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.

 

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How to make a John Lewis Christmas Advert

Take one well known rock/pop song, normally between 5 and 20 years old.

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Remix it with new up-and-coming female singers with an acoustic/piano accompaniment.

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Play said song over emotive Christmas themed story with a focus on family.

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Wait for the media and public to lose their shit over it.

This years JL advert is set to ‘drop’ on Friday November 11th, if they follow the pattern from the last few years.  Firm Vouchercloud decided to analyse the music used in the ads from the past seven years and they concluded the tune is likely to be:

  • A slowed-down, piano driven, acoustic cover of a top 10 single, by a British male rock band that’s had at least four number one albums in the UK.
  • The song will be covered by a female, British or Scandinavian indie solo singer who’s released their debut album or EP in the last three years.

JL had stayed away from the TV adverts for a few years in the mid 00’s and even after their return with the ‘Shadow’ campaign it was a full year before they hit on the winning formula above. These adverts have a magical place in the overcrowded holiday season, and they join the likes of the Coca Cola truck in moving from simple advert to holiday advertisement.

2007 – “Shadows”

Christmas 2007 saw the first John Lewis television advertisement in three years, with a six million pound campaign: their biggest seasonal ad spend up to that point. The commercial did not feature the hallmarks of later campaigns such as an emotional denouement or slowed-down cover version, instead using Prokofiev’s Morning Serenade from Romeo and Juliet. It features presents and products being carefully assembled and positioned to eventually create a shadow image of a woman and a dog in the snow, in the style of artists Tim Noble and Sue Webster.

2008 – “From Me to You”

For a second year, Lowe and Partners were the agency behind the John Lewis Christmas ad, creating a montage of people of all ages and their ideal gifts with the tagline “If you know the person, you’ll find the present”. This was the first to feature the now-traditional cover version, with “From Me to You” by The Beatles recorded by unnamed employees of John Lewis. The full track was made available to download for free on the John Lewis website with an encouragement to donate to Wallace & Gromit’s Children’s Foundation.

2009 – “Sweet Child o’ Mine”

The 2009 advertisement was the first for John Lewis by agency Adam & Eve (now part of DDB Worldwide), who went on to create the subsequent five Christmas campaigns. Featuring a cover of the Guns N’ Roses song “Sweet Child o’ Mine” by Taken by Trees, the commercial features young children opening gifts usually given to adults such as a coffee machine and a laptop. With the tagline “Remember how Christmas used to feel”, the final scene shows a girl unwrapping a camera and becoming a woman.

2010 – “A Tribute to Givers”

Ellie Goulding’s cover of the Elton John song “Your Song” was the soundtrack to a collection of images showing people preparing gifts for their loved ones. Most notably, two parents attempt to secretly carry a rocking horse up some stairs whilst their children watch television. The advert concludes with a boy taking a stocking of presents outside to his pet dog in the snow, and hanging it on the kennel. This caused some controversy with animal rights protesters who complained that the animal was left outside in the cold whilst the boy waved goodbye and retreated to the house.

2011 – “The Long Wait”

Featuring The Smiths song “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” sung by Slow Moving Millie, the 2011 advert featured a little boy impatiently counting down the days to Christmas. On Christmas Eve, he wolfs down his dinner and goes to bed early in preparation for the next day. When he awakes on Christmas morning, the little boy jumps out of bed, runs straight past a large pile of presents at the bottom of his bed and heads for the wardrobe. He then wanders into his parents bedroom, waking them to give them the gift he has, for so long, been waiting to give them.

2012 – “The Journey”

Using 20-year-old Gabrielle Aplin’s version of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood classic “The Power of Love”, the 2012 advert showed a snowman who traversed fields, a river, a mountain to obtain a perfect Christmas gift for Mrs. Snowman. The advert was very quickly followed up by a children’s picture book which was hastily written and published immediately after the advert’s first screening. The song was the first song from the John Lewis Christmas adverts to be a UK Singles Chart number one.

2013 – “The Bear and the Hare”

Set to a cover of “Somewhere Only We Know” by British singer Lily Allen, the 2013 campaign featured an array of woodland animals in a classical Disney style and setting. The full advert lasted 2 minutes, and was made with 2D Animation by Premise Entertainment. It told the story of a bear hibernating before Christmas, before being persuaded to wake up by the titular hare to see Christmas in all its splendour. The accompanying music quickly rose to the top of the UK Singles Chart, doing so twice more in later weeks. A portion of the song’s sales earnings were donated to proceeds Save the Children’s Philippine Typhoon Appeal campaign.

2014 – “Monty the Penguin”

In their press release ahead of the 2014 campaign launch, John Lewis stated that the strapline for the advert was “Give someone the Christmas they’ve been wishing for”. They added that “the heartwarming advert tells the tale of an unlikely friendship between a little boy Sam and his penguin friend Monty.”British singer-songwriter Tom Odell recorded a cover for the advert of the 1976 John Lennon song “Real Love”, which was the last official song recorded by the Beatles after being re-released in 1996.

2015 – “Man on the Moon”

Featuring a cover of Oasis’ 1994 B-side “Half the World Away”, sung by Norwegian singer Aurora, the 2015 campaign tells the story of a young girl trying to contact an old man spotted living alone on the Moon. Her attempts to catch the man’s attention fail until she sends him a special delivery of a telescope, via balloon, and the man finally gets to see Earth on Christmas night. The strapline for the advert is “Show someone they’re loved this Christmas”, with the company teaming up with the charity Age UK. The advert is estimated to have cost around £7 million.

Remixing Media

Today Blink 182 (the American pop punk band) have released a new song from their latest album – so far nothing unusual here. What is unusual is the video release that goes alongside the track.

With a band as old as Blink 182 it’s hard not to repeat ideas, but what they have made is an almost shot for shot remake of an original video from 1999, with only a small few changes. As one Facebook user commented, is this genius?

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I have actually created a side by side video comparison, minus the audio so that I don’t get bitched at by YouTube. Below though is a more direct shot for shot comparison using screenshots from each.

 

There are lots of things I could say about this video given their view of women and why they really feel the need to remake such a great video now with this release. But this is not really the time to go in to that. Have they made it to gain some nostalgia points? Definitely. Have they use naked women to get views? Probably. Have they polarized fans with this trip down memory lane? Most definitely. Would it stop any band doing it in the future? No.

Live Music Recording

When I was a sabbatical officer at the University of Bradford I did many strange and wonderful things with my time, but a standard thing was running live music events. This saw me learning (and subsequently teaching a group of students) to run a mixing desk for live band nights where each night had two supports and then the lead act. The drum kit belonged to the venue so only the breakables came with the band which made setting up far quicker every event. Sound checking was done for the main act before opening, while the support act had a live soundcheck just before their set.

“Party on the Amp is our huge end of year event featuring huge live acts, DJs, a fairground food stalls and more.

Party on the Amp is a huge free day festival on the amphitheatre featuring the best in student performers, acoustic acts, local bands and big headliners, but make sure you grab your wristband to get you access to our fairground and to our huge after party with three rooms of music, DJs and three great acts performing on our main stage.”

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[TDTDJ from a gig at Bradford SU in November of 2011]

For Party On The Amp 2012 I wanted to do something really impressive (more so than in past years) so I put the stage on the roof and arranged for more commercial acts to perform. Below is the full set (including first track soundcheck) for the band That Drummer That DJ. The feed is taken from the master channel of the desk via an Edirol 203.

EDIT: Youtube is a pain in the butt and says no to the video. Dropbox link here