GUEST COMMENTARY BY STEPHEN ARNOLD

A SOUND IDEA FOR STATION PROMOTION

A little bit of music goes a long way in getting viewers to remember your station, says the sonic branding guru and composer. If you don't believe it, keep reading and be sure to turn up your speakers.

Why is it so easy to remember song tunes, lyrics and jingles when remembering facts, names and faces is so tough?

The answer to this age-old question is simple: it’s sonic branding.

Sonic branding implants a memory in the aural pathways to our brain that is so powerful, it’s impossible to forget (and just as difficult to ignore).

Hearing is one of our most powerful senses, and this phenomenon harnesses music’s unique capacity to trigger an emotional response.

As a music composer and proponent of sonic branding, I tell my TV station clients that if they’re fighting to get the attention of viewers, why not use the one tool that’s proven to strike an emotional cord with their intended target demographic.

Hey, if it’s worked for Intel and NBC, it can work for you.

BRAND CONNECTIONS

A sonic brand is the aural equivalent to a graphic logo.

It’s the stinger, the hook, the musical notes that call people to action (Shop! Run! Eat!), or to grab a beer and settle in for an afternoon in front of the tube.

Brands delivered sonically reach a place within the human mind that visual branding alone cannot, and does not, approach.

According to Jonathon Wolff, composer of Seinfeld, “A viewer hears the familiar sound of that bass line, from another room and has a Pavlovian response …time for Seinfeld.”

As Wolff suggests, even when a TV set is on in the background, sonic branding allows you and your identifying tones to stand out and be heard. Sometimes it literally sings to you.

It’s a musical form of cluster-busting.

There is also a true science behind the art. According to audiologist Dr. Sal Margharz, every sound we hear travels to an area of the brain called the subcortical pathway (SPC).

This auditory cortex is the most highly organized processing unit of sound in the brain and is how we can distinguish the sound of a snake in the grass from the wind in the grass.

This is why a new mother can sleep through a thunderstorm yet instantly awake when the baby rustles the sheets.

Once the sound of that “ditty” lodges in your cerebral cortex, it’s as much a part of you as your fingerprints and DNA.

But it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to understand how it affects you. You hum it obsessively, like chewing gum stuck in your brain. You love it. You hate it. You hate that you love it. But one thing is certain: you will remember it.

Sonic branding is, in essence, a condensed and even more potent version of the mind-sticking song.

Sonic branding is what causes the goosebumps up our back when we hear just two notes, or the warm feeling when we know we about to visit old friends at Central Perk, Cheers or a chic Manhattan bistro.

You want nostaglia? Just a few measures of this or that can make you yearn for the good old days.

TV stations have much to gain by harnessing the power of the sonic brand.

With content delivered through different media with different screen sizes, load times and attention spans, a musical signature can be the one constant that enables a station to carry their brand across all platforms.

Gannett’s WTSP in Tampa, Fla,, for example, has used a sonic brand consistently with every ID, promo, news program and even community event for the past three years. It has helped pull the station into contention for the No. 1 spot in the market.

Here’s another example from KXAN in Austin, Tex. The LIN station just launched a new set, graphics and music, with special emphasis on frequent use of the sonic brand, not only across all day parts, but also across all platforms, including podcasts and ringtones.

Try it. The right branding—sonic and otherwise—can make your station a star.


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