"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.