The Recognisability of Sound Logos: Sound Branding in a Musical Perspective

Student thesis: Master thesis (including HD thesis)

  • Kim Bang
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
Branding is complex and multifaceted. Traditionally, branding has held a strong focus on visual aspects, but over the years, the overall branding sphere has expanded to include many new approaches. This master’s thesis focuses on one of the relatively new aspects: Sonic Branding that – as the name implies – employs a sonic dimension. The initial aim of this master’s thesis, however, is to find meaningful links between sonic branding aspects and more traditional views on branding – in this particular case ‘brand recognisability’ and ‘brand identity’.

As existing theory on the topic ‘sonic branding’ is extremely limited, semiotic theory focusing on sound has been included in an overall theoretical discussion in which a connection was found, and a new concept was established: DAF – an abbreviation of ‘Den Artikulationsreducerede Form’, which is Danish. In English, it would translate into TRAF; or ‘The Reduced Articulation Form’. One way to put this particular form into practical use is to let it streamline the sonic expression of various sound logos to such a degree that they lack all and any sonic articulation that may cause recognition. As a consequence, only three basic, musical parameters are present: tone, rhythm and tempo.

The reasoning is that if a given sound logo is in fact recognisable in this utmost reduced form of articulation, it will most likely also be recognisable in various other articulation forms that are tailored specifically for e.g. certain markets, cultures, consumer segments, campaigns, etc. Theoretically, this view also justifies that sound logos can be integrated as part of a brand identity planning models in much the same way that visual logos do.

Furthermore, The TRAF-concept was used as a starting point for designing an empiric study with the purpose of identifying what causes sound logos to be recognisable with the primary focus on the two musical parameters: tones or rhythms. Therefore, the TRAF-concept was further refined in order to isolate the tone and rhythm parameters from one another, which caused two new, related concepts: TRAF-t (tones) and TRAF-r (rhythm). Ultimately, the design comprised five well-known sound logos and each of them was produced in different versions. Quite simply, the respondents would hear an extremely simple version of a sound logo at first, and gradually, the various versions would reveal a little more ‘information’ about the original sound logo. This way, the grade of recognition could be measured for tones and rhythms respectively.

In total, 137 high-school students participated in a quantitative study based on the above-mentioned design, and the overall result was that tones are indeed more recognisable than rhythms. However, the study also revealed whether the respondents were able to connect the sound logos to the correct brands they represent, and in this case, the ‘brand linking’ potential of the tones were only marginally better than the rhythms.

Finally, the sound logos used in this master’s thesis were analysed and compared with regard to a number of selected musical characteristics as well as the results of the empiric data, and this analysis became the corner stone in defining a recommendation on how to optimise the potential recognisability of future sound logos.
Publication date27 May 2011
Number of pages78
ID: 52502084