marketing

The marketing dissertation below has been submitted to us by a student in order to help you with your studies.

Executive Summary

With increase in competition and the number of media vehicles available, it has become essential for brands to establish powerful memory triggers in the minds of customers. Although, our relationship with sound is largely unconscious, sound is one of the most powerful and least explored senses in advertising and branding. India being a country with a very rich oral culture has numerous examples of sound identities created in religion, culture, traditions etc. Many smaller vendors and peddlers of India have also very effectively used sounds to differentiate themselves. Many companies are now starting to realize the effectiveness of Sonic Branding and the need for brands to have a sound identity. Some examples of famous and efficient sound trademarks are the Intel jingle, Nirma jingle, the Yahoo yodel, Apple computer sounds, Harley Davidson engine bike sound and Nokia's ringtone. From just using jingles and music, sonic branding has moved to the use of sounds in various other platforms such as intrinsic product based sounds, soundscapes etc.

This research aims to explore the effects of sound triggers or stimuli applied on customers to gauge the emotions and memories it evokes and hence understand how the trigger can affect the respondent. Brands across four broad categories have been considered for primary research according to the four quadrants of the FCB matrix. Various projective techniques have been used to find the associations created by the brand sounds of these chosen brands. Opinions of a few experts from advertising agencies and a few music composers have been taken to understand the phenomenon better. The findings have been analysed using the AIDA model, CAB model and also compared with similar examples from everyday life. The insights obtained have been used to come up with a framework for future companies to effectively implement sonic branding.

Introduction:

The impact that sound creates on anyone is profound. Sound being one of the major five senses plays a vital role in everyone's day to day activities. In a country like India, which has an extensive oral culture where even a form of medication has been passed on to the next generation orally; sound is something that matters to every single soul in one way or the other. Sound is prevalent in almost all traditional forms in India ranging from festivals to discourses. In a vast country like India, each state has its own culture and each culture has its own representation of sound in its own unique ways. Right from the birth, where a special song is sung to represent the birth of a new child till the death, where in some states there are different instruments played during funeral. There are different sounds that represent different emotional states and thus it is a part of everyone and each variation of it causes a different impact.

Every religion has its own usage of sound, for instance, ringing of bell and chanting has always symbolized the Hindu religion, similarly Sunday carols and Friday prayers at Church and mosque respectively. In a similar fashion and following the trend, various brands have started using sounds in all possible ways ranging from ad jingles to brand name associated music like the one Nokia has been using for years now. The main reason behind brands using sound although visual medium is still in vogue is because of the impact a particular sound creates on the user and the association with the brand name. Association of a particular sound to a product stays longer in a person's lifetime than probably a logo that one would associate with the same.

There are sounds that one can easily recognize like that of a police siren or one from the ambulance which creates the sense of emergency and this sound creates a deep impact at least for a small period of time. Sound can be regarded as the best medium to communicate as the auditory signals can spread through thin air reaching a lot of people around and unlike vision which is restricted to the view of the reader. This way the reach increases and the impact is so huge that many companies have started using sound as their important means of communication.

There are cases where the usage of sound has proven to increase the brand image and brand association of a particular product with the sound ,for example Kellogg's hired a Danish Lab to design a specific crunching sound for their cereal so that the customers will be able to differentiate their product from their counterparts' based on the sound. Similarly, Nestlé's Kit-Kat has used the wafer cracking sound in its advertisements' extensively thus bringing in an association between the cracking sound and their product.

Sound Association with products has become so common that there are lots of products in the market which can be associated with its own song, jingle or even simple theme music. The underlying fact is that the sound that one experiences once stays forever in the minds and thus strikes a chord whenever they come across the product. This long term impact of sound makes it a more viable option than other means.

There are cases where silence is the last thing customers would want, like in the case of a lounge where a mild music would help the customers ease out. This is probably the reason why a convention of sound based alerts in an elevator has come up to reassure people that they are safe even when they are alone. In the same lines was the first personal stereo developed because of which a person will not feel lonely and that sound will help him overcome his loneliness which eventually became an all time super hit product.

As we all know that radio is one of the most welcomed invention and the reason why it is still popular even after the invention of television and other fancy gadgets is because of the ease of use and because sound does not require one to sit tight to get the fullest experience, a person driving his car can just tune into his favourite station and keep listening while doing the driving and so is the case with a housewife who can listen to it doing her daily chores alongside. This is one reason why people are still happy advertising through a radio.

Considering Cinema, the impact that the sound creates and the value add that it provides to the movie experience is huge. Imagine a horror movie without sound and the impact it creates is not even half when compared to the one with the soundtrack on. There are many interesting cases which proves the point that sound is really a factor in any one's business; one such example would be the case of IBM's introduction of new range of 'noiseless' typewriters in the 70's which did not sell well in the market. The reason that they found was that what they termed as 'noise' really turned out to be a core attribute of the product and hence they re-launched the product with an artificial sound which simulated the original one.

There is also the case of Las Vegas Gambling machines which were made coinless and hence the absence of the sound made by coins inside the slot machines shooed away the customers thus resulting in a drop in the revenues. There are certain products which are so attached to sound used by the vendors to sell the products that the change in the sound or absence of it might pose a threat to the product. The best example is the roadside pushcart seller who uses his distinctive voice to cry out loud and sell what he has got. There could be no better way to sell ice creams or cotton candy's without using the bell attached to their push cart.

When we look at various commercial products, like say a coke tin when broken open gives this unique sound which reassures the buyer of the freshness and quality of packing involved and same applies to various other food products. This kind of a sound association with every attribute attracts the producers to give more and more importance to the involvement of sound in their products.

