Branding’s new frontier: Sound?


The consumer is increasingly devious, and we are all in a permanent battle to avoid direct marketing and advertising; we skip through ads in magazines and turn a blind eye to the banners and videos that accompany our visits to social media and websites. Or do we?

Advertising works, and it is becoming more and more manipulative. There has been astonishing growth in the industry; this year the online advertising industry grew to over £2.6 billion in the UK alone. The advertising industry no longer solely relies on media such as television and radio, but instead can target consumers at a more personal level: in their online domains. In addition to this, marketing campaigns are becoming more intuitive and advertisers are beginning to pay a little more attention to another sensory domain: hearing.

The beeps, clicks, bangs, and rustles that accompany advertisements have more meaning than they are often given credit for. But this has been largely ignored by marketers as 83% of advertising only appeals to our sense of sight, which is particularly dangerous considering the consumers’ ability to use more than electronic device at any one time, often unaware of the messages playing out on screens around them.

It would be a logical step for the industry to utilise our sense of hearing to their advantage. Although a noise is not what consumers first notice about a brand or product, a positive association may be formed if the tune is right and the consumer can be conditioned to produce a certain reaction – and hopefully that reaction is a purchase reaction. Retailers are not far behind in the shift towards a more melodic future, choosing music and sounds which they think will enhance the customer experience and augment the intention to buy.

An established pitfall of using sound in advertising is the possibility of causing a negative response amongst the target market. It has been widely proven that there are certain jingles that cause repulsion amongst all who hear it such as the Nokia ringtone, the Microsoft start-up tune, and the ‘Go Compare’ chorus. Whilst bombardment of advertising messages is about communicating a product’s value to the consumer, it is important to remember what Lindstrom’s neuro-marketing research taught us – that we prefer a subtle melody to a blaring horn.

The subtlety has gone even further for some brands, and even the sounds that their products make when opened or used are carefully manufactured to create a specific association with a feeling or portrayal of quality. Clinique are a prime illustration of this as they adjusted the cap of their mascara so that it produced a certain ‘click’ when closed which suggested the superiority of their more expensive merchandise. This level of focus in advertising demonstrates that the power of marketing is not only more intuitive, but more attuned to the evasive actions of the modern consumer.


Photo credit: ElandInteractive, wiki commons






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