Unfathomable quantities of money are spent each year helping companies distinguish themselves from each other, and one underexamined field for these efforts is “sonic branding.” As explained in a new video from The Scene, the term can apply to ringtones, title screen music, jingles, and all the little assorted bleeps and blips that play automatically when a product’s features are utilized. (Perhaps the most high-profile example is Microsoft hiring Brian Eno to compose the intro music for Windows 95.) The Scene recruited two experts on the topic to listen to some of the most familiar corporate sounds, encompassing everything from the NBC chimes to the Nokia ringtone, and describe what makes them so fiendishly memorable and effective.
The experts say that weeks and even months can be put into sounds like the bubbly sounds of Skype or the grim finality of that weird, clanking Law & Order transitional sound. (Stafford likens that one to a jail door closing; Milton says it’s a gavel.) And what about the deafening crescendo that accompanies the THX logo? Stafford explains what message is being conveyed here: “Wake up! Stop talking to one another!” The video actually illustrates the way the T-mobile ringtone was designed to mimic the company’s visual logo. And hey: It was created by a contest winner. Maybe you’ve got a career in sonic branding waiting to happen.