Ruth Simmons, CEO at soundlounge, shares her insight into the complexities of creating sonic logos
This is the sign you’ve been looking for. Don’t get me wrong, a sonic logo is a prize and worth having. But it is only part of a sonic strategy conversation. As CEO of soundlounge, I am not embarrassed to disclose that we have lost pitches over the years. Mainly because I haven’t walked into that pitch with a couple of sample sonic logos for them to hear. To razzle dazzle them is one approach.
I am totally in awe and respectful of the talents of the composer who can knock out a few 4/5 note mnemonics. These are usually something that feels ‘sort of’ or ‘along the lines’ of how they think a company sounds. And then present them with a flourish and a list of their film or advertising credits. I also marvel at people who can walk into a meeting carrying a portable keyboard. Only to come up with other ideas on request to produce sound magic before your very eyes.
But just like watching an artist produce a caricature on demand, when a composer delivers a sonic logo in this way, it is very impressive. It is an amazing gift to be able to do this. But, here’s the thing, this is the sleight of hand in the magic trick. This approach is not a sonic strategy. Behind the stardust this is a tactical execution with no strategy. The reality is that to ask a composer/producer for a sonic strategy is similar to asking an art director to come up with a media planning strategy. You wouldn’t, because it demands a completely different set of skills.
Sonic strategy is more than just magic. The hard truths are that ongoing consumer research on the success of sonic logos developed this way, suggests that just like visual branding, building a sonic strategy requires a process. It takes time. It takes collaboration between everyone involved to understand objectives, context and ambitions in order to identify the brand sound DNA. Then, and only then, do we get to the stage of briefing different teams of composers, demoing, testing and then the oh-so-vital, but oh-so-dreaded, consumer research. Because just like visual branding, liking something in the boardroom or working with a celebrity, doesn’t always reflect what is right for the marketplace. However, only skilled and experienced sonic branding companies can place the context and the interpretation needed. This is because we have the knowledge and understanding to combine the objectives of stakeholders with the data from the consumer research, to create deliverable sonic outcomes.
Let me show you the trick. The real magic is way down the line. When between all the stakeholders, we have produced a definitive sound guide that can be added to the corporate identity manual. A manual that describes a specific brand’s sound DNA. Consequently, creating guidance for every execution which can be referred to by anyone in the sound process. And that includes people like me that can’t read a musical note!
The sound guide is something that can be used to guide and brief those who can read and can play more than a few notes and instruments. For sound and music in any context, that may or may not include a sonic logo. As a result, it’s these guidelines that enable each person involved to move beyond decisions about sound and music from “I think this works” to “I know this works”.
Ruth Simmons is CEO of soundlounge