There are other instances which acts in the exact opposite fashion from what we have seen so far, the negative impact of sound associated with a product. An example to quote here would be that of a computer which produces less noise or no noise at all. In that case also sound association plays a vital role but in the opposite sense, that is, no sound or silence. Another major example here would be that of a generator which is more welcome when it produces less noise than one with a lot of sound. In this way even the absence of sound is associated with a select few products. Hence here sound might produce a negative impact on brand image.

There are certain products where the sound association comes in the form of sound made by the product itself, like for example, a motorcycle which has its own distinct sound by which it is well recognized in the society. It is imperative that for these products the sound attribute must never be replaced with or removed from the product.

If we run a search on product promotion using sound, there is no escape without going through our own traditional methods of product promotion or brand strengthening using sound as the major medium. Right from selling fish in a market till promoting a political party, Oral culture seems prevalent throughout our country. Processions, awareness campaigns all use sound to promote their products or ideas.

Literature review

Introduction to sonic branding

The branding of a sound stimulus is called as Sonic Branding, Audio Branding, Sound Branding or Auditory branding, interchangeably by different authors.

The power of music and sound to create a worldwide emotional response is unquestionable, but there is only little research that has been conducted to understand this phenomenon of sonic branding.

Jackson (2004) defines Sonic branding is defined as the structured process, in which the acoustic becomes a part of the brand and its brand identity. "....it may consist of an audio logo, a short jingle, or a brand theme".

Roots of sonic branding

Sonic Branding has been prevalent over centuries. The first sonic brand created was in 1859 when the chime sequence and the Big Ben bell was installed in the Westminster clock in London. Even today, whenever the chime is heard whether in grandfather clocks or mantel piece heirlooms, the City of Westminster is remembered around the world. (Stewart-Allen, 2006)

Sonic branding seems to have its roots around the time humans discovered or developed music, and later used music to peddle our wares. Even today vendors in the markets who shout out to customers, ice cream trucks that ring a bell as they move, giant wheels and merry-go-rounds in village fairs have a unique sound attached to them which created fond memories in people. Jackson (2004) says "...in spite of all these, sonic branding has gained recognition as a separate business discipline only in the last few decades... and has gained sophistication only over the last few years."

Power of Sound:

Music, the foundation for sonic branding, is a universally understood language and hence a powerful and feasible brand communications tool. Studies have shown that variations in the formal music structure of background music in commercials may have significant influence over the emotional responses of an audience. Music can evoke past memories, create nostalgia and transport the person to the past. The music evoked moods congruent with the feelings appropriate in such situations can be associated with increases in purchase intentions. (Alpert, Judy, Elliot, 2005)

Sound is hardwired into our emotional circuit and it can often be the decided factor in a consumer's choice. Studies have shown direct correlation between the kind of music played in a store and the purchase pattern of customers. Hearing is passive and listening is active, and according to Lindstrom (2005, P. 73) "Even if we are more involved in hearing than listening, our mood is still affected by what we hear".

While a logo is a graphical element of the brand, the sonic brand is the audio element of the brand. The objective is to create a memory trigger, linking the product name, service or benefit with a pleasant memory. Sound is also the simplest way to bypass cultural and language barriers and delivers a corporate message on a global scale (Beau, 2008).

Sonic branding and advertising

Every living being on earth has its own sonic signature. As human development spreads, the space available for animals and insects shrink hence there is less space for creatures that rely on sound to hunt and reciprocate. Brands face a similar challenge. Some of the acoustic principles of mature hence apply to brands also. (Franus, 2009). Apart from visual stimuli, Audio is the most widely used element in any advertisement or brand communication. In the book Sonic Branding, Jackson (2004) refers to auditory interfaces as "sonic touch points." Radio, TV, cell phone, music played during telephone hold, and customer interactions in an IVR (Interactive Voice Response) system are but a few examples of the fourteen touch points Jackson identified.

Sonic Logo 'Sogo'

The most basic form of sonic branding is the sonic logo, a "sogo." A sogo is a unifying, focal sonic branding device. Corporate identity literature defines a sogo to be a sonic branding device that plays the role of a short distinctive auditory signature lasting between three to six seconds. A sogo is the auditory analogue of a visual logo. For example the 5-tone (G?-C? -F? -C?- G?) Intel TM is a sogo. As another example, sonic branding for different models of the Nokia phones may be different but related musically as a family, signed off by the same sogo.

The sogo 'activates' the entire brand knowledge that includes brand attributes, brand benefits and brand attitudes. According to Roy (2009), jingles which were the most common type of music in popular radio and TV commercials of the 80's and 90's is slowly phasing out. One does not hear jingles like that of Nirma, Hamara Bajaj or Vicco Turmeric any more. The trend is moving towards more short, crisp and memorable brand sogos.

Global Examples:

The power of Tarzan's call, the famous MGM lion roar are some examples of sounds that are famous globally. Later came Microsoft's start up tone for windows which is even today heard by more than 400 million people every day. The Intel Inside tune has been around since 1998 that it has actually made the invisible chip visible via the short distinct sound used in all its brand-building campaigns. Realising the importance of sound, Daimley Chrysler established a new department within his company to work on the sound of their car door as it was found that the way doors close can be an important factor in the perception of quality. (Lindstrom, 2005, p. 19, 21)

Sonic Brands in India:

According to Sanjay Raj Kurup, India is a very sonic nation and [brand] advertising in India was founded on sonic elements. He goes on to say "Age old jingles of brands like Vicco Turmeric cream, Frooti (fruit drink) and Nirma washing powder have helped create strong brand identities and are remembered even today. Also, as a country, we love the voices of our actors and actresses, and any brand that uses a famous celebrity voice to promote its products has met with success." (Khicha, 2009)

Further, Marketers in India have used music to sell everything from biscuits to bicycles. Britannia's trademark jingle 'tintin tri din' or the patriotic tune of Hamara Bajaj still rings in our ears.

