An audio logo is a series of sounds or musical notes that uniquely identifies a company, product or service to its target audience. Call them jingles, mnenomics or sonic branding, these short progressions of notes or chords are one of the most powerful weapons in the marketer’s arsenal. Research has shown time and time again the deep connections between music and brain, and it’s no surprise that some of the best marketers in the world take advantage of this to promote their brands.
Yet music, and specifically audio logos, remain under-appreciated by most marketers.
Why? Simply put, measurement. The subjectivity and complexity of music have traditionally defied easy categorization and measurement, and the time-based nature of music has further clouded the ability to measure music’s effectiveness.
Veritonic’s technology and methodology for evaluating and ranking music for marketers solves these problems. With this report, Veritonic is sharing it’s proprietary framework for understanding and evaluating the impact of audio logos in the market.
We’ve applied our methodology to the top audio logos in the United States, and have some findings to share. Some are obvious, at least on reflection; and we think some are less so — especially in light of the obvious ones.
This report includes detailed data for the top 5 audio logos. If you’d like details on the others, or to have your audio logo analyzed, please contact us.
- Marketing Spend: There is a strong correlation between marketing spend and the performance of audio logos. The most successful audio logos generally (but not exclusively!) belong to the biggest marketers.
- Longevity Counts: Most of the strongest performers in our Index have been in-market for a considerable amount of time. Some have even been in use for decades.
- Industry Performance: There is a wide variation by industry in the performance of audio logos. Some industries performed as well as one would expect. But one industry in particular, which is known for having tremendous marketing budgets, performed very poorly in our standings.
- Words Matter: There are many variables that impact the performance of an audio logo. One of those variables is whether or not the audio logo has a spoken component. We found that those audio logos with a verbal component strongly outperformed those without a verbal component.
- Consider Branding: Audio logos that include the name of the brand in either a spoken or sung fashion tend to outperform audio logos that are purely musical in nature, or that don’t include the name of the brand.
Over 2600 panelists were surveyed beginning on October 1, 2016. The panel was carefully modeled to reflect US Census-representative distributions of age, gender, ethnicity and race. Household income and data about a variety of other demographic and psychographic factors were also collected.
Audio logos were selected for testing from the Interbrand Best Global Brands of 2016, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, and the S&P 500. Only audio logos of brands with a significant US presence were evaluated. For comparison purposes, control or “ghost level” audio logos were included in the evaluation. These ghost levels consisted of professionally composed audio logos that were considered for major national and international brands, but were not selected and have never before been released to the public.
Panelists were asked to record their emotions as the audio logos played. Panelists were then asked about a generalized basket of other feelings and associations the music evoked, including brands they may associate with the audio logos. Panelists were contacted 48 hours later to test recall of the audio logos, and engagement with the audio logos was tracked throughout.
All emotions and engagement were tracked using Veritonic’s patent-pending EchoTime™ technology.
Finally, scores were calculated using a proprietary algorithm that combines emotional response, 48-hour recall, and Veritonic’s EchoTime™ data.
Correlation with Spend
It’s not a huge surprise that overall scores appear to be correlated with marketing spend. Though the exact budget numbers aren’t publicly available, it’s safe to assume that Nationwide, Farmers Insurance and Intel are among the biggest marketers in the United States, if not the world.
It’s also not a shock that some of the highest scoring audio logos have been in the market for 20+ years. Intel’s famous chimes were launched in 1994, as part of the launch of a TV branding campaign. Of course, this also reflects the marketing spend of Intel.
A side effect of longevity is repetition. The “mere exposure effect” was demonstrated to increase the positive association with a piece of music as far back as the 1960s. Audio logos by their very nature are prime candidates for benefiting from the mere exposure effect: after all, they are intended to be heard across every interaction with a target consumer. Besides the fact that they’re often created by exceptionally talented composers, it’s also no surprise that many audio logos are referred to as “earworms.”
Interestingly, some audio logos that have been not been in front of consumers as much also scored well. Green Giant’s famous “Ho-ho-ho, Green Giant” has been in the market since the early 1960s, despite a short hiatus in recent years. And Folgers’ audio logo, another top-performing consumer brand in our survey, has been in market since 1984.
The takeaway here is that persistence counts. Cumulative marketing spend can add up over many years.
Some Industries are Really Good at Audio Logos…
Really competitive markets breed really tough, innovative competitors. It’s not a surprise then that an industry like financial services has developed some outstanding marketing tactics. In fact, three of the top ten audio logos belong to P&C insurers (that’s home and car insurance to most of us): Nationwide, Farmers and Statefarm.
…And Some Industries are Not So Good.
We’re looking at you, automotive marketers.
It’s not a huge surprise that audio logos with words scored better than those without. After all, our brains are wired to recognize and process language. What is surprising is perhaps the magnitude of the difference. In our survey, the average “verbal” audio logo fared over 14% better than the average non-verbal audio logo.
