Musical Branding in Advertising

Music is vital in creating emotions. Without it movies and TV would be duller then watching grass grow. The role of audio branding is similar to that of creating a visual identity. Audio branding specialists want the organization to sound consistent across multiple mediums like TV, radio, web and phone. To do this they use style guides just like a company would use its visual style guide. The only difference is that it will reference the kinds of sounds that a brand should make and where those sounds should be made.

Examples of audio branding


The car manufacture Audi has its sound identity nailed. They’ve gone through the painstaking process of recording every sound of every car they make and cataloging them in a massive database. By pre-recording every sound a car makes Audi can keep their sound consistent no matter what agency touches their brand. Also, they increase the efficiency at which their commercials can be produced because when they need a car sound all they have to do is call up the appropriate recording rather than having to create the sound from scratch.


Another great example of strong audio branding is McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” campaign. The secrete sauce for this sound brand is the fact that is it versatile. It’s main tagline ba da ba da baaaaa…I’m lovin’ it and the notes that represent it have been spun in many different genres. For McDonald’s this is smart because they need to tap many different demographics.


In a similar vein, the broadcasting company NBC does quite well. The famous three note chime has been created using many different styles (see video below). Again, this plays well to the broad audience that NBC caters.

Licensed Music

So far I’ve only talked about brands who use custom music. What about brands who use licensed (AKA borrowed) music?

Although I don’t feel this method is a great long term strategy brands that appeal to audiences that follow trends will work well for this technique. You might find my apprehension to using licensed music odd because three of the world’s top brands follow this strategy. They are Coke, Pepsi and Apple.

Most recently Coke used the 2010 FIFA World Cup to launch a very successful campaign that featured K’naan “Wavin’ Flag”. Its rival Pepsi is well known for its collaboration with pop stars including Britney Spears. And Apple has started several careers for smaller unknown bands, plus, it has the Beatles!

Until next time happy listening.

Throughout his career Jordan Stevens has been instrumental in inspiring brands to stand out and be heard. He has worked with the Pillar Nonprofit Network, Vantage One Writing and CTV. His music has been performed at The Toronto International Film Festival and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

To learn more about audio brand consulting and to get a free e-book “What Every Marketer Needs to Know About Audio Branding” visit


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