The Unique Power of the Everyday Sound

Living is easy with eyes closed…. (Lennon/McCartney)

I, like millions of others around the world, am a diehard Beatles fan. My love for their music is so extreme that, when people ask me to name my top five favorite bands of all time, I don’t even include them, asserting that they just can’t be ranked like any regular old band.

I feel their impact often — and not only when I’m listening to their music. I feel it every time I walk by the Dakota building on the upper west side of Manhattan (where John lived). I feel it every time I hear Oasis (sorry, fellas). 

And I feel it every time I turn on my MacBook, because that single chord that plays will forever remind me of the opening of McCartney’s “Live and Let Die.” I don’t know if Steve Jobs intended it that way. I also don’t think they’re precisely the same chord, but yeah, go ahead and revisit that.

The full effect of hearing that customized functional sound — what some call an earcon — requires analysis, but this I know: I hear it and I feel good, both in general and, by extension, about using that product. There are, of course, a lot of other reasons why I love my laptop, but its association with that sound always seals the deal.

The ability for brands to foster that association has never been more important. Why? You heard it from me first (:-): audio is huge. From the endless entertainment of podcasts to the myriad innovations that make it easier for people to listen, consumers are simply consuming more audio. And that’s only the content and technology that is built for audio. Endless aspects of our daily experience — putting on a seatbelt, getting a text message…the list goes on — are enabled by sound. 

With such an all-encompassing impact on peoples’ lives, a lot of businesses are starting to hear tremendous opportunity. The sound of their brand, they’re coming to understand, is multi-dimensional, not restricted to the audio logo alone. The more places they can integrate their brand identity in a positive, consistent way, the deeper the connection they perpetuate with customers.

Back to the Mac for a second. What if that power-on sound was merely a generic “bleep” of some kind? Clearly, at least for me, the experience of using that laptop would feel a lot more shallow. There is strength in a carefully-planned, customized earcon. 

The study by sonic branding agency Audio UX, powered by the Veritonic platform, proves it out. Through a combination of “Machine Listening and Learning” and human panel validation, the analysis demonstrates not only the value of leveraging earcons generally but how much more impactful “premium,” brand-customized sounds can be. 

The findings signify more than just personal preference. Others show that premium earcons — multi-layered and more harmonically complex than their generic counterparts — actually do a better job of signifying the correct function to users. 

There’s a lot to dig into. To start: 

  • Listen to our latest episode of The Sonic Truth, in which Audio UX’s Dexter Garcia and Veritonic’s Scott Simonelli go deep on just how big an opportunity earcons present.
  • Read the eBook on the study, available now.

Brands are starting to recognize the lifelong impression they can make on people through little sounds. Maybe they’ll be lucky enough to have as big an effect on millions of consumers as McCartney and the Mac have had on me.

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