On the other hand, audio logos with a branded verbal component also tend to outperform those without a branded verbal component, by an even larger margin: almost 30%. The verbal audio logos we examined include some with the name of the brand (“Ho-Ho-Ho, Green Giant!”) and some without (“I’m lovin’ it!” for McDonald’s). Of course, this doesn’t mean that every brand should automatically refresh their audio logo to include the name of the brand. Some brands, especially those with a large international presence, seek more universal sounds, like Intel.
Our top-performing audio logo belongs to Nationwide Insurance. The venerable audio logo is still going strong after more than half a century in action. It’s a respectable performer in its ability to evoke Emotions and Feelings, generally in the upper quartile of audio logos we tested. The top attribute in the Nationwide audio logo was the emotion of Happy, where it tied for 3rd — coincidentally with Statefarm, another P&C insurer.
The Nationwide audio logo really stands out, however, in 2 key areas: Unaided Recall and Engagement score. It had the top Unaided Recall score among the audio logos tested, by a significant margin. That the Nationwide audio logo would score this well isn’t a surprise, considering that Nationwide had enough confidence in the strength of their audio to engage in a gentle parody of it with spokesperson Peyton Manning last year (“Chicken parm/you taste so good…”).
Furthermore, the Nationwide audio logo was in the top decile of performers for Engagement. The speed and pattern of the responses by panelists to the audio logo demonstrates how deeply planted the audio logo has become in panelists’ psyches.
2. Farmer’s Insurance
Our second-best performer overall belongs to Farmers Insurance. This relative newcomer (by on-air promotion, that is) has taken a slightly different route to the top than Nationwide: while it scores well for Unaided Recall and it’s in the 90th percentile for EchoTime™ Engagement, it succeeds in large part by strongly evoking key emotions and feelings. For instance, it’s the top performer in evoking Trustworthiness and Uniqueness, and also shares the lead in being a top performer for Innovative and Empowering.
This outstanding audio logo came in third overall in our Q3 rankings in large part because it “hits all the right notes.” It ties for second place in Unaided Recall, and it’s near the top in Excited and in Engagement metrics. However, the marketers at Intel will likely be most gratified to hear that the Intel tones tie for first for evoking the feeling of Innovative among audience members.
4. Green Giant
The next-best performing audio logo is the classic Green Giant audio logo, which has been in market since the 1960s. The Green Giant logo scored at the top for Authentic and Confident. That said, this well-known audio logo may be showing its age: despite its obvious strengths, it only scored in the middle of the pack for Emotional Response data, notably for Excited. It also lagged behind the other top performers in Engagement.
5. Hot Pockets
The Hot Pockets audio logo was a top performer, and introduces an element of branding — the “ding” of a microwave — that clearly evokes the process of delivering the product. The Pavlovian sound is so distinctive that it actually has the best EchoTime score in our survey. And everyone whose stomachs started rumbling as soon as they saw the brand name will be happy to hear that Hot Pockets’ audio logo also tied for the highest score in Happy.
McDonald’s has been renowned for decades as a great marketer, so it’s no surprise to find them on this list. The “I’m Lovin’ It” campaign evokes great Excitement, and also has great Unaided Recall. Like many of the audio logos on this list, the sound has evolved somewhat over the years but its current iteration evokes a great deal of Excitement. In fact, it’s the sole leader for this attribute. It also ties for 3rd for Unaided Recall.
Unlike many of its competitors, Chevy’s audio logo often plays at the start of advertising. This strategy seems to work effectively, since it’s at the top of the rankings in the automotive sector. While performing notably poorly in the Excited dimension, the audio logo scores quite highly for Trustworthy and Approachable, key attributes for a high-ticket product marketed as being dependable “like a rock.”
The Folgers audio logo has been in-market for over 30 years, since 1984. Critical for a consumer packaged good (CPG) that’s seeking to be in every cupboard, it scores very well for Feelings like Approachable and Authentic. It also successfully evokes Simple. Reflecting the branded and verbal nature of the audio logo, it also has a very high Unaided Recall score, tying for third.
Another insurer, State Farm’s audio logo scores well across a number of dimensions but is not the leader in any one category in our survey. It evokes Happy, but is only in 9th place for Unaided Recall. Similarly, it’s in the 80th percentile for our EchoTime™ Engagement metric.
T-Mobile’s distinctive chimes score reasonably well for the Emotions Happy and Excited. While it’s only 10th for Unaided Recall, the tones are apparently very distinctive for those who do recall them: the audio logo is in the top decile for Engagement.
Similar to T-Mobile, Autozone’s audio logo scores well for Happy and Excited. It’s also in 10th place for Unaided Recall, while still being in the top decile for Engagement. It’s also a strong performer for Confident.
