Impact Studio #6: Sonic Identity

Xanthe Cook
Xanthe Cook
April 10, 2024
Welcome to Impact Studio Drop #06, your bi-weekly deep dive into the new, interesting and occasionally unexpected ways to do cool stuff with creators.

Welcome to Impact Studio Drop #06, your bi-weekly deep dive into the new, interesting and occasionally unexpected ways to do cool stuff with creators.

Brands have spent years evolving and defining their brand identity - both visually and tonally.  Brand colours can be instantly recognisable and logos iconic - just see British Airways’ recent OOH ads that demonstrated the power of visible brand recognition.

This week however, we've been exploring what it means to find your sonic identity, and not just define it, but do it well on TikTok.

sonic identity (noun)
The connection made by a consumer, on a conscious or subconscious level, between a brand and the sounds being used.

From McDonald's I'm Lovin’ It, to Netflix’s iconic Ta Dum or Jet2’s use of Jess Glynne’s Hold My Hand, many brands have nailed their sonic identity, using a singular sound, jingle or song to drive recognition.

Unskippable TV ads forced audiences to listen to jingles over and over, searing the likes of Go Compare into our brains. On social, forced repetition is less effective as users are able to simply swipe past. With greater control over the ads they watch, brands need to work a lot harder to grab their attention. And for sound-on, rapid consumption platforms like TikTok, even harder than ever.

Sound on TikTok

On TikTok, audio isn’t an afterthought. It can be the starting point and inspiration for content, driving trends and catapulting never-before-seen creators into the spotlight. With 9 in 10 users saying sound is vital to their TikTok experience, audio can hook viewers in, increase dwell time and drive recognition.

But, with thousands of videos, creators, brands and ads competing for the attention of TikTok users, to captivate immediately, brands need to be selective around sound. When 63% of TikTok users become more curious about a brand if they use songs they like in their videos, the right song can hook a user in the millisecond their thumb hovers to swipe. Sound can be the reason your brand is remembered or lost in the deluge of the FYP.

Three ways to define your sonic identity on TikTok

As with all facets of brand identity, finding the one that fits takes time. Sonic branding however offers greater opportunity for experimentation and testing, as the resource that goes into swapping out audio cues and underlying music is far lighter than visual reshoots. In addition to this, TikTok itself is a platform that provides a space for brands to fail fast and move on, creating a rich environment for audio experimentation.

1 - Jump on trending sounds

On a platform that’s trend-based - developing its own vernacular and evolving faster than Louis Theroux became a rap icon - tying your brand to a singular jingle or pop song can appear unimaginative and not native to platform. 61% of TikTokers like brands better when they create or participate in a trend, and research shows that brand recall actually increases by over 8x when distinctive sounds are used. Trending songs and sounds are also favoured by the algorithm, improving content visibility.

Smart brands are leveraging TikTok audio to define sonic identity as a whole new thing - being on trend, always. Those who’ve ridden the waves of trending sounds have been catapulted into the mainstream.

Duolingo’s viral success is well renowned and has hinged on their participation in trends. From jumping on ‘Hi Barbie! Hi Ken!’ to Taylor Swift’s ‘August’, Duolingo has tapped into a broad range of audio to dominate the FYP and go viral hundreds of times over.

2 - Find audio that enriches your TOV

Other brands however, have taken a more selective approach to audio on TikTok, choosing not to jump on any trending sound, but carefully choose audio that isn’t just current and cultural, but an audio manifestation of their existing brand persona.

On a platform where authenticity and not taking yourself too seriously is celebrated, RyanAir has shown up unapologetically and with force, leveraging TikTok features like filters and self-deprecating, on the nose sounds to self-expose delay and legroom complaints and clapback at their haters. RyanAir is winning on TikTok, because they consistently find innovative and humorous ways to shape their sonic identity, using audio to entertain and build brand recall.  

3 - Create something new

Don’t think existing audio that suits your brand is out there? Not interested in jumping on trending sounds? Brands also have the option to leverage TikTok’s incredible creator community to create something new.

As a launchpad for creating viral hits and breaking new artists, TikTok is home to a wealth of creative and musical potential waiting to be unlocked by brands. Embedded in platform culture and creating audio that’s already resonating with audiences, up-and-coming and established TikTok musicians are the perfect partner to create a bespoke track, jingle or sound for your brand.

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Impact Studio #6: Sonic Identity

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