Ep. 121 Transcript

Disclaimer: This is transcribed using AI. Expect (funny) errors.

Mindy Peterson: [00:00:00] I’m Mindy Peterson, and this is Enhance Life with Music, a holistic look at the power of music in our everyday lives. Our topic today really goes by many names. I’m going to refer to our topic as sonic branding, but it is also known as music branding, auditory or audio or acoustic branding, corporate sound identity and more names to you. Get the idea. This is a pretty new and burgeoning field that I understand is kind of like the Wild West right now, so I’m excited to learn more about it today, particularly as it relates to music’s role in Sonic branding. My guest today is joining me from Southern California, where I’m sure the weather is much different than the almost blizzard conditions that I have today in Minneapolis. Jeanna Isham is a musician, composer and sonic brander. She creates, consults and educates and the power of sound in marketing. One of the ways she does this is through podcasting. Jeanna is a fellow podcaster and hosts the Sound in Marketing podcast. She also founded the company Dreamer Productions and has composed music that can be heard internationally on networks including NBC, N and the Discovery Channel. So Jeanna has worked both directly and indirectly with companies including Jim Henson Productions, The Sprouts Network and 16 South TV. Welcome to enhance life with music, Jeanna.

Jeanna Isham: [00:01:39] Thank you so much, Mindy. Thank you for having me.

Mindy Peterson: [00:01:41] My pleasure. Well, Jeanna, I mentioned some of the many names that Sonic branding can go by. Tell us, what is Sonic branding? How do you explain or describe the concept to people who aren’t already familiar with it?

Jeanna Isham: [00:01:55] Sure, I’ll start with just an example, because it sounds like a fancy name, but if you kind of put an example in front of it, sometimes it helps when you when you think of the Intel Pentium processor chip sound, what they used in the nineties and they’ve continued to use is the Bom Bom Bom Bom Bom that sound that would be considered the most fundamental idea of sonic branding. So you hear that sound and you think of Intel Pentium processor chip, I could go on and on about how powerful that is, but just to think that a processor chip inside of your computer that you never see, you hear that sound and you know that that’s what’s that’s what’s being talked about is absolutely insane. And the reason is the power of sound, the power of music, basically sonic branding. And I know you’re focused on the music part of it. But the powerful thing about sonic branding is if you really break it down, it’s not just music, it’s sound. It’s anything that causes vibration. And once you think of that, there’s so much more world of sound branding that you have to talk about. It’s pretty amazing.

Mindy Peterson: [00:03:07] It is. Well, and as you’re talking about sonic branding to it, it’s really kind of a perfect explanation of why you’ll read in the news sometimes about politicians who are maybe getting into trouble for playing an artist song without permission at the rally or some campaign event because it’s effectively kind of turning the artist’s creative work into a sonic logo in a way for them?

Jeanna Isham: [00:03:34] Absolutely. And if that artist does not feel politically the same as that politician, then their heart and soul what they put out there. Their brand is being manipulated against what their brand stands for. And as a musician, it hurts me to see people using other people’s art to interpret themselves without permission. It’s just very sad, but it shows that there’s power in sound and music because here this politician realizes, Oh, I might be able to bring in new constituents just by playing Bon Jovi music or something like that. And so they piggyback off of this. This musician and this sound to tell their story.

Mindy Peterson: [00:04:21] Well, the intel example that you gave, I mean, that’s that’s been around for a while. How how long would you say this industry has been around and sort of recognized as an industry with a name to it?

Jeanna Isham: [00:04:34] Sonic Branding Sonic branding has been around for a long time, but it just hasn’t had that name. It goes by a lot of different things. Sonic logos jingles are the most popular their sound identities, sonic identities, audio branding. You listed a bunch at the very beginning. But I think where it really started with jingles, and that’s what most people are familiar with, and a lot of people still call sonic branding jingles, which. It’s a form of jingle, but it’s more than a jingle, for example, I could see a jingle becoming sonic branding, but it doesn’t start off that way. So anyways, but I’ll get into that later. But I think the first example of sonic branding would be through jingles, and a great way to think of it is insurance companies that have been around for 60 or 70 or 80 years. They figured this out really, really fast, especially once radio came around, they thought, Let’s come up with a snappy little jingle and something that people can repeat because repetitive motion, it will get into the back of your brain way faster and it will stay there longer. And so they came up with these little jingles that they would play during their advertisements. And here we are 60, 70, 80 years later, and we still know nationwide is on your side. And the funny thing is, I guess it’s ironic who really thinks of an insurance company as an entity? How do you relate to insurance company? Generally, you don’t like them very much because they’re charging you money. There’s not much to bond with. And yet they have these music music connotations. They have these little music jingles and these words that are very calming and they connect you emotionally. And all of a sudden you are connected to something with an emotional connection that truly you shouldn’t have an emotional connection to. And it’s all because of sound. It’s all because of these little jingles. And I think that that is the true essence of what sonic branding is, is it’s this sound that is connected to a brand through an emotional connection that you really can’t find any other way.

