Audio Brand Guidelines: Does Your Company Have Corporate Guidelines For The Application Of Sound In Brand Communications?


As a starting point, every brand should have what we call BrandSoundâ„¢ Guidelines (BGs) in place as part of its brand book. BGs will list all the practical rules that define the brand in sound.

What is the sound of this brand? What is its rhythm, its tempo? Which melodies, harmonies, modes does it prefer, and which does it avoid? Which instruments or specific sounds are on-brand, and which off limits? What is the voice of the brand - what exactly does it sound like? How do we make this consistent in all our voice communication, including the telephone?

Does the brand have a particular sound that defines it, or even a sonic logo? If so, how and where is this to be deployed? What is unchanging and non-negotiable in our briefs to composers and sound designers, or our commissioning of commercial music for advertising? What sound is consistent in all our advertising (and maybe also events, promotions, sponsorships)?

What soundscapes do we install in each of our spaces, delivered with what equipment or quality specifications, and how do we maintain their quality, freshness and integrity? Is our product sound a differentiating factor, in which case what are the ways in which we nourish and protect that asset?

For some, BGs will be a single page. For other, more complex or major brands, there may be many pages, plus audio samples and examples. However it works individually, one thing is true for all: no brand should be facing the 21st century without a clear statement of its sound.

BGs are the heart of effective BrandSoundTM, along with some other elements or expressions of a brand in sound: brand voice, brand music, sonic logos, advertising sound, product sound and sound in physical and virtual spaces, i.e. soundscapes.

In practice, before we get into writing BrandSoundTM guidelines and creating (or removing) actual sound, there are two important steps to take.

First is a proper audit. We have done this for shopping centres and major department stores, for airports, and for whole brands. It's essential to find out what's so and where we are, before planning what will be and where we're going.

Second is a workshop for the company's senior management. Most of them will never have thought about sound, and in order to gain their support and engagement with the process of optimising the organisation's sound, it's vital to sensitise them and achieve buy-in. We run a powerful and highly visceral workshop where we demonstrate how important sound is, present the results of the audit, and do a set of intensive interactive exercises that lay the foundations for the work that's to come.

Those steps having been taken, we move on to consider each type of BrandSoundTM in turn, formulation of BGs and their practical implementation, if required.

One of the examples of the successful outcomes of this approach is a work we have done for the Colombian Helm bank.

Bogota-based Banco de Crédito boldly broke the traditionalist mould of Colombian banking by deciding to rebrand in all five senses as it moved into retail banking. It changed its name to Helm Bank, radically redesigned its corporate visual identity, and deployed sound, scent and taste to deliver the world's first multisensory brand experience.

BRAND sense agency led the project, and engaged The Sound Agency to overhaul the bank's sound. High-level workshops and interviews and a BrandSoundTM audit led to a complete set of BrandSoundTM guidelines covering all eight expressions of the brand in sound. Implementation followed, including:

  • Brand music in the form of a ‘brand suite';
  • A sonic logo that was so catchy that most staff installed it on their personal mobiles;
  • Two generative soundscapes for the branches;
  • Delivery of a further rainforest soundscape through hypersonic loudspeakers;
  • Consultancy on IVR telephone system design;
  • Choice of appropriate voices for recorded announcements;
  • On-brand music playlists for office spaces;
  • All the sonic elements to create consistent high quality podcasts locally.

You can hear a sample of the Helm soundscape, and the sonic logo, on their website. For more information on this case, go to

To successfully differentiate itself and compete in today's market, every brand needs to follow defined corporate guidelines. These should be developed using a multisensory approach and incorporate a sound dimension for communication of brand values and promises.

Julian Treasure - a global expert in the evaluation, strategic planning, implementation and deployment of sound in business; the chairman of The Sound Agency - a leading audio-branding consultancy; the author of Sound Business, a seminal book on how to apply sound for business benefit, and the creator of BrandSoundTM : a strategic framework for the effective use of sound in brand management.



Julian Treasure is author of the book ‘Sound Business’ the first map of the exciting new territory of applied sound for business, and he has been widely featured in the world’s media, including TIME Magazine, The Economist, The Times, UK national TV and radio, as well as many international trade and business magazines. His TED talk on the effects of sound has been widely viewed and highly rated.

You may also like:

Filed under Business Coaching. Posted by The Corporate Toolbox on