Nation e-Edition

Sonic branding ‘a strong sales tool’

Sonic branding ‘a strong sales tool’ Brian Marshall of Shoestring Studios. (Picture by Sharon Harding.)

By Natasha Beckles | Fri, January 18, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Barbados’ businesses still tend to focus on the visual elements of their brand presence moreso than how they sound when it comes to advertising and marketing.

But they are increasingly embracing the notion of sonic branding, which has taken off worldwide.

That is, they are becoming more aware of the need to connect their brand to a unique sound, say Shoestring Studios directors Julian "JJ" Poulter and Brian Marshall.

“It’s strange how companies seem to be far more articulate and spend more time on how they look than how they sound, yet radio is still king in advertising in Barbados,” Poulter, the director of operations, said during an interview with BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY at the Rockley, Christ Church studio.

For this reason, he said, businesses need to ensure they had a sound that matched their brand and evoked positive emotions in listeners.

“It’s nice to have something familiar that is associated only with you.

Marshall, who is the production director, added, “People can identify [you] in a very crowded marketplace, especially on the radio where there are so many things coming at you all the time.”

Shoestring Studios offers a full range of products from jingles and soundtracks for infomercials or short films to shorter two- or three-second “sonic logos”.

Marshall and Poulter, also members of the rock band Kite, have been doing this “in earnest” for about two years after initially “stumbling” onto it.

“We’ve done a lot of composing in that band and we decided we were going to this music festival in Florida. From there we got a publishing contract and we just found that our music [was being used on American TV] in 90210 . . . Degrassi, Lincoln Heights, and in movies like The Stone Angel, lots of different placements.

“We didn’t even really have to push it. We just realized that they were choosing it on the strength of how it sounded. It wasn’t about any sort of fancy contacts.

“We knew from then we had an ability to write something that is an excellent underscore,” Marshall said.

According to Poulter, the duo seemed to have a gift for writing music that produced certain emotional responses.  

“It’s kind of a logical step to use our composing skills to do essentially what we’re doing now, which is trying to elicit emotions and feelings that are consistent with the brands of the people we do work for,” he explained.

Marshall noted that some companies changed their sound every time they place something on radio or television, and he advised against this.

“They’re using stock music or cutting music from libraries online and what that does is, every time you release an advert or something, you’re changing the sound of it – so it leaves people with nothing to hold on to.

“We have found it is a very powerful thing to stick with a piece of music or melody – or voice, even – to give people something familiar that they can keep holding on to,” he said.

Poulter said sonic branding was about creating specific, targeted sounds.

“It is less of a blunt instrument approach and more of a surgical tool,” he said.

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