Khicha (2009) says "...today, in an increasingly cluttered media environment, jingles have been refreshed and modernized to hold the attention of customers. Tunes no longer just repeat the brand name, but are used in a manner where the core brand idea is tied to the music more creatively like Titan's use of the symphony of Mozart"

Impact of Sounds:

According to Julian Treasure, sounds affect us at four stages:

Physiologically- Everyday life is filled with thousands of sound elements. From the alarm in the morning to the traffic and screeching of animals at night, every sound trigger creates a physiological impact on us. These impacts could include hormone sections, change in breathing, heart waves and brain waves. Unpleasant sounds like screeching sound, background sounds etc also affect us similarly.

Psychologically- Music is the most powerful sound that affects our emotional state. Music is capable of changing the mood and mental condition of a person. Apart from music, natural sound affects our emotions too. Bird sound make many people feel reassured. Sound of traffic and horns increase tension and anxiety.

Cognitively: We sub consciously filter sounds and only listen to what you want. For example when our name is called out in a crowd, we hear it irrespective of the background noises. This is also the reason why productivity decreases in noisy offices.

Behaviourally: We move towards unpleasant sounds and move towards pleasant sounds. The best example of this is the fact that most retail sounds have a drastic effect on sales.

Analysis of Brand Sounds:

There are eight ways in which a brand can express itself using sound and every brand which does it has some fundamental guidelines at its centre. (Treasure, 2009). The eight ways or platforms are:

Measuring Senses

The main problem with conducting a sensory audit is that "People tend to think about the sensory experience only in terms of the primary sense involved in the experience" (Lindstrom, 2005, Pg 139). Hence it now becomes a challenge to identify the component parts of the sensory experience. The Brand Sense study (Lindstrom, 2005) covers the differences between the brands based on the senses before getting to the core of the questionnaire focusing on the senses and specific brands.

Measuring Emotional response is trickier and is beyond the scope of a simple survey. Hence emotional responses are validated by starting on a simplifying assumption that emotion is related to a good or bad stimulus response. This hypothesis is later validated with the respondent. (Lindstrom, 2005)

According to Banks (2009), sonic branding is one of the most intangible and poorly understood forms of branding. At its simple form a sogo is just a memorable sound attached to an identity, but for a global brand the sonic strategy can capture the essence of the entire company.

Conclusion

A number of brands have implemented the feature of sound stimulus to facilitate marketing strategy and building a brand. In recent years, numerous companies have followed this way to gain reputation and trust for their goods and services. It has hence been proved that the particular sound of a product can acquire distinctiveness and become a valuable trademark. It is now time to awaken the dormant senses and further utilize their unique properties in the search for brand loyalty (Fulberg, 2003)

Recent Trends

Use of Intrinsic unconscious Sounds:

Brands have now started using more unconscious sounds to cognitively connect to the customer. With BMW patenting the sound of its car door closing and Kellogg patenting the sound of its crunchiness, more brands have started realising the importance of product sounds in creating a brand image for the product.

Death of Jingles:

The 1990s were times when brands used long jingles with lyrics very successfully to connect to audience. Brands like Vicco turmeric, Hamara Bajaj have very successfully used this phenomenon. In current times very few brands choose to use a brand jingle and are moving towards signature tunes, sogos etc. The problem faced with most jingles was that there is no common language across India and translating jingles to regional languages did not work well except in rare cases like that of Nirma.

In Film Sound Placements:

Like product placements, sound placements are also entering films. For example in the recent Aamir Khan Starrer 3 Idiots, the Airtel AR.Rahman caller tune is played whenever a phone rings in the movie. This phenomenon is likely to increase in future.

Knowledge gaps:

  1. Analysis of sounds heard in our everyday lives as a part of our environment, culture, religion etc as a sonic trigger and understanding how it interacts with the listener.
  2. Semiotic Analysis of Sonic triggers to understand their meaning with respect to the context.
  3. Data analysis tool to measure the degree of interaction between the customer perception and the Brand Sounds.
  4. Metrics to measure the effectiveness of a sonic brand.

Research Problem

To understand the impact of brand sound elements on a consumer and to analyse how it affects their perception of the brand and further their purchase intension.

Key Information Areas:

  • Study how many Indian and global brands have effectively used Sonic branding as a key branding element. (by analysing successful case studies)
  • To understand how people respond and interact with all the sonic triggers in their environment.
  • Impact on brand awareness, brand recall and brand loyalty
  • Relationship between sound element and perceived image of brand
  • Impact on attitude towards the brand
  • Emotional or memory triggers caused by the sound
  • To analyse the data obtained to extract the key insights or learning that is seen across all sonic brands studied. How are the insights from each brand, related to the brand's core value? Are there any lessons for future brand managers?
  • How better can brands utilize it? Potential it holds for the future.
  • Develop a framework for future brands to successfully implement sound as a key brand element.

Rational for Research:

The radio boom, internet and social media have opened up many new platforms of advertising and leveraging the power of sound for advertisers and brand managers. Also studies have shown that music played in stores has a huge impact on sales.

This research is very relevant to the current times as every brand now has started recognising the power of sound in branding and is looking out for more opportunities to implement the same. There are consultancies that have come up, which specialise in offering 'sound strategy' to their clients. In spite of all these advances, there is still very little research conducted on the effect of sound triggers on customers and the emotional impact it creates. There is also no framework to plan sound triggers as a part of a brand.

Hence this research would be of tremendous benefit to Advertising agencies which create advertisements and also for brand managers as sonic branding can be made a part of a brand right from its very basic product manufacturing stage.

Research Methodology:

The research methodology consists of two stages: Secondary and Primary research.

Secondary Research:

  • Study of the various sonic elements found in Indian History, Culture, Religion and our environment. Understand their significance and impact (effectiveness) in the society?
  • Analyse some popular Indian and global brands which have successfully used sound as a brand element.

Primary Research:

The research will be primarily qualitative as we are trying to understand intangible factors such as the impact of a sound element on a customer.

