Spielwarenmesse: How to give your brand and products an unmistakable sound

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How to give your brand and products an unmistakable sound

from Rainer Hirt

What sounds do we hear coming from children's bedrooms in Germany? What acoustic stimuli are children experiencing directly and indirectly when they interact with toys? Most people probably think of talking dolls, wailing fire engines and ringing sounds from toy mobile phones.

This small selection alone proves how toy sounds fall into different acoustic categories: from product-specific noises (product acoustics), voice output and what are known as “functional sounds” in sound toys and apps through to entire musical pieces or nature sounds for product staging. A well-thought-out audio design is a supporting element in the perception of all-round product quality.

Toy manufacturers are very well aware of this acoustic potential and know that auditory perception can be a factor in helping their customers decide whether to buy a product. Besides the sound quality, other parameters such as the sound intensity, volume control and the semantic fit (e.g. how well the pictures and sound match) are also relevant to a fully integrated sound concept. These parameters are considered right from the start of product design and result in a well-adapted product.

What would be recommended for manufacturers?

  • Adjustable volume control or at least an “off” switch
  • Realistic, natural and pleasant sounds. These can be achieved by using alternative audio sources or sounds which are designed to accommodate the technical restrictions. For example, it is easier to achieve a natural-sounding bird song than a lion’s roar.
  • Make sure the content has pedagogical value, is substantial and, especially, is logically structured. For example, we shouldn’t hear a cock crowing if a hen is being shown.

Brand sound

Product acoustics are an especially important part of auditory brand perception. However, how do companies promote their brands through sound well away from the shelves and children’s bedrooms? Our practical examples below illustrate the acoustic tools used by toy manufacturers to communicate their products to the mass media.

We look at a wide range of acoustic stylistic devices in media marketing: from short promotional jingles, with and without song, and entire musical compositions through to staged product noises. One of the oldest elements of acoustic advertising is the sung advertising message, or “jingle”. The jingle is still a frequently used audio branding element in the toy industry. One reason for this is that a melody with text (cf. BabyBorn) is very easily remembered. For another, a jingle gives you an emotional way of communicating an advertising message. A recognisable trend in audio branding since the turn of the millennium is what is known as the audio logo. This is usually a melody without a sung part (cf. Chicco), a product noise (e.g. the “MB” gong. Note: no longer used in advertisements since 2008) or a mix of a melody and noises or sounds (cf. Haba, Schleich).

Examples:

Beside conventional jingles, “advertising songs" have also been very popular from the eighties to the present day. Advertisements aimed at girls will often feature pop music with passages sung by women or girls. Advertising aimed at boys frequently includes rock music, noises (explosions, sword fighting, car engines, etc.) and male voices (cf. HotWheels). This stereotypical use of musical and vocal elements has become very important nowadays.

Examples:

Opportunities and benefits of an acoustic product and brand strategy

A customer encounters a brand or product many times in all kinds of channels, from online catalogues through to specialist retailers. An acoustic brand strategy should take this into account and there should be a concept in place that works in all areas.

  • Can our customers recognise our brand with their eyes closed?
  • Is our acoustic identity (e.g. audio logo) patentable? Note: Noises alone cannot be registered as a sound mark in Germany, for example, only melodies
  • Is there clear acoustic brand recognition in the various contact points, from the music on hold through to the TV advertisement?
  • Is our acoustic identity strongly differentiated from that of the competition?

If a company is confident of having a well-thought-through strategy, it should be able to answer “yes” to these questions.

 

Author of this article:

Rainer Hirt, audity

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