Sounds Right – a look at Sound Trademarking & Branding

Sound affects us more than we know, it’s an often forgotten medium but sound can make or break a product or production – by having a sound that is displeasing or by not having the sound we expect, it can (and does) turn us away from a product. Sounds can stir up great emotions and feelings very quickly without having to stop the original function of the product, and advertisers are more aware of this than ever.

A sound trademark is a trademark where sound is used to perform the trademark function of uniquely identifying the commercial origin of products or services, much like a visual logo it has to be instantly recognisable and attributed to that one brand. Historically it has been difficult to get a sound trademarked, but this has started to change over the last 10 years as more companies are using sound to get across their messages.  Just like a visual logo, the most essential qualities of a sound logo are uniqueness, memorability, and relevancy to the brand promise.

Some widely known trademarked sounds include:

  • 20th Century Fox Fanfare (composed by Alfred Newman)
  • Audi sound logo
  • BMW sound logos – the first one with a “double gong” and the second one that is the current sound currently used.
  • ITV News at Ten “The bongs”
  • NBC chimes
  • Duracell’s 3-note “coppertop” logo
  • Fourscore, the four note audio ident used by Channel Four
  • “Intel inside” musical jingle (composed by Walter Werzowa)
  • Macintosh startup chime
  • McDonald’s Corporation’s 5-note “i’m lovin’ it” jingle
  • Nissan sound logos – there were three sounds
  • Nokia tune
  • PlayStation robot sound (“play-sta-tion”)
  • Samsung ringtone
  • Sony ding
  • T-Mobile sound logo (composed by Lance Massey)
  • THX’s Deep Note
  • Xbox 360 startup sound/swoosh, created by Audiobrain

The NBC chimes are arguably the most famous sound in American broadcasting, originating in the 1920s, the three key sequential notes are familiar to generations of radio listeners and television watchers. Many companies have tried to trademark sounds but only around 100 have ended up being accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office — and NBC’s iconic chimes were the first.

Sound branding

It gives a brand an additional way to break through audiences’ shortened attention spans. Sound branding (also known as audio branding, music branding, sonic branding, acoustic branding) can tell you whether the brand is romantic and sensual, family-friendly and everyday, indulgent and luxurious all without ever hearing words or seeing a picture. This is crucial for brands as the rise in two screen viewing means that the audience hasn’t always got its eyes on your adverts but they are likely to still be listening.

The sound logo (or audio mnemonic) is one of the tools of sound branding, along with the jingle, brand music, and brand theme. A sound logo (or audio logo or sonic logo) is a short distinctive melody or other sequence of sound, mostly positioned at the beginning or ending of a commercial. It can be seen as the acoustic equivalent of a visual logo. Often a combination of both types of logo is used to enforce the recognition of a brand. An example is the T-Mobile logo and ring tone composed by Lance Massey, or the Intel logo composed by Walter Werzowa.

The PlayStation start up sound is something really special to me, it’s an instant warm fuzzy feeling at the PS1 sound – it catapults me back to my pre-teens, but I love the audio resonance of the PS3 sound: it’s organic and rounded and swells like a tide, it sounds less electronic than its predecessors showing that machines are now more advanced than ever before.

The sound logo leads to learning effects on consumer’s perception of a certain product. A melody is the most memorable sequence of sound, since, when a melody starts, the human brain automatically expects the ending.

Radio and television stations create their own audio identities using melodic themes to strengthen their brand. Notable examples include the short variations of the BBC Radio 2 or Classic FM jingles. In recent years, television station idents have also introduced their own audio identities to strengthen their brand recognitions, most notably Channel 4 who have theirs trademarked.

The video below is a great short romp around some really recognisable sound logos (most of which are trademarked) and why they are the way they are featuring two sonic branding experts explain the thinking behind some of the world’s most recognizable sounds, Andrew Stafford and Steve Milton.

 

Artiphon Instrument 1 Review

Finally after much delay and anticipation my Antiphon Instrument 1 arrived last week!

