Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Power of Sound in Advertising

Powerful advertising has the ability to engage both visual and auditory senses. Jingles have always played an important part in lodging brands into our brains and influencing purchase decisions. Sometimes, annoyingly, like Subway's current $5 dollar foot-long ad). Now that's a jingle that's tough to shake. And it does work - or it did on me. When at an airport the other day, I visited my first Subway for a sandwich in years.

A study conducted by Buyology Inc. and Elias Arts, a sound identity company in New York, looked into the impact of sounds in advertising. They wired up 50 volunteers and measured their galvanic, pupil, and brainwave responses to sounds using the latest neuroscience-based research methods.

What was interesting, was that the most powerful sounds were not the familiar and comforting sounds from nature but that of a computer chip, Intel - especially since a computer chip doesn't even have a sound.

The third most powerful sound was the vibration of the cell phone. This sound had a Pavlovian effect on the volunteers who immediately stopped what they were doing to check their phones. Curiously, cell phones on "mute" are not considered to have a sound but as the study shows, the unintended sound of the vibration was powerful. (Hmm - can you create an ownable vibration sound to build brand recognition??).

As marketers, we know that sound is important in generating emotion and brand recognition. For me, this study makes me look at sound in a new light. Here are the results from the 50 volunteers. A small sample to be sure, but it gives directional food for thought.


Non-branded and branded sounds:
1. Baby giggle
2. Intel
3. Vibrating phone
4. ATM / cash register
5. National Geographic
6. MTV
7. T-Mobile Ringtone
8. McDonald's
9. 'Star Spangled Banner'
10. State Farm

Top 10 Branded sounds:
1. Intel
2. National Geographic
3. MTV
4. T-Mobile
5. McDonald's
7. State Farm
8. AT&T Ringtone
9. Home Depot
10 Palm Treo Ringtone

Top 10 Non-branded sounds:
1. Baby giggle
2. Vibrating phone
3. ATM / cash register
4. "Star Spangled Banner"
5. Sizzling steak
6. 'Hail to the Chief'
7. Cigarette light and inhale
8. "Wedding March"
9. "Wish Upon a Star"
10. Late Night with David Letterman Theme

For more on this topic visit Fast Company