Mindy Peterson: [00:06:48] Yeah, that is really powerful because music is sort of the sound of emotions. And so it does become a really amazing tool for evoking emotions and establishing some kind of an emotional connection between customers and in a product or a service and kind of influencing purchasing decisions that way. And one thing that’s interesting, too, is that sound that the music not only establishes the emotional connection and maybe I shouldn’t use the word but but and also kind of can convey something about the brand, whether it’s an aura of indulgence or luxury or, like you said, comforting, romantic or familiar, like, there’s all these things that it can sort of convey that can be entwined with emotions.

Jeanna Isham: [00:07:42] Absolutely. And to get even more Nietzsche into it, when you think of Nike and you see the Nike Swoosh, there’s a sound that goes with that and they use it every once and all. But they don’t have to use it all the time because it’s implied with their visual logo. You hear the kind of like this whoosh sound, and in my interpretation of it, it’s movement. It’s action. And that’s what Nike is about. Nike is about action. It’s about doing something. Just do it, you know, and something as simplistic yet guaranteed. There was a lot of thought process that went into that with that sound, with that whoosh sound combined with the visual. They’ve told their story right there like they are about action. They are athletic. They are about taking care of yourself. And it’s brilliant. It’s absolutely brilliant with such a small, with such a small movement, I guess, is one way to look at it.

Mindy Peterson: [00:08:39] Yeah, it is pretty amazing. The example that I saw a lot too of of sonic branding is Netflix, that Saddam that you hear at the very beginning. And now whenever I pull that up, I can’t help but just be much more aware of it. Like, Oh my goodness, it’s brilliant.

Jeanna Isham: [00:08:58] Well, and the funny thing about Netflix is they kind of got a little bit of in trouble with their, with their brand, with their brand equity. And what I meant by that is when COVID happened, we all were there. We all are still there and we were watching more and more TV and streaming and all that than we ever had before. And what Netflix did not take into account is how many times you hear that to Adam. So it’s not just when you boot it up, you’ll hear it before a Netflix oriJeannal. You might hear it if you switch profile accounts. So you’re hearing it actually too often. And so that’s why sonic branding is something that you can’t just go and grab some music from a music supervisor. You have to actually go to an agency that understands sonic branding because you don’t want to overuse it either. You don’t want to utilize it, but you also don’t want to expose your consumer to it too often, because then it becomes annoying. So there’s this sweet spot this. Going to be different for absolutely every different brand, and Netflix obviously recovered their fine, but it was an interesting point to be made was how much is too much?

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:11] Yeah. Well, even when you were speaking about the jingles, I was thinking about that where some jingles, as soon as you start hearing the beginning, you’re like, No,

Jeanna Isham: [00:10:21] Please,

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:22] I’m so sick of hearing that. It definitely has a connection, but it’s a negative connection or connotation. Absolutely. I hear what you’re saying. Companies aren’t going to want that either. It’s kind of like salt, you know, you don’t have enough of it. You really miss it, but you get too much and it can really ruin the dish that you’re eating so that that makes sense. You kind of need the pros, he underlined.

Jeanna Isham: [00:10:45] Absolutely. I ruined my stir fry last night because I put too much salt in it, so I completely understand.

Mindy Peterson: [00:10:52] Well, it sounds like this industry really is in its infancy. Would you say that? I agree with that.

Jeanna Isham: [00:10:59] I would. Yeah to to really define it. It definitely is in its infancy, and I feel like brands feel that you have to be MasterCard or McDonald’s in order to actually obtain a sense of Sonic branding. And one of my missions is to kind of show brands that you can have sonic branding. Whether you’re a brand that’s big or small, you may not do an entire huge sonic branding package like MasterCard has done. But there’s definitely elements that you can strategize. It’s it’s basically my little mantra is let’s make sound on purpose. And so it it may not be like as much as MasterCard is doing, but if you could even just find that Nike Swoosh sound, imagine the possibilities of just having that much and then you can build from there.

