Cannes Lions, Sonic Branding and the Importance of Sound

When we think about brands, we usually think of the product or the service -- the color of the Coke can, the taste of a Peep. What we don't think of as readily, but what is also always present, is the sound of the brand.
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The whir of a fan at night ... The rev of a starting engine ... Your sister's laugh ... The sound of your father's steps on the stairs

These make up the soundtrack to our lives, as much, if not more so, than our favorite songs. They orient us to the things we remember, the people we love and the experiences that have defined us. They are part of a language that we never forget.

Like it or not, brands are as much a part of our life's landscape as anything else. Our memories of our grandmothers are linked to the Oreos they fed us on holidays. There are certain airlines that will always make us think of coming home. A particular Gap shirt reminds us of that guy/girl we fell in love with one hot summer in July.

When we think about these brands, we usually think of the product or the service -- the color of the Coke can, the taste of a Peep, the feel of the airplane seat against the back of your legs. What we don't think of as readily, but what is also always present, is the sound of the brand. The song from that iconic Pepsi commercial, the pinging sound your Mac makes as it fires up, the clicking of the blinker on your old Ford as you signal right. These are equally, if not more important, than the visual cues that usually come to mind first.

There are a small number agencies in the marketing world that work or even dabble in the business of sound. One of few that does, and arguably one of the best, is MassiveMusic. More than 10 years ago, this agency had its genesis at Cannes, after the repeated success of its opening night party. It is now one of the most coveted events of the week. The agency also usually take home a few awards. This year MassiveMusic is entered in Film Craft for Best Use of Music for Fiat "Get Ready," as well as Sound Design and Editing. It also worked on a beautiful film with Fitzgerald & Co for Bulwark titled 451º, which is entered in several categories.

What's interesting about the agency is that it has found incredible success in something we often overlook. Yes, it matters what something looks like and feels like, but just as importantly, it matters what it sounds like. As Elijah Torn, their creative director describes it,

"Sound is such an important aspect of all of our lives. This becomes even more apparent as everything in our lives is becoming digital. Shutter sounds on digital cameras let us know that our memories are being captured even though there isn't a mechanical connection. Certain frequencies -- such as that of the human voice can resonate more deeply and convey their message more clearly. With music we can have a enhanced memory recall -- music puts us in a specific place. Tying the proper music and sound design to a brand can then extend this is into our daily lives. Instead of only being thirty seconds of someone's daily life from a web or television commercial, you create a sense of familiarity, comfort and of course a direct memory."

This "sonic branding" reminds us of the importance of sound. A sense that we can sometimes forget about when we are so caught up in the acts of seeing and feeling. Hearing is hard-wired to our emotions and sound can allow us to experience things with a depth that wouldn't otherwise be present. Just imagine a day at the sea without the music of the waves hitting the shore. What would it be like to be more conscious and connected to the things we hear? Maybe we should all try it out. At some point today stop what we are doing, the same way we would pause to take in a view, and just...listen.

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