Sonic Branding: An Introduction

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By taking a tour through the history of music in Hollywood, religion and advertising, An Introduction To Sonic Branding identifies the most important lessons for understanding the subject.


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In doing so, it creates a fantastic new resource for anyone who wants to harness the emotive power of music for brand building. It will open the ears of anyone who wants to know how their understanding and use of brands has been shaped by the smart use of music and change the way you listen to your world forever.

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Seller Inventory Language: English. Brand new Book. Brands have become very important as sources of value and as a means to build value and sustain market position. Much emphasis has been placed upon the visual representation of brands. This book defines a new competitive arena in the creation and development of brands - sound. Sonic branding is a new fast growing area related to advertising and media development of the branding experience.

Seller Inventory LHB Seller Inventory AAZ Book Description Hardback. Not Signed; Brands have become very important as sources of value and as a means to build value and sustain market position. Music affects consumers instantly — and it can be a powerful marketing tool — notably because of its ability to invoke nostalgic memories and strong feelings related to these for example, Fulberg, ; Jackson, ; Kilian, To fully understand the consumer perspective here, the developments in branding practice and mapping of related conceptions of sonic branding, as well as its history, provide useful background.

The area of sonic branding is young, and as a consumer culture orientation it is still nascent. Today, an in-store focus permeates the literature, and the area of sonic branding is heavily practitioner oriented. The present article seeks to find the broader impact of the research on sonic branding practices as related to consumer research, in order to point the way to future theoretical avenues for this research area, and provide managerial advice. Although the present review will seek to begin to bridge this gap in the literature by focusing on the development of sonic branding as a research area since then, the main focus here will be research concerning the interface between music and brand from a combined consumer perspective and strategic branding perspective.

Yet, sonic branding is often treated more or less as a heterogeneous field by marketing researchers. The present article will contribute with a proposition regarding how to unite this as a research field. To begin to see some common traits in this scattered research area, the present literature review starts by going through the main labels and concepts used on the subject.

A wide range of industries are using sonic branding strategies.


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Just like the practice spans across diverse industries, the research field is scattered across disciplines and labels. Taking a broad view of sonic branding, and including various strands of research on music in marketing in this way, the present literature review proposes to fuse all of the above mentioned concepts under the sonic branding label. Thus, it is defined as beneficial to brands, and as something that consumers often do not even consciously perceive of.

This ability of branding with music and sound to go virtually unnoticed, and still affect people, opens up widely for discussions about ethics and possible manipulation on the part of stores and brands Bradshaw and Holbrook, ; Gustafsson, These various labels being used create confusion among those interested in learning more about the area. This confusion is unnecessary because there is in fact already a consensus among researchers about the synonymous meaning of these labels, as they are often mentioned together when defining the central concept.

In the CCT literature, sonic branding investigates consumer practices in relation to, for instance, consumer agency, identity and community Arnould and Thompson, DJs are seen as having a special role in music production and consumption because of their increasing power over what music consumers listen to.

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The phenomenon of the prosumtion of music carried out by the DJs indeed magnifies co-production issues compared with, for instance, the case of consumers making playlists for their personal MP3 players. In a recent article, Oakes et al propose jazz music as a branding tool that consumers can use to create their own meanings. Likewise transgressing boundaries between theory and practice, user and producer; Kubacki and Croft describe the divide between the arts and marketing practice as an ongoing moral struggle.

While jazz and rock musicians see their influence on marketing practice, marketers tend instead to see only their own impact on the jazz and rock scene, they argue. Kubacki and Croft thus picture the arts versus commerce divide, which is at the basis of the sonic branding literature Oakes et al, , in a way that illustrates the dialectical nature of music creation in the business context.

Importantly, a special issue in Consumption Markets and Culture Bradshaw and Shankar, explores the boundary of consumption and production as applied to various music scenes, styles and uses. The special issue is ground breaking in the sense that it clearly marks out music as a site for interesting future research in consumer culture research.

This wish expresses the comparable newness of this kind of work on music in the field of CCT, by stressing the need for more studies and more diversity in consumer research on music, rather than proposing that a certain focus in the area would need more attention.

Tempo for example, Milliman, , and perceived time in relation to type of music playing Yalch and Spangenberg, have also received much attention. Mapping the sound landscape to propose sonic branding strategies, Kilian , p. The narrowly defined ones are those that are made especially for that brand, like jingles and sound logos, whereas the broadly defined elements are those that come from collaborations and voices.

While the typology is useful as a framework for discussion for practitioners and researchers alike, it could be made more functional if Kilian engaged in a discussion about how to use it. On a similar, although theoretically driven note, Bode is mapping out the workings of music depending on the context where it appears.