Mindy Peterson: [00:11:51] Mm hmm. Well, it seems like our world is going so much in the direction of sound. Even just think about an episode that we had on the role of music in movie trailers, and that person was talking about the trends and movie trailers and how it used to be that there was more speaking and dialogue in movie trailers and now for for many years. That’s not the case. Often you won’t hear any speech at all in a movie trailer. It’s all sound and music, and it just seems like our world is going more and more to a world of sound where you just speak your commands to Siri or to your Echo Dot or whatever it is. Where do you see this industry headed? I mean, it sounds like it’s we’re early on in it. Where do you see this going?

Jeanna Isham: [00:12:43] Well, I’m glad you mentioned that for Siri or Alexa. We are more voice driven now, especially as we go in and out of quarantine. We’re trying to get away from devices more and more, and we want to disconnect. But I don’t think we fully want to completely disconnect. And when we have sound, it’s still a break from our eyes. It’s it’s a break from the overstimulation that we get when we’re staring at our computer, our TV, but we’re still connected. And so I think that’s one of the reasons that podcasts have been exploding lately is you can still plug in, but you can go to the park or you can go for a hike or whatever they get outside from time to time. And I think that we’re so on the move now we’re getting we were definitely getting there before COVID hit. We’re getting back to that now. We’re just in a rush. We’re busy and when we can find a way to continue our mobility for our tasks and our day to day and change locations from our living room to our car to our office to the bus and still have information around us, that’s so much power. And I think that voice and sound give us that opportunity.

Mindy Peterson: [00:14:00] Hmm, that’s really interesting how you point that out about how you you can connect with nature, you can connect with other people more when you’re experiencing something hourly through sound than when you’re, say, sitting in front of a movie, you know you’re not going to go for a walk in nature or a hike in nature and watch a movie at the same time. And even today, my son and I were on the way to an appointment, and we both enjoy listening to the newsworthy with Erica and Mandy listening to that news podcast. So we’ve had that going in the car and we’re sort of commenting on some of the items in the news as we were driving there and back, so. And that just reminded me, too of a quote by Helen Keller, something to the effect of when you lose your vision, you’re disconnected from things. When you lose your hearing, you’re disconnected from people. Oh, and you know, that was really powerful when I heard that. And I’m just thinking of that, as you’re as you’re saying.

Jeanna Isham: [00:15:00] Wow, yeah, that’s really going to have to go back to my Helen Keller book. She was absolutely amazing. Yeah, she would have a very good perspective of the senses. Definitely.

Mindy Peterson: [00:15:12] Well, we’ve talked about several of the benefits of sonic branding or having a sonic logo, a sonic logo. I guess we haven’t talked specifically about that. Why don’t you just give us a quick explanation of of that as opposed to the bigger world of sonic branding? What would how would you describe a sonic logo?

Jeanna Isham: [00:15:28] Sure. Yeah, I like to look at it in a way of if you look at a visual logo so you have your company. Let’s go back to Nike the swoosh. That’s their visual logo. So that’s their branding because it’s Nike. I think that they can fudge it and they don’t have to put their logo on absolutely everything anymore. But generally, that’s what you see on everything. A sonic logo is the same idea. It’s a short auditory phrase that maybe you would play at the end of a commercial or it would be attached to your visual logo, especially like you had an animated logo that played at the end of a commercial. Your sonic logo could show up at the end of a branded podcast. It really could be used for absolutely anything, and I think that the creativity of using a sonic logo has not completely been fully realized yet. So that’s why I don’t have a ton of examples, but they’re at the tip of my brain because I know that somebody is going to come up with some real creative ways to use a sonic logo for one thing that I haven’t really seen too much of. But going back to voice activation and you’ve got your voice assistants, if you were trying to enact, you know, you do your wake word for Alexa or Siri, and you say that you want to look for plates and then maybe Lennox comes up first.

Jeanna Isham: [00:16:46] What if Lennox had a sonic logo? And so before you heard what their latest plate was, you heard the Lennox Sonic logo play you’ve you’ve all of a sudden invested equity into voice assistants. You’ve you’ve had potentially new consumers hearing you for the first time, maybe before they see you. There’s so many more opportunities to use sound, potentially for consumers that don’t know who you are yet. Can you imagine if you’re not even Linux, but a newer mom and pop restaurant and you decide to run an ad on some kind of voice activation and somebody hasn’t seen you yet, but you say that you’re on the corner of such and such street and such and such street, and then you’ve got some kind of little musical jingle or logo that plays on that. It will. I can’t remember what the statistic is, but you’re more likely to remember it when it is connected to something like that. And then next time you’re driving past those cross streets, you’re looking for that restaurant. So they haven’t seen you yet, but they’ve heard you. That’s pretty incredible to me.

