand breaks through the clutter and lodges itself deep into the memory of the market.

In 2019, McKinsey & Company undertook a rebranding exercise to enhance its brand leadership and its innovative capacities. Key goals were to emphasize a stronger sense of heritage as well as a culture of innovation. Its sonic identity achieves these goals through an usual but effective treatment. It begins with a specific piano melody unfolding the logo, instilling a sense of classical music and heritage but with a strong personality. At the same time, the music is transforming, thanks to a complex harmonic development that leads to a very simple landing. It's not only conveying a strong sense of innovation but also expressing the leading approach of McKinsey and its dedication to finding solutions. The treatment demonstrates the way a sonic identity can use sounds to communicate sophisticated ideas.

3. Go for meaning and clarity

When thinking of a sonic identity, meaning and clarity are essential. Sound has an inherent ability to evoke a wide range of emotions and sensations.

By incorporating audio elements, you can communicate that your brand is innovative, agile, not the incumbent, accessible, or any message you desire.

For instance, a manufacturer of original equipment for automotive manufacturers might want to highlight its market leadership, modernity, and innovation. A unique sonic identity is a meaningful way to get those messages across instantly.

The key is to ensure that there's genuine meaning behind the sounds and not merely superficial elements.

In another scenario, TD Bank needed a sonic identity that expresses the idea that its local branches were like a local shop, including a shopkeeper who knows everyone's name. The bank launched a sonic identity, which it calls TD Sound (read about it and listen to it here).

"The TD Sound—or TD Sonic Identity—includes many components (like the short TD Sonic Logo), but they're all derived from the overarching TD Brand Melody. With clapping, bells, voices and more, the TD Brand Melody was created to be upbeat and optimistic, like a walk through a familiar neighborhood or a visit with your favorite TD employee," a TD Bank blog post explains.

Another brand that sonic branding well is Eiffage, a major civil engineering and construction company. Its sonic identity features the voices of men, women, and children in order to convey the sense of a people-focused, innovative, and future-oriented brand. The music itself expresses the brand's essence with tailor-made, positive, energetic music that reflects its identity and brings people together.

The sonic identity helped to solve a key challenge of Eiffage, which was to differentiate from other companies by highlighting the unique skills of the construction craftspeople who create exceptional structures and buildings that leave a lasting legacy.

4. Think ecosystem, not individual sounds

A sonic identity is not a jingle; it is a distinct ecosystem of sounds that represent your brand's values, personality, and aspirations. It's the myriad of sounds that prompt your customers and prospects to associate your brand with wherever they are in real life or the digital universe. If your sonic identity uses one set of audio elements on your website and another on your mobile app, customers will fail to make the connection.

5. Deploy widely across all touchpoints

Consider how all of your audio elements combined tell your brand story across all touchpoints. Deploy your sonic identity across all platforms and experiences, from your product UX, website, metaverse property, on-hold music, social media, podcasts, events, etc. In short, wherever people interact with your brand.

6. Tap into the power of your employees with sonic

Finally, take care to roll out your sonic branding within your organization as well. Sonic branding excels at creating a sense of belonging and building a community, which will benefit both your current and potential employees.

Creating Memories

B2B brands don't need to default to stock music or overpay for licensed tracks. It's better to spend your marketing budget wisely by creating a powerful new sensory dimension that will ultimately deliver more value to your brand and create lasting memories in your customers and prospects.

Wherever people interact with your brand, sound can play a role in conveying a cohesive experience and building brand recognition.

More Resources on Sonic Branding & Brand Identity

The Most Important Branding Element You Are Likely Ignoring

What's the 'Return on Sound'? Build Long-Term Emotional Equity by Applying Sound Strategically

The Role of Music in Your Brand: Sam Parvin on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

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Sonic Branding for Memorable B2B Brands: How to Create a Sonic Identity

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image of Michael Boumendil

Michael Boumendil is president and chief creative officer of leading global sonic branding agency Sixième Son. He founded Sixieme Son in 1995 after conceiving the idea of using sonic identities to help brands be more powerful. Michael is a musician, composer, and brand strategist.

LinkedIn: Michael Boumendil