Qualitative Research:

Depth Interview and Dyads to understand parameters such as:

  • The sensory impressions created by the sound brand element,
  • Memories attached
  • Emotions evoked.
  • Reaction to the stimuli.

Depth Interviews with experts in the Industry (Both Brand strategists and Music composers) to understand their considerations for building a sound element into a brand.

Primary Research Design

The FCB matrix developed by Foote, Cone and Belding of a market research agency in 1980, segregates the purchase of a customer into four different categories based on the involvement of the customer (high or low) and the motive behind the purchase (rational or emotional)

For ease of comparison and analysis of data, the sonic brands taken for primary research are from four broad categories which fall in the four different quadrants of the FCB Matrix as follows.

Reason for choosing the categories and test samples:

Majority of the brands currently using sogos and Brand sounds to market themselves are from the telecom sector. For example the Nokia ringtone is played 1.8 billion times a day and is the most played sound around the world today. Although the frequency of association with these category of brands is low for a consumer, these sound elements help maintain high brand recall. Hence telecom falls in the first quadrant of the matrix being a rational purchase with considerably high amount of involvement. The samples taken for primary research from this category are:

  • Airtel (AR Rahman caller tune)
  • Docomo (Signature tune)

Nokia (Ring tone)

Products which of high emotional value and have a high level of involvement with the customer are usually prized possessions close to the customer's heart. To analyze this quadrant, examples of two wheelers are taken from the automobile sector. More than Ad jingles, it is known that the engine sound of an automobile plays an enormous role in creating an intrinsic emotional connect and a perception of the vehicle in the customers mind. Hence, engine sound being a product sound for these brands have been taken as a sample for primary research. The samples taken are:

  • Britannia (Sogo)
  • Kellogg (Crunchy sound)

Alpinliebe (Sogo)

Sounds can play a massive role in creating top of mind recall and desire to purchase in the category of foods and beverages. Huge brands like McDonalds, Britannia and Kellogg's have very effectively tried to use this phenomenon in their communication. Although visuals are the most important sense to connect to when it comes to food, creating an unconscious sound trigger helps create a deeper association for the customer with the brand at a more cognitive level. In this category, brand sounds also help motivate impulse purchase. Hence, some of the product sounds and Sogos taken for research from this quadrant are:

  • Yo-Bikes (Engine sound)
  • Harley Davidson (Engine sound)
  • Pulsar (Engine sound)

Apart from large products and brands, there are numerous goods that brand themselves only using sounds in the environment around us. They are products with which we have very low involvement, but their effective use of certain sounds connects to people in a spontaneous and emotional way. For example, a person on the way to work may suddenly decide to polish his shoes on hearing wood tapping sound made by cobblers sitting on the platform. Polished shoes make him feel more confident of his looks. Another example would be of people's immediate reaction to the pleading sounds of beggars even on a busy day. Some of the samples taken from this quadrant of the matrix are:

  • Ice cream trolleys (sound of the ringing bell)
  • Beggars (Sound made while pleading for alms)

Assumption of Research:

The basic assumption of this research is that the brands which fall in the four different quadrants of the FCB matrix differ in the ways and reasons for which sounds have been used to create a unique identity for themselves. The research tried to analyse the difference in the use of sound in these four quadrants based on this assumption

Sampling Design:

The observation and depth Interviews with vendors will be done in the cities of Ahmedabad and Chennai to observe the commonalities and differences between the cultures. The respondents will be chosen using the method of random sampling as follows:

Mix of users and non users of the brands. Preferably respondents who are aware of the brand.

(Note: SEC A+ and A and this particular age group has been selected based on the target users of the brands that are taken for primary research.) Expert opinions:

Apart from primary research with the customers, the opinions of three experts has been taken. Mr.Biju Dominic (CEO, Final mile) who has done deep research in the fields of neural sciences, Ms.Shally Mukherjee (Account Head, Leo Burnett) and Mr.Dominic (Music and Jingle Composer) have shared their views on the topic.

Findings from Observations

Watching respondents doing their routine work in the given context to derive insights about their behaviour is known as Observational research. The key advantage of this methodology is that the respondents are unaware of being monitored and hence behave naturally reducing sources of error in the data. To understand the effect of particular sound elements in our daily life, the following places were observed

  • Market Places
  • Residential Areas and inside houses
  • Railway Stations and Bus Stands

Market Place: The market place of any city, town or even village in India will be one of the most cluttered and unorganized place in that locality. With Large shops, medium sized shops, road side peddlers, beggars, mobile vendors and of course the people and the vehicles, a market place is just chaos especially at peak hours. In such a scenario, where any sound is considered noise, it becomes crucial for vendors and peddlers to use sound to break through the clutter and attract customers. Some of the key insights obtained from the market place are as follows:

The vendors who sell vegetables and fruits, call out to the female customers on the roads with respect using words like Didi, Amma etc. Some often repeat a list of vegetables that they are stocking currently. To push stocks, sometimes they repeatedly call out one particular vegetable or fruit announcing that it is fresh or that it is available for cheap rate. Thus by identifying what exactly the customer wants and needs to know to create a need for the product in the customer's mind is done effectively by these vendors by using their voice as a medium of communication.

The beggars who are seen in large numbers near important places provide numerous insights on sound based branding. There are different kinds of beggars. Physically Handicapped, poor with children, group of blind beggars and transvestites. Although all of them ultimately try to evoke sympathy and persuade you to part with some money voluntarily, it is seen that each of them have their own styles of using sound for the same purpose. Transvestites use the hands clapping as a symbol of their presence and to make others feel uncomfortable about it. Blind beggars grouped together and sang devotional songs with a whining flute, handicapped beggars often made sounds by knocking their begging bowls with very few coins on the floor or wall to direct the attention of passersby to their state of being handicapped and poor. Beggars who used small children to beg used a highly emotion filled pleading voice in order for people to sympathise with them. In spite of different kinds of sounds being used, all of them make the listener feel that it is also his social responsibility to serve the poor in the country in some way. He is indirectly persuaded to part with some money.