Mindy Peterson: [00:17:53] Yeah. Well, the other thing that is pretty incredible about it is our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. Yeah. And this is definitely a way to sort of break into that and just get that little edge. And there’s so much competition between brands and companies out there that just that little edge sometimes can make a big difference.

Jeanna Isham: [00:18:17] Absolutely. I think we are. Our attention span is officially less than a goldfish now.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:22] No, that’s that’s pretty pathetic.

Jeanna Isham: [00:18:25] I know.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:28] Oh, well, when we’re both parents. And so that’s something that as parents were always thinking about, too, it’s like you want your kids to be tech savvy and literate and what’s going on with technology. And and honestly, if I’m if I’m being selfishly honest, it’s really convenient to have kids who can help me with.

Jeanna Isham: [00:18:48] Oh, absolutely. Oh yes.

Mindy Peterson: [00:18:50] But at the same time, it’s like, you know, we want our kids reading physical books to we don’t want them on screens all the time. So it’s really it’s really a balancing act.

Jeanna Isham: [00:19:01] It really is. But it’s, you know, and I try and limit screen time as well. We both know that’s very challenging, but there is value to them understanding it as well. And you know, the generation before us, they had their own harnesses between tech of that time and physical physicality. It just took a different shape. So it’s going to be a constant forever and ever.

Mindy Peterson: [00:19:26] Sure. Is there any way that companies measure the effect of sonic branding on their marketing efforts, their revenue or even just somehow measuring the psychology that sound has on sort of manipulating people’s buying decisions?

Jeanna Isham: [00:19:43] Yes, they do. But I think that something that’s really important for them to understand is there’s two different ways to monitor your marketing effectiveness. And what we’re talking about in sonic branding is brand. And brand equity grows over time, so you can’t measure it by. Ok, we have this new sonic logo and it’s been playing for three months and we haven’t increased our revenue by X percent yet. That’s a bad way to look at it because it’s with repetition and with time and familiarity and committing to it. That’s when you find out how effective it has been. I can’t say that you at this point, but this is not my background. I couldn’t really say that you would see in numbers or a specific percent what the Sonic branding has done for your company. But what you can notice is how are people talking about it? How are people, you know, sharing your campaigns? What do they feel about your company? Because that’s really what Sonic branding is about is feel and emotion and connectivity. So it’s really hard. And this is probably why it’s taking a while for brands to really catch on to. The Sonic branding thing is, they want to they want to see the dollar. Show me the money, you know, and with sonic branding, you can’t look at it that way. This is an investment in future are a lie. And if you’ve got a really good one, you may get a spike. All of a sudden, there might be something that a whole lot of people connect to, and they go out and they buy your Furby or whatever.

Jeanna Isham: [00:21:25] I don’t know why I thought a Furby, but the latest Christmas fad of sorts. So there are things that just like are these mind blowing moments that just changes a company? But those are few and far between. So I think that the most important way to look at sonic branding is that it is its equity and you have to stick with it. And the way to really find good sonic branding is you have to take apart your brand a bit, and it’s not about what the executives say the brand is. You actually have to come up with a brand persona. And what I think is funny is brands are very focused on customer personas, but I don’t think they’re as focused on their brand persona. Once you come up with a brand persona, you make it human, and once you make it human, you can figure out what its emotion is. You can figure out what it sounds like, what it feels like, what it looks like, what it tastes like. You can figure out all of these sensorial perspectives, and it’s going to make your marketing stronger. So they spend all of this time trying to figure out who they’re who their customer is. But if they don’t know who they are, how are they going to truly be able to find those perfect customers?

Mindy Peterson: [00:22:41] Sort of a personification of the brand? Absolutely. Oh, fascinating. Well, one reason I wanted you to talk to me and my audience today about this is you are a musician. Tell us about your music background and how you came to the world of sonic branding.

Jeanna Isham: [00:23:01] Yeah, it was kind of. It was very strange because I was always wanting to be like, Well, started off. I wanted to be the next Sarah McLaughlin. And then I realized, Oh, I loved her. But then I realized that I don’t like performing. And then I wanted to be the next John Williams because I enjoyed instrumental music. And then I realized that was really, really hard. And it was always like the top five would get the gigs and all of that. And it just it didn’t really go that direction. And then my husband and I got married and we we combined our companies. We have an audio video production company, and I was thinking, well, I got to figure out how to market us. So I got into marketing and fell in love with marketing, and I was like, This is bizarre. I never thought I would have enjoyed this. And through that, I was like, I wonder how people are using sound in marketing? And I was absolutely dumbfounded that there was so many opportunities out there and no one was taking advantage. And that’s where the Sonic branding came in was. I wasn’t hearing enough about it, and I was trying to research and find journals and research about sonic branding and how effective it was. And I wasn’t finding very much so. I had to dig further and further. And what I found was the people that knew about sonic branding and understood what it could do. And we’re like really on on their feet trying to get this going.

