From Audio to Branding

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Audio has always been the central medium for human communication and thus a premise for culture and society. Myths, epics and entire religions were at first communicated orally before they were written down. The very first communication device was a drum – better known as the “talking drum”. This form of audio communication was so efficient, that the musical instrument became prohibited during the slave trade in America and the Caribbean. The Slaves have been using the drums as some form of code language.

‘Where language fades, the music starts’ – said E. T. A. Hoffmann someday. Before language, sound already existed. The theory of nonverbal communication suggests that the prehistoric man – before language was around yet – used melodic sounds to express his emotions to his fellows.

The hearing centre in the human brain is directly connected to the hippocampus and to its connected reward system. Here, associations are getting tied to emotions. It interprets whether new information is important to us or not. By the release of dopamine, positive aural impressions can get close to sensations like food or sex. The highest density of nerve cells in the human body lies inside the inner ear, but in contrast to other sensory perceptions, hearing happens inside the oldest part of the brain and barely needs to pass through any neuronal layers. That makes sound faster and has above all a direct impact on the subconsciousness. So exaclty there, where brands want to be perceived. That makes audio in advertisement and brand communication substantially important. In 1903, the first brand song ‘Under the Anheuser Bush’ was launched for the same-sounding beer brand Anheuser Busch. From 1923 onwards, the NBC music broadcast ‘The Clicquot Eskimos’ was sponsored by the beverage company Clicquot Club Company. Key element of the broadcast was a Banjo-orchestra under the same name playing the ‘Clicquot Fox Trot March’ at the beginning of each show. The march was considered the first ‘trademark overture’ ever. In an NBC-publication, it says:

‘The value of this from an advertising standpoint can hardly be overestimated. […] This musical preface and epilogue are ‘headline’ and ‘signature’ to the Clicquot Club Company’s air advertisement.‘

In 1926, the first jingle for the breakfast cereal brand ‘Wheaties’ was sung and broadcasted live at the radio station. The A cappella group “Wheaties Quartet” sung the 40-second jingle every week for three years. It was shown that in the regions affected by the broadcast, significantly more cereals were sold. Consequently, they launched the Wheaties-Jingle on a national scale, which ultimately saved the company from a sales slump. In 1929 the ‘NBC Chimes’ were broadcasted internationally as the first digital signature ever.

During the second half of the last century, ads of a rather naive nature – containing rhymed songs and sung jingles – transferred to strategically planned advertisement with occasionally excellent use of music. Such as the cooperation between Pepsi and Michael Jackson in the ‘80s, which set a new standard.

And ‘Deutsche Telekom’ in 1999, when they announced the new millennium with their unmistakable sound logo. In the following years, the number of audio touchpoints in brand communication exploded as a result of digitization, which lead to new opportunities for audio applications. A small circle of audio branding experts was found. In 2009, ‘Audio Branding Academy’ was found with the aim to professionalise the audio branding economy. After ten years, alongside international congresses, publications, best cases and award shows, audio branding has established itself as a must-have in the modern brand management.

Excerpt 1/6 from RADIOZENTRALE’s Audio Branding Guide.
Author: Cornelius Ringe.

Click here for part 2/6.
And here for part 3/6.

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