This phenomenon can also work in the opposite way. Repeated exposure to these sounds can make respondents indifferent to beggars in which case no amount of persuasive pleading appeals to the respondent. The sound either becomes redundant, noise or irritates him.

The sales men similarly use their voice or recorded sound to create a mystery around the products being sold. Their calling creates a curiosity and attracts passersby to stop for his demo.

Residential Areas: Spending a few days in a large residential area in Ahmedabad and interactions with people while observing the sounds they interact with on a daily basis, has brought out the following findings

The morning milk man and the vegetable vendor are identified based on the unique calls they make to their regular customers. One lady living in Vastrapur even quoted that "When I run out of vegetables, I keep waiting for the vegetable vendor to come with his cart. Usually I can hear him even when he is on the parallel road"

As the kids play in the evenings on the roads, the sound of the title songs of certain TV shows regularly watched indicate to them the time they have to return home. Many younger kids relate sounds to these title songs. A 5 year old kid from Chennai said "My mom comes back from work only when Kolangal is going on" (Kolangal being a Soap on Sun TV). Even older men and women run home when they hear the TV sounds of a neighbouring to watch the particular serial. Most of these reactions work on a pavlovian level causing immediate unconscious reactions to the stimuli from the environment.

A clear finding in the use of sound in railway stations is that any person who arrives at the station to board a train, when asked what the last announcement made over the public announcement system, is capable of giving the right answer of the previous broadcast. On the other hand, a person who is leaving the railway station after travel is not capable of recollecting the last announcement made. This shows the selective hearing of sounds only when the need occurs. Similar observations made in bus stops of Ahmedabad did not result in considerable findings as waiting for a bus and travelling in it seems a more visual task and no proper announcement system has been built in bus stands of India.

Other General Findings:

  • When it comes to money, the sound of crisp notes makes one feel more important and rich. A person carrying a crisp fresh note is thought of being classier than one carrying crumpled, bent, dirty notes of a slightly higher value.
  • The sound made by the footwear you wear defines you. Many working women claimed that they could picturize the person walking behind them by just listening to their footwear. Elite, sophisticated women wore foot wear that made a classy chic sound against the floor, where as more casual women working in lower grades wore footwear that made sloppy sounds while walking.
  • In western cultures, the sound made by cutlery while eating defines the elite-ness of the family and the meal. This culture is slowly being practised in India too with Many software engineers being trained in table manners as a part of professional training.
  • The resident of any house can easily recognise vehicles belonging to their family even when the vehicle honks from a distance. Similarly, children often recognise who is ringing the doorbell with the frequency with which it is rung. A mother from Chennai claimed that her three year old daughter can hear her father climbing up the stairs even before he rings the bell.

Findings from Primary research (Respondents)

As primary research amongst respondents on existing sonic brands where done on four categories of products, the analysis has been done similarly. Telecom:

In this section, each brand sound was played and the respondents were made to hear it with closed eyes in a silent environment. The first five words they thought of after each sound byte was asked for and also the respondents were probed on what imagery went on in their minds as they listened to the sample sound.

Airtel (Theme music): The most common words that came up after listening to the theme song were: Airtel, AR Rahman, Red, Logo of Airtel, 'Express yourself" tagline.

The scene they imagined as they listen to the song in many cases includes a western orchestra consisting of a fusion of instruments. The place was outdoors on a pleasant, warm evening.

On probing about how they felt while listening to it, "I have heard it so many times so it dint impact me in any huge way". Although the respondents did not seek the music, they did not mind listening to the music again.

Docomo (Signature tune): Smart, Energising, Fresh, Train Ad, per second calls, Do the new and youthful are the words immediately connected to the brand signature tune.

Respondents pictures a warm sunny afternoon with a group of friends in a train dancing to the tune of the jingle as shown in the commercial.

"The name is nice, new and attractive, the way they say Docomo is very catchy" said a 24 year old student. As the signature tune is relatively new, boredom did not set in and the respondents did not mind listening to it more than once.

Nokia (Ring tone): When the tone was played to Ashwin, a 23 year software engineer, his first reactions to it were "Its Nokia Ringtone ..... Actually, I don't know if it is Nokia ring tone, but it's my ring tone, so I think its Nokia". Every respondent had heard this tone but a few of them were not sure of the mobile brand name and just claimed the tone to be a common mobile ringtone. This could have been because of the over exposure of people to the Nokia tune that it has now slowly become more of a branded independent audio than being associated with the brand. Another respondent also said "In a public place this ringtone creates confusion as to whose mobile is ringing". The words associated with this sound sample were "Nokia, Ring tone, Pleasing, Nice, Soft, Mobile etc). Also it was found that most Nokia users had this as their ringtone as they never bothered to change it from the default settings. They said the music was pleasant, not irritating and they never got bored of hearing it on their mobile every day.

Analysis of the findings:

The sounds that are used here are recognised by all respondents easily and in many cases like that of Nokia ringtone and the Airtel theme song, the piece of audio has risen to be much more than just a brand element. It has grown to be a brand of its own and is recognised independent of its parent brand. Also, the description of what the respondents pictured while listening to the songs is very close to the core values of the brands themselves. These tones, although heard numerous times every day of our lives, never make us dislike it or avoid it, they are designed keeping in mind the frequency of exposure to ensure customers do not repel the sound.

As all telecom products and services are a very rational, planned purchase, the music used in this quadrant only helps create a immediate brand recall by triggering a good memory.