Jeanna Isham: [00:24:27] We’re so busy they didn’t have time to write this and that and the other or talk about it. They didn’t have time to write about it. So that’s where the sound and marketing podcast came up. I found these people that were in the trenches and were trying to work on sensory marketing and sonic branding and sound and marketing, and I interviewed them and I got the information that way, got them to talk while they’re like, in real life doing these things. So it was honestly, the podcast was my own guilty education. I was. For the selfish, I was learning all of these things that I could not find research on, and from that now people are actually writing about it, people are doing more things, there’s more case studies. There’s a company called Vera Tonic that actually measures the effectiveness of your ads with sound. So things are actually happening now. And it’s been it’s been a blast because I feel like I’ve kind of grown up with it. So it’s it’s becoming this thing and it’s just been surrounding me the entire time as it’s been going on. And it’s been fascinating seeing how sonic branding has grown, how voice first technology plays into it. The whole sensorial perspective has been absolutely fantastic to me. Now this year, I’m kind of focusing on immersive experiences and metaverse things like that, like how the metaverse plays into this immersive experience. How are we taking organic experiences and digital and blending them? It’s it’s absolutely incredible.

Mindy Peterson: [00:26:01] Well, that is so fascinating. I’ll definitely include links to all of your many outlets in the show, notes your podcast, sound in marketing podcast, your company, Dream Productions, and I think you also write on Medium. That’s how actually shout out to former guest and listener of this podcast, Pavley Marinkovich. He is the one who introduced me to you and connected us. Yeah, but are you still writing on Medium as well?

Jeanna Isham: [00:26:31] I am. I haven’t gotten started back up this year, but yes, I’m writing on Medium. I also have the site sound and marketing where I do all of kind of. I add all of the articles that I’ve been researching, not necessarily that I’ve written, but that I’ve found so people can kind of go down the rabbit hole with me. So I publish those monthly. I also have courses right now. I have sounds, power and influence in marketing, which basically tells you the fundamentals, kind of what we were talking about, but just trying to explain why we need to pay attention to sound. Why is sound so important? Why can’t we just focus on the visual and so really breaks down through examples and scientific study as to why we can’t ignore sound anymore? And I’m working on a new course for what is sonic branding specifically. So all of those things are great resources that I either have put together, or I’ve at least curated for people to take a listen to or take a look at,

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:32] Yeah, we will include all those links in the show notes, and I think you have music that you’ve composed on song traders as well. Is that right?

Jeanna Isham: [00:27:39] Oh, I do. Yes. Yes, they are up there.

Mindy Peterson: [00:27:42] Yeah, yeah. We have some trader on the on the podcast before. Oh, you’re still talking about music’s ability to influence purchasing decisions. So I’ll put a link to that episode in the show notes and then also link to your song Trader Music. Well, I ask all my guests to close out our conversation with a musical, ending a coda by sharing a song or story about a moment that music enhanced your life. Do you have a song or a story that you can share with us today?

Jeanna Isham: [00:28:12] Yes, I do. Seeing as I, I always tie it back to sound my my story that I wanted to tell was actually about my connection to cicadas. And if anybody has heard a cicada, I think I’m the only one in the world that loves the sound of a cicada. They’re actually really loud and obnoxious, and they screech, they’re these like little bugs and they’re very ugly. They’re not little, actually. They’re very big and they’re very ugly, and they only come to the surface every 17 years to mate. And they make this god awful sound. And that’s their mating call, I’m sure. Well, my grandmother, she was, she’s mostly born and raised in central Illinois. And whenever I’d go and visit her in the summertime, we would sit out on her big back patio under her oak tree and sip iced tea. And the cicadas would come out and you were screaming over the sound of the cicadas. They were so loud. But it was my grandmother, and it’s a happy memory. She’s no longer with us anymore, and the house isn’t even in our family anymore. But whenever I hear a cicada, it always brings me back to those wonderful summers in her backyard, sipping lemonade and iced tea and hanging out with a bunch of family that I don’t get to see anymore.




 Transcribed by Sonix.ai