Sound Branding Live Experiences: What Does Your Brand Sound Like?

sound branding trade shows

Do you know what your brand sounds like? If the answer is “It sounds like whatever Spotify playlist I left playing in the trade show booth,” you might want to give some thought to your audio identity.

Whether you call it sound branding, audio branding, sonic branding, or acoustic branding, your brand deserves its own signature sound. At least that’s what practitioners of sound branding believe. Science backs them up: research presented at the Audio Branding Congress (yes, there is such a thing) found that “congruent sound cues can increase the speed of a visual search for products (a key for success in both online and retail settings)” according to the Harvard Business Review.

Branded Sounds Are Everywhere

Why is sound becoming increasingly important to marketers? As Michele Arnese of amp Sound Branding recently told German marketing magazine WuV, “Over time, trends — technology trends in particular — have contributed to the fact that brand loyalty is now influenced by a lot more than just visuals. Sound has an immense potential to connect to consumers through emotions — even across channels.”

Arnese points to the rise of voice-enabled technology (think Siri and Alexa) and the ecosystem of sounds their navigation necessitates. Sound not only aids interactivity, it shapes the emotional landscape in which your brand is experienced. It primes how those interfacing with your brand will feel. If you’ve ever watched a movie with the sound off, you understand how much a film’s score accentuates its emotional cues. Having a soundtrack for your exhibit or installation could yield the same effect.

When it comes to sound branding trade shows, HelloWorld’s Ben Brown explains to Marketing World that “brand ‘sounds’ are successful when they provoke recognition, stir positive emotion and capture a unique identity.”

Brown describes how his own brand used a “Disney-esque, Harry Potter-style soundtrack” to “evoke a magical and cinematic feel,” deepening the immersive quality of his attendees’ experience.

Sound Gives Electric Cars a Personality

The sound of a revving engine is part of the experience of going for a drive — or it least it used to be. Today’s electric vehicles produce little to no engine noise, which means drivers miss that familiar, satisfying sound, and pedestrians aren’t as aware of approaching cars. Car manufacturers like Jaguar and BMW are hiring composers to complete the emotional experience of driving their silent EVs (and protect pedestrians).

Blade Runner 2049 composer Hans Zimmer has been tapped to develop sound for the BMW Vision M NEXT, a sports car with a futuristic aesthetic that wouldn’t be out of place in the movie’s cyberpunk landscape. The BMW Vision M NEXT is the first car to incorporate BMW IconicSounds Electric, a cinematic sound experience developed to address the “gap in the emotionality of the driving experience” that arises due to the silence of EVs.

“We want to get BMW IconicSounds Electric in position for customers who value emotional sound,” explains BMW’s SVP of Customer and Brand, Jens Thiemer. “With BMW IconicSounds Electric they will be able to experience the joy of driving with all their senses.”

Boutique Brands Add Musicians

Composers and musicians aren’t just finding new work from car manufacturers, other unexpected brands are seeking their services as more companies pay attention to the value of sound branding. Atelier Ace teamed up with experimental ambient musician Julianna Barwick and Microsoft to create an ever-changing soundtrack for the lobby of its Lower East Side hotel. The lobby score is generated by Microsoft AI, which uses a camera on the roof of the property to gather information about birds, clouds, rain, sunlight, and planes, and uses this information to determine which of Barwick’s pre-recorded sound loops to play. When the moon rises, vocals play. Birds trigger a light synth. The music is constantly made and remade by the environment, and the Eno-ish ambient sound gives the lobby a tranquil, sophisticated feeling.

Another New York company working with musicians to promote its brand is Moscot. The eyewear company’s Moscot Music series started organically: after Harvey Moscot, fourth-generation heir of the company and avid guitarist, enjoyed an impromptu jam session with a friend who stopped by the shop, he had the idea of offering free, public concerts at the store. The intimate events express the Moscot family’s love of music and give the brand a chance to give back to the community.

ASMR Crinkles Its Way Into Marketing

ASMR (short for autonomous sensory meridian response) is that pleasant tingly feeling some people get in response to audio-visual triggers like whispering and crinkling. And with more than 50 million ASMR videos on YouTube, it’s no surprise that big brands from IKEA (crisp linens) to KFC (sizzling fryer) are looking to harness the power of ASMR in their marketing.

“ASMR taps into the sensory experience of using your product, the little things that make it memorable or delightful but may often go overlooked,” writes Nick Bennett at Impact. He explains that ASMR is powerful because it conveys that a product is more than just a pillowcase or a piece of chicken — it’s “something that elicits a physical response.”

Brands are incorporating ASMR into live experiences, too. Last year, Fuze Tea teamed up with popular ASMRtist Emma Smith (also known as WhispersRed) to create the UK’s first live ASMR experience. At the Soho pop-up, guests were invited to listen to favorite ASMR sounds (whispering, hair drying, typing) and play with ASMR “triggers” such as rice, crinkly packets, and rainsticks. There were also opportunities for massage and gentle face brushing, as well as plenty of tea samples.

Stateside, Whisperlodge has been offering immersive performances of live ASMR in New York and Los Angeles since 2016. Guests are blindfolded and led through a spa-like ASMR experience featuring a sound bath, sound triggers like crinkling paper and whispers, and soothing touch in the form of face brushing. Whisperlodge has consulted for brands like Marriott’s Moxy Hotel, which hired its creators to produce a series of “bedtime stories” for its Chelsea location.

The Sound of Quality

Sometimes sound itself is what you’re marketing at a particular experience. In one of the sonic environments crafted by Group Delphi, the sound booth at T-Mobile’s signature store in San Francisco, the design was built to keep ambient noise of a bustling store out, so customers could appreciate the sound quality of the wireless audio system within. With careful consideration to materials and construction, we created a booth that lets visitors explore the sound of T-Mobile’s wireless audio devices without distraction.

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