Automobiles

The respondents were played clips of the engine sounds of Harley Davidson, Pulsar and Yo-Bikes and asked to personate the sound they had just heard. These were the results:

Analysis of the findings:

The sound tested here, the engines sounds, is actually an unconscious sound produced by the product. Although the brand does not focus on this, the sound of an engine plays a enormous role in connecting to the customers. In the above cases it is seen that the three samples have a very different personality compared to each other. The sounds created a 'feel good' factor for the respondents and brought back elements of nostalgia about their own bikes. It connects to them emotionally and also helps create a brand image for the brand. For example while bench marking with Scooty pep, most respondents felt that Scooty would be a more 'powerful' and efficient person than a timid Yo-Bike. Hence such product based sounds affect the perception of the product intrinsically in the customer's mind.

Food & Beverages:

In this section, half the respondents interviewed were given the brand name first and then asked to picturize how the world of that particular brand would look like. The other half of the respondents were made to listen to the Sogo or product sound and then asked to picturize the same.

Analysis of Findings:

The most important observation made in this segment was that, for the respondents for whom the sound clip was played first, the brand was immediately remembered, but for the other half of the respondents who heard only the brand name first did not have the brand sound amongst their top of mind recall. This shows that these sounds work on a more intrinsic level. Also product based sounds in this category symbolise freshness and quality of the product. When new, the music can trigger curiosity and inquisitiveness in the customer. Also the sounds trigger prior memory sets a mental mood in the customer.

Low Involvement, contemporary products:

In this section, the respondents were played short clips of the sound of the bell of a ice cream carts and a few audio bytes of beggars begging for alms and asked for the works and reactions that first come to their mind.

Although most respondents were not interested in purchasing kulfi for hygiene reasons etc, all respondents were immediately able to recognise the bell of the cart as that of the 'Kulfi Carts'. The sound reminded them of the ice creams they had eaten outside their school, of good cold food although being in the age group of 20-25 they did not personally desire to purchase the product immediately. They said that hearing such a noise on the streets would not make them look out of the window as they already knew what it was and also some of them could picture small children running towards the cart waiting to buy the ice creams. One respondent said 'I don't want the ice cream, but I feel like eating something sweet and cold'.

On listening to the next audio sample of beggars begging in a market place, mixed reactions were obtained. Shwetha from Chennai said "It is better that I give them a rupee or two and get away, otherwise they will follow you around and make you feel inhumane" on hearing a small girl child begging. Manu on the other hand said "It is irritating, why do I have to see someone like that?.... Although I feel sorry for them at some level, I feel disgusted when they are around begging.... Sometimes if there are too many of them I do not react, but if the beggar is doing something in particular like say cleaning the train floor etc then I will consider giving him some money"

Although most people said they would try their best to avoid transvestites, the usually withdrew some money from their wallets even when they heard a eunuch in the next compartment of a train. Their sounds made their presence felt in the entire compartment while travelling by trains.

Analysis of the findings:

The sounds used in this category tend to create an impulse reaction in the customer. The sound elements used have been hardwired in out memory that there is immediate connect and attitudinal change that happens. The stimuli response is almost pavlovian.

Although the reactions to both beggars and ice cream trolleys were a mix of positive and negative, the reaction for the stimulus was obtained spontaneously. Action or indifference, in both cases, the connect was immediately made to the right source of the sound.

The sound elements are being used at the point of purchase and the sounds are consciously made. In most cases, the sound element is the only branding tool used to brand the product or service.

Many branded ice cream carts like that of Vadilal and Kwality walls have also started attaching bells to their carts for attracting more customers and increasing sales. Hence in this quadrant, sounds act as a behavioural trigger resulting in immediate action.

Gap Found: In the AIDA model, 'action' is the most sought after goal of most marketers. Although being in this quadrant with a unique sonic trigger which will convert to immediate purchase and consumption of the brand, very few commercial brands are currently occupying this space.

Findings from Primary Research (Experts)

The flow of job transfer usually while creating a sound element is as follows

Large companies like Airtel, Cadburys etc always provide the agency with a compulsory brand tune to be used in the Ad. Many times old existing jingles of brands are taken, altered a little and used for the newer Ads.

In the case of smaller clients with no distinct prior sonic element, the creative director is in charge of briefing the production house the right kind of music needed for the piece of communication. The final sound byte needs to be approved by the client, but till recent times most clients and agencies have only focused on the visual and the copy of ads while importance to the sonic elements have been secondary.

A lot of young composers have not come into the field who are ready to compose jingles even for free, hence many companies to cut down costs prefer to recruits such people as they are also satisfied with a minimum quality of sound in their ads.

Briefing the creative director, production house and the composer about the kind of music needed is a difficult task as the language we use does not have specific words to describe music. According to Dominic a music composer, most clients have a brief asking for a 30 second jingle that is "peppy, youthful, fresh and fun". It is important for the composer to know the values of the brand, the goals of the ad and the context of the music in order to make the sound element more effective.

Today, more brands are becoming aware of the importance of sonic branding. Large companies recruit music directors like AR Rahman for a huge sum of money to create a one minute signature tune for them. Recently the success of Docomo jingle composed by Ram Sampath through Lowe has been a positive example of change happening in the industry.

Although the change of giving more importance to sound based branding has just started happening, the future looks bright for composers as more assignments are pouring in.

