Audio Branding Glossary

“Audio DNA,” “Audio Logo,” “Environmental Sound Design,” these terms may be new to many marketers. Colleen Fahey along with co-author, Laurence Minsky are authors of an audio branding book.

To make it easier for their readers, Fahey has assembled the frequently used words in the book into an informal audio branding glossary.  Get a head start on definitions before the book comes out in the spring.

Audio Branding

The big one!  It’s how you sound to the world.  It’s both a system and a discipline.  You want people to recognize your brand, no matter where they hear it, whether their eyes are open or closed, whether they’re on hold with your customer service center or watching a how-to video.

So you create a system of music that conveys the meaning of the brand at each touchpoint. You manage it so your store, your ads and your service line don’t sound like three totally different brands.

It’s also called music branding, sonic branding, sound branding and acoustic branding.

Audio DNA

A short (under one minute) original composition that captures the values and personality of the brand and defines the musical vocabulary of instrumentation, tempo, melody et al, that the brand will use across multiple audio touchpoints.  It’s your musical bible.

Audio Logo

The hardest working part of your Audio DNA, your logo appears at the end of every piece of communication.  It’s the perfect partner to the animation of your visual logo.

To describe these short 2 to 3 second sounds, you might also hear the word, “mnemonic,” used but the original meaning of that word refers to “memory” or “memorability” so it feels a little thin to me.  Sometimes people say “sting,” which sounds as if its role is attention-grabbing.  A logo is more profound.  It performs both the aforementioned functions, but also conveys meaning, values and personality.

Audio Style Guide

This handy piece catalogs all the audio elements available that are based on your Audio DNA and gives you the rules of the road.  Some Style Guides are interactive, so employees, partners and agencies can hear samples of each piece.

Sound Design

When we use this term, we often mean adding sound effects or manipulating sounds.   For instance, near a display of electric cars, you might manipulate audio to make the music feel more electronic and near the gasoline-powered vehicles have it sound more acoustic.  Or, in a video, sound design can add the sounds of people eating in a restaurant or walking in a rainforest.

It also refers to creating a appropriate sound for the medium, that sound will be different for a mobile phone than for a giant theater.

Environmental Sound Design

Here we’re talking about soundscapes for physical spaces like malls, airports or expos.  The use of music and sound to create the environment you desire, for instance, to make the audience feel comfortable, or awestruck or amused.   If you have an audio brand already, you can drop little hints of that into the sound of your environment.

Audio Identity

The bad news is that you have one of these, whether you manage it or not.   It’s the sum total of the audio impressions your brand makes.   Cacophony or coherence?  Take your pick.

Audio Adaptations

The pieces of music that are derived from your brand sound and that specifically fit the unique needs of each touchpoint

Audio Touchpoints

Points of employee and customer contact that create big and small brand experiences.   An audio identity unifies them so that when you hear one you recognize its relation to the others.   That’s how you create surround-sound for your brand.

Customer service line

Branded music for pre-pickup and on-hold that aims to give your callers pleasant brand experiences and, in the best cases, discourages them from hanging up.  Sometimes, it includes ambient sounds and scripted recordings by voices that best capture the personality of the brand or meet the needs of the audience.

Meeting and Events

In meetings, there’s a real chance to subtly immerse your employees or other audiences in the sound of the brand.  As they walk into your meeting they hear anticipatory background music, then more energetic music signals the event is about to begin.  A further rise in energy introduces the key speaker, branded musical transitions between each speaker let people know there’s a change coming and exit music has them walking out carrying the emotion of the event.

Branded Content

Like any show in TV or radio, a recognizable intro, a variety of on-brand musical interstitials and a memorable “outro” helps audiences remember who has provided the content without banging them over the head with announcements.

Licensed music

Usually this music that has been created for entertainment purposes rather than branding.   In order to use it on behalf of a brand you have to pay a licensing fee.

Mnemonic:  See audio logo

Sting:  See audio logo

Doctor Who marks a new era with a new logo and sound

The famous British science-fiction television program, Doctor Who, has unveiled a new multimedia logo animation as they bring in Jodie Whittaker on board as the Thirteenth Doctor, the first actress to take on that role.

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