10 tips for better sonic branding

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Brands are constantly fighting for our attention. What can radio stations do to stand out and be heard above the noise? Tom Van der Biest (Brandy, Belgium) shared insights and branding examples from around the world, along with practical advice for how to add emphasis to a radio station’s sonic branding.

Radio stations have always had a love of sonic logos to reinforce a brand name, but with only twelve musical notes to play with, stations are limited in their options to create something distinct. In the past, it mattered less that radio stations at opposite ends of the world had a similar-sounding sonic logo. However, today, stations are competing on a global level and whilst a sonic logo is still essential, there are opportunities to add value to this.

A sonic logo might not be distinct, but a sonic language can be. Tom Van der Biest highlighted how radio stations can set a mood, particularly through music, something which unites groups all around the world. Using the example of a recent ABC promo from the US, where Taylor Swift’s new single Ready For It? was at the core, Tom explained the importance for stations to put music first and build everything else around the tunes. Being “in the now” is also important, with the example of Google Doodles demonstrating how brands can react to something current whilst still reflecting the “you”. But in order for everyone in a station to accurately communicate what the brand means, guidelines are needed.

The session concluded with a nod to the future. As radio becomes increasingly non-linear, radio stations should be considering how they unite the different elements of their audio offering. For example, do podcasts have an identity that links with your on air output? Ultimately, sonic branding should be bold and distinct, with no room for subtlety.

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