Analysis of the Four Quadrants

AIDA Model

The AIDA model is used to convey the communication objective of a certain brand. It has four stages as follows

  • Awareness: To attract the attention of the customer
  • Interest: To make the customers curious and interested
  • Desire: To convince customers that they want the product
  • Action: To lead customers to perform a specific behaviour

The four categories of brands taken have been analysed using the AIDA model to find what communication goals they are serving

CAB Model:

Cognitive, Affective and Behavioral theory, is a theory which delves in the Psychology realm. The three quadrants represent the three different triggers that can be caused by any communication the consumers mind namely:

  • Cognitive Trigger: Connects to them rationally
  • Affective Trigger: Strikes their emotionally
  • Behavioral Trigger: Causes a change in attitude

The categories taken have also been analysed using the CAB model to identify how they connect with the customers

Touch point used

According to the various touch point at which the consumer comes in contact with the brand sound, the platforms are classified as

  • Point of Purchase (POP)
  • Point of Consumption (POC)
  • Advertising Media (Includes all broadcast media like TV, Radio, Internet, Mobiles etc)

The four categories taken for primary research have been analysed below to find the ideal platforms to effectively connect to the customers

Ideal Brand sounds

Earlier in the Literature review, eight types of brand sounds were identified by Treasure (2009). The categories have also been analysed to find which like of brand sound will be most effective for each category

Similar examples for Life space

After analysis samples from the commercial world of brands, a few similar examples which causes similar effects have been taken from everyday life to be compared.

What effect this can create

All the above analysis helps us identify for what purposes sound can be used in a specific quadrant of the FCB matrix.

Point of Purchase

Other Similar Categories

Although a few brands like Kit Kat have tried to build a ritual of breaking the bar and enjoying its crunchiness, and cola companies try creating desire through the sound of its fizz, no commercial brand seems to have reached this level of spontaneous response using sound

Overall Framework of Sonic Branding:

Implications for Brand Managers

If a sound element is identifiable and memorable it will contribute directly to more efficient communication. As the sound element creates an immediate connect to the customer, help him build associations with the brand, less pushing of goods is needed which results in better contact with the customers by spending lesser money by the brand manager. Thus in the long run, the sound element becomes a brand asset. Although the need for a brand to have a unique sonic identity has been shown to be crucial and effective, even the best brand sounds can become useless unless agreed rules of usage and methods of enforcement are controlled. Some of the vital factors to be ensured while creating a sonic brand are:

  • Is there synergy between the brand personality and the brand sound? Are the key attributes of the brand reflected in the tone and mood of the sound element? For example, a standalone radio commercial should be able to communicate the entire brand essence.
  • As there very few words in our vocabulary to express exactly how a sound is like, the brief given to the agency or production house or composer becomes essential. Often there is a gap between what the company seeks for and what the composer is thinking about.
  • Campaigns with good sonic elements have longer legs and run for longer durations. Hence it is important to consider the following while deciding a sonic brand element
  • Stickiness of the sound
  • Fit for the brand
  • Differentiation compared to other players
  • Consequent usage of the sound element
  • Memorability: Is it catchy and distinctive?
  • Product based sounds are to be created for the unconscious. They should be designed for the unconscious mind in order to create an intrinsic value for the brand and for it to be retained in the memory of the masses. Such a sound element would act like a Trojan horse sent into the brain.
  • The overall goal of sonic branding should be to create a good, pleasing, memorable experience for the customer. Hence it is also a form of experiential marketing.

Limitations of research

Due to limited time and resources, there are certain limitations to this research.

  1. The sample for primary research is restricted to SEC A+ and SEC A in two metros. Similar research done in other metros, tier I, tier II cites of India can give varied results.
  2. The brands taken for the study are restricted to four broad categories. Many other brands which have successfully or unsuccessfully attempted to use sound based branding can be analysed using the given framework.
  3. A complete analysis of the sound elements, such as its pitch, texture etc based on Ragas, the instruments used etc, and the effect of these on the final sound bytes could not been done.
  4. Due to lack of time, only respondents belonging to a certain age bracket could be studied.

Future Scope:

  • A similar study can be done on the use of sounds in Movies, Music Albums and other forms of entertainment.
  • Further analysis of the sound elements, such as its pitch, texture etc based on Ragas, the instruments used etc, and the effect of these on the final sound bytes can be studied.
  • The semiotics of sound can be studied in detail to find out what kind of music creates a particular emotion or mood in a respondent.
  • The effect of local cultures and the sound related to them can be studied in detail.

For Brand Strategists:

  • Who are the people involved in deciding on the use of sounds in a brand's communication? What is the role of each person in the process?
  • Does the decision to use music come from the company, strategy, creative, or account planning?
  • What is the format of the brief given to the composer? Who briefs him? How similar is it to the creative brief.
  • Role of the company in briefing or approving the sound/jingle
  • For a new brand without an existing jingle or brand sound, how much planning or strategising goes into the process of creating a unique brand identity for it using sound?
  • From the use of long jingles and the strategy of repeating brand name in the jingle to patenting product based sounds, do you think the industry is changing (or not changing) in terms of using sound elements for branding.
  • How do you think this phenomenon will go forward in the future? With a lot of work being done on sensory branding, how do you picture branding in 2020, what according to you is the scope brand sounds have in the future?

For Music Composers and Professionals:

  1. What according to you is the role of music in advertising? How do you think music can impact a piece of brand communication? What do you think is its impact on customers and their life?
  2. How important is music or sounds to an Ad being effective?
  3. What are the parameters you consider while composing sounds for a brand or for an advertisement. What factors do you keep in mind while deciding the degree to which sounds can be used in a brand communication?
  4. Do you think it is possible for the music to individually represent what the brand stands for? (probe on product category, brand, ad objectives, purchase behaviour)
  5. What according to you is the scope for sounds in branding and advertisements in near future?
  6. Do you see any trends emerging in the use of music and sound in advertising over the years?

Discussion Guidelines for Respondents:

Ice Breaking

  1. Ask them to introduce themselves. (Name, age, profession)
  2. What are your hobbies?
  3. Describe in detail a regular weekday of your life.
  4. Describe in detail how you spend your weekends.

Typical day and typical weekend: Focusing on Morning sounds, Transportation, Vehicles, Entertainment, and Relaxation etc. Probe on specific sounds involved to see the kind of memory it triggers.