‘The Artiphon INSTRUMENT 1 is a single device that can be played as a guitar, piano, drum pad, synthesizer, and many other instruments. By connecting the INSTRUMENT 1 to smartphones, tablets, and computers, people of all skill levels can choose from an always-expanding palette of sounds.’ That was the blurb on the kickstarter page that caused me to back it waaaaay back in 2014.  As someone who loves music but isn’t really that good at making it, this really felt like my jam. It’s like a keytar for the 21st century, and I have had the thing a few days now so I felt it was time to share with you all my feelings on my new musical companion.

They raised over $1.3 million from 3,391 backers from over 70 countries which is impressive and is still the most funded musical instrument on Kickstarter to date.

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Diagram of the Instrument 1

In the Box:

I ordered the gig edition so it came with a handy carry case and strap (which is a must). The box was sleek and professional and everything you would want to get in the post. There is a lack of instructions which could be annoying for some but a quick visit to the website sorts that out.

It felt and looked like the Artiphon was something special, the build quality was good and it doesn’t feel fragile or like anything is going to break in a hurry.

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My unboxing of the Instrument 1

The App:

Its important to note I have only tried the app on the iPhone 6s but it works well (even if it is a bit of a battery hog).  It’s clear and easy to use, and so far hasn’t had any issues with crashing. It would be nice to have an easier way of sharing and viewing other players custom set ups though – but these are things that can come with time I am sure.

In my hands:

It feels nice, solid and like a music instrument, it’s not too heavy but it does have some weight to it.  So far I have had the most luck playing it holding it like a guitar and using the iBow setting; I really want to master the violin style of playing but more practice is needed for that I think!

The speakers do distort if you put them to maximum and play some of the deeper sounds, it’s a little irritating but something that’s easy to work around. I have noticed on one occasion one of the strings/frets sticks, but its not something I have managed to replicate so I am hoping it was a glitch and nothing more sinister in the build. I personally preferred doing all the settings in the app rather than on the built-in dial, but both worked well.

The tone and pitch of the instrument 1 is something really beautiful, something you can’t fault it on is its sound replication.  It is never going to replace a guitar in recording sessions nor would you pick it over a real drum kit and sample pad, but what it does allow for is more realism than a standard midi device or a keyboard.

Where the Instrument 1 stands out compared to other MIDI instruments is you can just sit and play; I could happily lose an afternoon or weekend to just making silly music on it.

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My Instrument 1 gig edition in white

Recording:

So far the Artiphon has made its way into two projects that I am working on: a remix and an audio post production for video. I recorded differently for both. In the remix I plugged it in to the desk via the headphone jack to XLR. It sounded good, there were no faults – it was quick and easy; I also tried it with a DI box and that worked really well too. No complaints there.

When I tried using a external mic to pick up the sound it was a little trickier given the location of the speakers, I had to stand very still and very close to the microphone which after a few minutes was a little uncomfortable. But all in all this process was OK and I would do it again if no other option was available.

Final thoughts:

The Instrument 1 is fun and functional, it takes some getting used to and more playing will have to be done to find the real limits, but I look forward to that journey. My only real niggle is that the carry case doesn’t fit the charger plug in very well which is something that could be solved with a little extra room in the case, but that is by no means a deal breaker for me. I look forward to learning this new instrument (and make no mistake it is a new instrument) a lot more in the future.

Below is the first prototype from 2013, and below that the kickstarter video that got me to part with my cash.

 

Artefact 1 – video

That’s my artefact (above) – look at how boring it is. It’s OK to agree, I made it boring.

Here is someone else’s (above) from a few months ago.  It has less than 100 views which is kind of surprising considering the style they have used.  I also found this video, which is a few years older and made by other students, which has over 300 views – it is my goal to beat the view count on this video. I set out to do this by:

  • Sharing media on several platforms to get engagement
  • Sharing at times that encourage engagement
  • Targeting online accounts to get the video to spread further
  • Using tagging on YouTube to find an audience

Bonus video – filmed using the GoPro egg timer, it was going to be the main artefact but I didn’t like the light bleed and lack of clarity.

Why did I make this artefact?

Because I tried something else and it didn’t work and everyone loves a good timelapse. I had an animation made and had planned to project it on to something all Halloween-related however the projector was not bright enough and my phone didn’t pick up the action.

