The Power of Sound

Sounds are part of life, but when we learned how to bottle it up and share it back in 1877, well, that was the real birth of the power of sound. Thank you Thomas Edison for inventing the phonograph.

Sharing sound stimulates our thinking and triggers our past experiences.  It’s amazing to see how our brains and sound relate.  They seem to remember a lot more than we give them credit for.  And they are often storing away experiences and repetitive sounds that we barely realize, until that same auditory signal triggers us in the future.

We know this is true just by thinking of how excited we can get as our favorite band starts to play songs we have heard hundreds of times.  Less obvious, however, is how auditory “reminders” can trigger us during the course of a normal day.

Why is this important to all of us?

Well, in communications and marketing, we often focus on the written word and the visual image.  Makes sense.  We spend far less time on the auditory experience, even though it can transcend language, cultural barriers and other common obstacles we all face in reaching our customer.  Why wouldn’t we use sound in our normal outreach to social channels for example?  What is that distinguishing characteristic we want to trigger association with us each and every time?

It can become our auditory brand signature.

The auditory cortex part of our brain has the ability to precisely process and distinguish the wide range of sounds we experience.  During this process, we hear certain sounds that cause us to feel a certain way emotionally. We can also distinguish different sounds by the memories they bring us.

If we are building brand value over time, we can then ask “what is the auditory experience that our customers have when they think of us?” “Are we using sound to drive behavior or to establish a signature that differentiates us in the minds of the customer, perhaps without us even realizing it is happening?

There is plenty of evidence that this is worth our time.  Yes, having a great brand involves a cool name, logo and packaging.  All are important visual appeals. However, it’s time to think of how to use all five senses online in a more powerful way. Haptic touch, by the way, is the latest innovation to make us rethink the power of the five senses.

The evidence is there that when done well, the use of sound is powerful.  Whether we look at Nike’s 1988 Revolution ad or the jingles of Intel or McDonald’s or how GM associated with a great song from The Who, you can see the power of sound to get our attention, remind us of the power of a brand we love or help us pay attention to a new product in a way that is more entertaining.

Sound often adds that entertainment value.  It makes things a bit more fun.  And it ultimately becomes a signature that can build brand power.  The next generation of musicians is figuring this out big-time, particularly rappers.  Some rappers are using a certain word, phrase, or another name for themselves that they say in the beginning of their songs. This allows the listener to subconsciously identify which artist is about to rap if they are singing as a group. Some of the most iconic examples include Lil Wayne’s sound of a lighter, DJ Khaled’s phrase “we the best music” or the famous “major key”, and Wiz Khalifa’s funny laugh.

Which brings us back to the main point of today’s musing.  Sound matters.  It is underrepresented in how we market and communicate today, yet we know its power. We all experience it every day.   Do we know what is in the auditory inventory of our customers and why?  Better yet, do we understand how we can align with our customers and improve their joy and happiness with our brand via our auditory cues and sound?

It’s time to discover the full power of sound in our online world.  And by the way, for the skeptics who think that smell and taste will never be online, just give it time.  Entrepreneurs are breaking down the barriers one sense at a time.

Common sense we guess?


Brittany and Bob

This blog post was co-authored by Bob Pearson, Vice Chair and Chief Innovation Officer of W2O.

Curious to learn more about W2O? Check out our About page.

Brittany Pearson
Brittany Pearson

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