Brands

Low Involvement, contemporary products: (top of mind reactions)

  • Ice cream trolleys (sound of the ringing bell)
  • Cobblers in Mumbai (Sound of them tapping on a piece of wood)
  • Vegetable vendors ( Calling out sound unique to each vendor)
  • Beggars (Sound made while pleading for alms)

What are feelings associated. What are the first thoughts or memories that it triggers? What are the emotions attached.

Telecom:

Each brand sound to be heard with closed eyes in a silent environment.

  • Airtel (AR Rahman caller tune)
  • Docomo (Signature tune)
  • Nokia (Ring tone)

What are the five words that come to your mind first when you hear each of these?

Describe the scene you imagined in your mind as you heard each of the sounds.

Probe and expand to understand what kind of memory these songs trigger.

Food & Beverages:

  • Britannia (Sogo)
  • Kellogg (Crunchy sound)
  • Alpinliebe (Sogo)

For half the sample, give the brand name first and ask for top of mind associations for the brand. Ask them to imagine a world of that brand and describe how it looks, what are the sound that are heard and what the environment looks like.

For the other half of the sample, play the brand sound and then seek top of mind recall similar to above. Probe on their image of the brand.

Automobiles: (Personate the brand .... if the brand was a human, how would it be?)

  • Yo-Bikes (Engine sound)
  • Harley Davidson (Engine sound)
  • Pulsar (Engine sound)

If this brand was a human, how would that person be? What would he look like? What will his voice sound like? Where does he work? What is his family like? How much does he/she earn? What would his hobbies be? What kind of relationship would you want to have with the above three imagined people?

Media Habits of the respondents.

  1. How many hours of TV do you watch in a day approximately.
  2. How do you keep in touch with your friends? Internet, Social media, Mobile messaging etc.
  3. Do you listen to the radio every day? Where do you listen? Do you switch channels or do you have a certain preference.
  4. How many hours of Internet do you use.

Shopping Behaviour of Respondents

  1. Where do you buy your monthly provisions from?
  2. How planned is the purchase. Is a list made initially? How many of the brands are decided in the shop.
  3. How often or what percentage of your purchase would be impulse purchase?

List of sound clips used for primary research attached:

Low Involvement, contemporary products:

  • Ice cream trolleys (sound of the ringing bell)
  • Beggars (Sound made while pleading for alms)

Telecom:

  • Airtel (AR Rahman caller tune)
  • Docomo (Signature tune)
  • Nokia (Ring tone)

Food & Beverages:

  • Britannia (Sogo)
  • Kellogg (Crunchy sound)
  • Alpinliebe (Sogo)

Automobiles:

  • Yo-Bikes (Engine sound)
  • Harley Davidson (Engine sound)
  • Pulsar (Engine sound)

References:

Books and Articles:

  • Alpert, Mark I., Elliot N. Maltz and Judy I. Alpert (2005), "Purchase Occasion Influence on the Role of Music in Advertising," Journal of Business Research, 58, 369-376.
  • Arnold, Stephen. (2005). That Jingle Is Part of Your Brand. Broadcasting & Cable, 1/24/2005, Vol. 135 Issue 4, p78
  • Banks, Tom. (2009). Tune in to the vibes. Design Week, 9/24/2009, Vol. 24 Issue 38, p9-9, 1p
  • Beau, Christina Le. (2008). Everyone wants to be an Ad star. Crain's Chicago Business. Vol. 31 Issue 34, p21-21
  • DiCesare, Ron. (2009). Sonic branding: how repetitive and consistent audio triggers help sell your message. Retrieved on November 22,2009 from http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0HNN/is_6_24/ai_n32093898/
  • Franus, Noel. (2009). Sound Quest. Brand Strategy, Issue 228, p52-53, 2p
  • Fulberg, Paul. (2003). Using sonic branding in the retail environment - an easy and effective way to create consumer brand loyalty while enhancing the in-store experience. Journal of Consumer Behaviour, Volume 3, P 193-198
  • Giesler, Markus. (2006). The Sounds of Consumption: Listening to the Musical Landscape, European Advances in Consumer Research, Volume 7, p498-503
  • Jackson, D.M. (2003). Sonic Branding. New York: Palgrave Macmillan New York.
  • Khicha, Preethi. (2008). India turns up the volume on Sonic Branding. Retrieved on November 23, 2009 from http://www.brandchannel.com/features_effect.asp?pf_id=433
  • Lindstrom, M. (2005). Brand Sense: Building Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound (1st Ed.): Free Press.
  • Meinema, Jan (2003), A study of the semiotic role of sound in interactive media, retrieved on November 23, 2009 from http://www.janmeinema.com/qsounddesign/downloads/Essay01.pdf
  • Mortimer, Ruth. (2005). Branding the perfect pitch. Brand Strategy, Feb 2005, Issue 189, p24-27
  • Roy, Shouvik. (2009). The sound of the brand. The Brand Reporter, Dec 2009 (2nd Ed.), p34-37
  • Stewart-Allen, Allyson. (2006) Good vibrations: the sound of brands. Market Leader, Summer 2006, Issue 33, p59-59
  • Treasure, Julian. (2009). Sound Business. Retrieved on November 23, 2009 from http://juliantreasure.blogspot.com/

Websites:

  • http://www.veoh.com/collection/brandsounds#watch%3Dv417971kqRh5hrJ
  • http://www.veoh.com/collection/brandsounds#watch%3Dv377699y6NazhnZ
  • http://www.asiamarketresearch.com/glossary/observational-research.htm
  • http://spoonfeedin.wordpress.com/2010/01/11/mktg-the-sound-of-the-brand/
  • http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/jingle-allway/384121/
  • http://www.soundinbusiness.com/sound_branding/sonic_logo.htm
  • http://www.iitk.ac.in/ime/MBA_IITK/avantgarde/?p=47
  • http://www.brandinfection.com/2009/07/26/how-to-build-a-sound-idendity-sound- branding-development/

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