12. The General
Another insurer, The General Insurance, takes 12th on our list. It’s audio logo evokes the Emotion Happy. It’s also perceived as one of the most Unique audio logos in our survey. It’s in the second quartile for Unaided Recall, but is only in the 50th percentile for Engagement.
Another longstanding audio logo, Duracell’s “Coppertop” audio logo is solidly in the second quartile of logos in our survey. This is in spite of the fact that it scores below average for Happy. While it does take 13th for Unaided Recall, it only scores in the 50th percentile for Engagement.
14. Meow Mix
Meow Mix’s eponymous audio logo scores well for the Emotion Happy, which is not a surprise given the close association with pets. It ties for 6th for Approachable, and also scores highly for Reputable. Perhaps because of its’ branded and verbal nature, it is in the second quartile for Unaided Recall. However, the Meow Mix audio logo ranks near the bottom for Engagement.
15. Old Spice
Old Spice’s whistle successfully evokes Excited, perhaps the most important emotional component for a brand currently focusing its marketing on a younger male demographic. It also ranks well for the Feeling of Likable. While it only ranks 15th for Unaided Recall, the Engagement metric puts it in the 70th percentile.
A brand very much in the news right now for its proposed acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T’s 4-note logo is relatively new in the market. It ranks in the 2nd or 3rd quartile in most of the dimensions our survey covered, including Excited, Happy, Innovative and Unaided Recall. The audio logo slightly outperforms on the Engagement metric, where it’s in the 70th percentile.
A well known brand but not a prolific TV advertiser, BAND-AID’s audio logo may suffer from lower ad spend than many of the other brands on this list. In fact, it performed well for most metrics evaluated. The stark exception was that the audience perceived it as the least Exciting audio logo evaluated, tied with one of the Ghost Levels.
One of the smaller brands tested, HomeAdvisor’s audio logo stacks up very favorably when measured on the basis of marketing dollars. The audio logo, featuring a chorus singing the name, evokes Happy and Confident. It also ranks in the top quartile for Confident, important for a brand acting as an intermediary for handyman and home renovation services. It scored in the second quartile for both Unaided Recall and Engagement, which makes sense given it’s smaller advertising budget and the relative newness of the audio logo.
Gillette’s audio logo was relatively undistinguished in our survey. It’s strongest performance was in Confident. But it was only in the 2nd quartile for Engagement and Recall.
20. Little Caesar’s
Reintroduced in 2012, Little Caesar’s iconic “Pizza Pizza” tag line and audio logo may be struggling to break through to an audience that’s more fragmented than when this audio logo was last an essential part of the brand’s marketing. It scores in the 4th quartile for Unaided Recall, but jumps into the 1st quartile for Engagement. This likely reflects the familiarity of a slightly older demographic.
21. United Healthcare
Another financial services company, United Healthcare operates in the medical insurance area. It makes sense that their audio logo evokes Confident and Authentic. While United Healthcare’s Unaided Recall is relatively low, in the third quartile, it outperforms on Engagement, coming in as a second quartile performer.
22. Liberty Mutual
Liberty Mutual’s audio logo is at it’s best with emotions, where it’s in the second quartile for Happy. It’s other strengths are that it’s quite Simple. As a newer entrant in the audio logo space, it’s no surprise that the Liberty Mutual audio logo is only in the third quartile for Unaided Recall. As with United Healthcare, LMI also outperforms on Engagement, where it comes in in the second quartile.
23. Always Discrete
The Always Discrete audio logo tested very well for the Emotions Happy and Excited. It also outperformed for being perceived as Simple. Given the very focused and specific appeal of the underlying product, it’s not a huge surprise that it scored in the third quartile for Unaided Recall, but for those who did recall it, it resonated very strongly, coming in the top quartile for Engagement.
BMW’s audio logo is relatively new in the market, introduced in 2013. This may account for it’s relatively low performance, in the third or fourth quartile virtually across the board. One bright spot is that it actually generated a relatively high score for Excited, which meshes nicely with the brand’s values.
As with BMW, Audi’s relatively new audio logo was also not one of our top performers. It generally scored on par with, or slightly below, BMW’s audio logo. The one spot where it significantly outperformed BMW was in Engagement, where it jumped up to the second quartile, relative to it’s Unaided Recall, which was in the 4th quartile. This may indicate that fans are beginning to recognize and respond to the sequence of sounds.
Veritonic helps brands identify the audio content that best resonates with their audience. The Veritonic platform combines proprietary marketing response data with predictive algorithms and a unique demographic search engine giving our clients the ability to quickly discover, test and benchmark audio content to fit their specific marketing goals.
If you have questions about the value of the music or audio content you are using in your marketing, contact us.
If you have questions about how your music and audio content stacks up to your competition, contact us.
If you have questions about how to improve your music selection and the equity that your brand enjoys in music, contact us.
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