Jingle Bells

When you have been around the block a few times, as have I, you begin to see trends coming back. You see it in fashion. You see it in holiday destinations. And trends also return in advertising. Not because the latest generation of marketers and ad folk have run out of ideas. More because (like so many young people) they live in a present entirely uncoloured by the past. I mean, of course, that they have little idea what their profession was doing 3 months ago, let alone 30 years’ back.Cocoa Tin

I had one of those “you’re kidding me” moments last week, when I read widespread excitement about a new concept called sonic branding.

Global marketing publications were sonorously intoning the revelation that ‘sound is a powerful tool that can trigger specific memories or emotions.”

They added that as technology like Amazon’s Echo or the Google Home Assistant become more embedded in daily lives, it’s increasingly important for brands to create emotional connections without visuals, just sound. Cue sonic branding – the use of a sound, song or melody to help reinforce a brand’s identity.Apparently, Visa has found that sound makes consumers feel safe and secure in their transactions, and that 81 percent of shoppers would have a more positive reaction to Visa if it incorporated sound or animation into its marketing or shopping experience. So, Visa released a special sound last December. After using a Visa card, customers in America hear a chime of sorts, signifying a secure, speedy transaction. Eighty-three percent of respondents said Visa’s new sound sparked a positive perception of the brand.

“Payments are becoming more embedded in new experiences and new places, so we started to think about how the Visa brand might manifest itself in formats that are quite different from a shop or digital website,” said Lynne Biggar, Visa’s CMO. She added that Visa might soon be dingling your dongle in your car, your home, through your smart home appliances or even on your Fitbit.

Let’s put aside for the moment the dystopia future that paints for all of us who value our sanity. The fact is that this is really nothing new.

We were doing sonic in Africa 50 years ago – in advertising jingles supported by shorter audio mnemonics. At least three generations have grown up in East Africa knowing they had to ‘Kumbuka Cadbury Cocoa’ without reading a print ad. The signature four notes on the xylophone went straight to their amygdalas, and off they went to the duka to buy.

Now, that’s advertising. But please don’t tell me its new.

NBC Through the Yea


Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside in Africa.


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