So as this didn’t go so well and with only 4 days until the deadline I had to find something else that was engaging and relevant. I fell on the idea of a timelapse because a) I had the kit to do so and b) they are an ‘easy sell’ for engagement as you can tag locations and businesses as well as local news groups.

How did I make this artefact?

I used a few different mobile apps to create this video, however I didn’t film it with a mobile phone for a few reasons, mainly that the contrast settings on the iPhone6s I have wasn’t good enough to pick up any differences in the clouds – thus making it a really crap timelapse. I did however edit with LapseIt and worked out the best time of day and direction with the app Magic Hour, both of these apps I talked about in this previous blog post.  Magic Hour is particularly useful as it helps you work out how long you are going to be taking images for, which means you can easily see how long you want to leave between images. I opted for a photo every 20 seconds.

Here is an image of me taking an image during the timelapse, as well as an image of the GoPro setup, Below is an image of the 4 other people/groups of people who where also taking images or videos of the media city at sunset on a Tuesday night in October. I also found an Ian (but more about that in his blog post).

How am I going to get engagement for this video?

I have set up a schedule of sharing the video on Twitter (the average tweet has a life of 40 minutes and a half life of a few hours), I have posted once on my own Facebook profile (something I really hate doing) and have encouraged others to share the content further. I even shared it on LinkedIn.

With twitter I have used simple hashtags including #mscret and #mediacityuk which means it will hopefully get picked up by local businesses and other class members. I have in other tweets tagged the university with their handle and a few local to Salford news/views accounts. The combination of these two things has lead to 5 retweets from businesses that I didn’t follow or have any other interaction with before today (Wednesday).

 

Smart Phone Image Capture

Smartphones are… well… smart – even smarter than the first spaceships that took men to the moon in the early space race. A single Apple iPhone 5 has 2.7 times the processing power of the 1985 Cray-2 supercomputer. That’s crazy powerful in such a short space of time, and I currently have two PS4s in the house which when combined realistically class as a supercomputer-level of processing power. But I am getting sidetracked.

I use my phone for image capture a lot, either with the built-in camera or via other cameras with app and WiFi/Bluetooth controls.  Below are some screen captures from my phone with a few of the apps that I use.

Two of the apps are built in to the phone, both the image viewer ‘Photos’ and FaceTime.  I also have Instagram, which is a pretty standard app to have, and Panorama which is a old app that takes 360 photos (something you can now do natively in the Apple camera app). I still have the panoramic app for a few reasons: one is that I paid for it many years ago and I want my money’s worth, and it doesn’t take up much space on the phone itself. But most importantly it stores all of your images online to view later, as well as images from other users.  It also is one of the first apps that used the movement and gyroscope in the phone to move around the image – something that is now becoming more and more common in photos online and is even native in Facebook applications.

Flickr is pretty self explanatory.  I have a pro membership and have a lot of images on there (about 3 thousand). Capture and the Panasonic Image App are both camera control apps, for the GoPro and a Panasonic Blue camera respectively; for me these cameras have very different uses: while the GoPro is more known, it does have its limitations including its shockingly poor battery life, whereas the Panasonic can be used whilst connected to a power source which in the past enabled me to film/take regular images for up to 8hours at a time.

Lapse It is a fantastic time lapse app that uses the phone camera to take images and I paid about £2.99 for it a few years ago and it’s been really useful. It had the ability to change exposure, ISO and contrast before starting to film as well as taking 12 images a second (12fps is used in animation traditionally) which can then be exported directly to YouTube or via an MP4 file which you can then send wherever you want.

Finally and probably the most interesting of the apps are 20Twenty and Magic Hour. Twenty20 is a new stock photography service that launched to the public after months of beta testing, which I was part of. It claims to have the world’s largest crowdsourced commercial image catalog — one that contains 45 million photos from 250,000 photographers based in 154 countries.  It runs competitions and other incentives for you to get involved with – and most importantly it earns me money. Magic Hour is a great little app that’s full of information to help you get the winning shot depending on location and weather, it has information on sunrise and sunset and how long it’s going to last as well as a host of other nifty little nuggets that increase the chances of getting that money-making shot.