The methods used by Beverland et al include interviews with 20 consumers using projective techniques, probing about certain music. The empirical material represented by detailed quotes from the consumers Beverland et al, suggests that consumers do consider, and react to, in-store music in relation to the way they perceive the brand in question. Thus, it is suggested that there is an important connection between a brand and its use of music, strategically toward consumers. Sonic branding has the potential to fill the brand with meaning through the music, although the context needs to be taken into account when using music.

Social control through commercial or public use of music, and the related ethical considerations, emerges as another main concern in the literature see, for example, Attali, ; DeNora, ; Bradshaw and Holbrook, In spite of this view of in-store music, however, McGinn sees sonic design as still holding largely unrealized possibilities for industrial design. In other words, she considers the potentially manipulative aspect of corporate sonic branding practices problematic.

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Sound studies is primarily concerned with the relationship between sound and technology for example, Pinch and Bijsterveld, , sound and moving images — especially in the cinema Coates, The most frequent topic in sound studies is the way technological innovations affect how people approach listening to music Pinch and Bijsterveld, For instance, Kassabian , , p. Stemming primarily from sociology, sound studies do have many points in common with CCT within the Consumer Research field in Marketing see Arnould and Thompson, Both fields take a meaning-based approach to consumer issues in a socially and culturally constructed world.

However, researchers in CCT tend to take the consumer point of view, focusing on how the consumer perceives of and co-constructs, different phenomena for example, brands, music, ads and so on , whereas sound studies tend to focus more on the phenomenon itself for example, music in movies, music technology and so on than on the consumer or person relating to the phenomenon.


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Perspectives on music and branding in the area of sonic branding can be usefully described as polarized. Generally, sonic branding is depicted as either a strategic tool that opens up for new possibilities for marketers for example, Kilian, , or a power tool used to steer consumers in the retail setting for example, Bradshaw and Holbrook, Another prominent tension between perspectives in sonic branding is that between the psychological perspective and the CCT perspective. In consumer research, Bradshaw et al investigate what it means to musicians that the scene space is branded whenever they play at festivals.

They find that it is not necessarily so that brands occupy the space of the art and steal meaning from culture. This is of course partly what the brands are hoping to achieve in such collaborations Dominus, Bradshaw et al point out that this result is in line with previous research for example, Brown, , Schroeder, , as well as anti-globalization claims for example, Klein, , arguing that marketers and artists often have the very same goals and strategies.

Sonic branding and music production have many elements in common, although sonic branding is first and foremost driven by the market, rather than by artistic preferences and creativity.

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On a similar note as Bradshaw et al asking whether there really is a tension between music as cultural expression and commerce such as branding with music, Scherzinger suggests that music is political even when it is driven by capitalism. Following Horkheimer and Adorno he argues that there is a problem with the music helping to communicate a commercial and political message of agency as something that only occurs in terms of being a consumer. This is a contested view of the postmodern consumer that has been discussed and rejected by brand researchers.

Notably, Holt rejected the notion in favor of a view of brands as something that is created in a dialectical process between brand managers, consumers and branding paradigms. Thus, the consumer is seen as having agency not only as buyer and user of a product or brand, but as producer of cultural material in the process Holt, This process is similar to the previously described relationship between art and commerce Schroeder and Borgerson, ; Brown, ; Bradshaw et al, where the two gain from one another rather than overshadow and destroy one another. Thus, whereas some researchers for example, Scherzinger, are worried that commerce will destroy music for consumers by making it a political vehicle for turning society into a consumer society, other researchers in sonic branding have moved beyond this to explore how the intermingling of art and commerce is working in the present consumer society where brands and music are powerful cultural expressions.

Non-musical sound branding – a conceptualization and research overview | Emerald Insight

This means that the conflicting perspectives are about how to act when music lends itself to being used by actors, such as companies, with the intent of affecting consumers to perceive of a brand in a certain way. In practice, sonic branding is inevitably connected to trademarks see McCormick, McCormick describes the development of legal protection of sounds used in branding. He reminds us that sound in advertising goes back to when electronics was first introduced in the media, stressing the example of the lion roaring at the beginning of every MGM film.

Although brands have been using sounds for as long as the technology has existed, they have only recently started to trademark their sounds, McCormick suggests. Because the previous sounds mainly were jingles — original songs that incorporated the brand name — they were already protected by copyright. However, the newer use of sounds and music are not always as distinct. Although there is a need to trademark, these sounds often lack the distinctiveness that trademarks laws ask of a sound that is to be registered. In other words, it is not enough for brands to create a sound that is different from that of competitors, it must also be distinctive enough for the legal system to allow it to be trademarked McCormick, In spite of sonic branding's long history, we are only beginning to copyright sounds ibid.