You are currently viewing Sound Off: Exploring the Idea of Sonic Branding

Sound Off: Exploring the Idea of Sonic Branding

You’re walking down the sidewalk on your lunch hour and a familiar tune pops into your head. Did you hear it on the radio this morning? Was your co-worker singing it? Where did it come from? The fact is, you may not have even heard it that day at all. Thus is the idea of sonic branding. A term that sounds more complex than it is, sonic branding is something that we (consciously or not) encounter practically every day.

What is sonic branding?

You know that branding involves curating a specific “look” for your business or product. Sonic branding, on the other hand, has to do with the way your brand sounds. In other words, sonic branding refers to creating auditory associations with your brand for consumers. It employs the power of sound and music to help consumers make connections with your brand.

Sonic branding can exist in multiple formats, from fully-produced jingles and theme songs to signature sounds that involve little more than a few notes on a keyboard.

The idea is that when people hear your sonic brand, it will stay top of mind. There’s a good case for it to do so, as 45 percent of the population are reportedly auditory vs. visual learners.

A few familiar examples of sonic branding

The best way to illustrate sonic branding is to look at a few examples that you are likely already familiar with.


Visa uses a recognizable two-note signature that is not only used in the brand’s advertisements, but in a million points of sale across 25 countries when people use Visa’s “Tap to Pay” function.


Another major credit card company, MasterCard, recently debuted its new “sonic brand,” explaining the phenomenon in a YouTube video that describes how the sound will be used. In the video, MasterCard states:

“It’s the sound equivalent of our iconic red and yellow circles. From the music you’ll hear in our commercials, to the acceptance sound while shopping, our unique melody will reinforce our brand every time a consumer interacts with MasterCard.”

MasterCard goes on to say that its sonic brand will be adapted for use across several platforms, as well as geographically to appeal to various consumers.


Some examples of sonic branding existed before the term was even coined. The National Broadcasting Network (NBC) boasts a familiar three-note chime that dates back to the 1920s. It originally consisted of seven notes when it was developed in 1927. By the early 1930s, it was shortened to the three notes that we know today.


Beyond just sounds, jingles fall under the umbrella of sonic branding. Think about “Da, da, da, da, da! I’m lovin’ it.” Even without the words, McDonald’s widely-known jingle is one that most of us could pick out of a lineup. It’s become so familiar, in fact, that it’s gone through several iterations that vary by musical genre.

Why is sonic branding effective?

Music is a universal language that can be spoken and comprehended across all cultures in spite of idiomatic differences. Thus, it’s a powerful way to connect with various audiences while reinforcing brand identity.

It’s something we can all attest to—just think about sonic branding the next time a jingle or theme song gets stuck in your head! Just like visual associations with brand insignia can be strong, so can these auditory connections.

McNutt & Partners is a full-service advertising and digital marketing agency. Contact us today for your marketing needs! Call 334-521-1010, or visit our contact page.



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