"Shoot that Zombie in the Face": What does the audio logo say to you?

Every time I turn on my Xbox my ears are presented with an instantly recognizable signature sound. While aurally representing the Xbox as a global brand, the sound communicates to me on a personal level, anticipating my desire to kick some ass on the battlefield, steal some cars in Liberty City and shoot zombies in the face.

This of course was not the emotional response I experienced upon hearing the sound for the first time. The audio trigger relies on my brains natural response to sound and its ability to link memories and feelings to a specific sound.

“It’s been around for tens of thousands of years in the sense that thunder signalled to the caveman to take cover, or a rooster crow signals morning time.”

Although not a new phenomenon, sonic branding is becoming more widely recognised as the next logical step in brand recognition and implemented at every stage of a successful campaign. So why is it so important that we hear a logo and not just see it? While image and sound are equally capable of conveying a brands attributes and characteristics, sound is able to transcend platforms that image alone cannot. This enables Directline to advertise on the radio using their signature fanfare, or T-mobile to be heard in the pub with their twinkly 5 note ringtone. Lisa Lamb, head of sonic branding for Interbrand notes

“Although many people may not be able to draw the Intel logo or even know what a Pentium chip is, they are more than likely able to sing the soundbite or recognize the sound belonging to Intel”

The creation of a successful audio logo is subject to debate. Whereas music is able to evoke emotion through structure, audio logos do not often have the luxury of time to fully harness this ability. Instead they must rely on repetition, consistency and correct implementation. In the following clip from Michael Bay’s 2007 Transformers several brands are unashamedly promoted, with the Xbox standing out most prominently due to the clever use of its audio logo.

What’s important in this clip is not that we are seeing the Xbox logo, nor hearing its signature sound, but the combination of the two and the relationship they share with the brand. The emotions evoked by an image are all the more amplified by its corresponding sound. After all, a Christmas card has the power to make me feel festive, but accompanied with 2 seconds of Elton John’s Step into Christmas and I’m 8 years old again unwrapping Lazer-Tag by the Christmas tree.

Demo Love: Do you trust your composer?

It’s often the case when briefed by a director or producer that we are presented with a video containing a musical temp-track. In use ever since sound was first synchronised to visuals in the late 20’s and comprised entirely of pre-existing musical content, temp-tracks serve as a provisional film score until an original one has been composed and recorded.

For a director this is great, it not only allows them to instantly and audibly express the style of music they desire for their film, it also provides them with a closer-to-finished product for use at private screenings with producers and distribution companies.

For us composers however this can be somewhat of a hindrance and a potential disaster for the scoring process. Not only can temp-tracks influence creative decisions and unnaturally steer us in the wrong direction, they have a tendency to impose a nasty case of demo love on the filmmaker – preventing he or she from imagining any other form of music in place of the pre-existing material.

In the following short excerpt, Dan Carlin, an Emmy award winning musical editor, explains some of the problems that may occur from using temp-tracks in the film scoring process.

"The danger with temp music is that a filmmaker frequently falls in love with the temp track. He or she might hear the temp music several times before the composer comes in, so the composer has a difficult time writing original music that will please the director.
We recently made a temp track for THE BLACK STALLION RETURNS using existing music by Jerry Goldsmith, Maurice Jarre, Philippe Sarde, Georges Delerue and a little Bernard Herrmann. So, now Georges Delerue, who is going to compose the score for the film, must in essence compete with the score we’ve designed. It puts him in an awkward position."

With digital sample libraries sounding almost as good as the real thing, it is now quicker and easier than ever for composers to create their own digital temp-tracks, uninfluenced and completely original. So when you’re cutting video for your next film or advertising campaign and you discover what you believe to be the perfect piece of music to use temporarily, HOLD FIRE! Add it to a playlist, burn it to CD and trust your composer to translate your influences into a fresh and original piece of work. The moment you insert that temp-track into your timeline, you might just start showing symptoms of demo love.