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November 28, 2013

What’s in a sound?

The word ‘brand’ evolved from farmers marking their cattle with a hot iron, so they looked different from their neighbours’ herds.

Nowadays ‘brand’ is part of the way that companies and organisations make themselves and their products different from the competition. It also gives a company its personality – something people can relate to and build loyalty towards.

There are lots of different parts to a brand – the name, logo, typeface, taglines, colours and so forth.

But one part that’s been crucially important for Nokia is sound. Audio branding, it’s called, and many of the world’s leading companies have invested heavily in having particular sounds associated with them.

The roar of the MGM lion at the start of one of its films.

The Intel jingle at the end of almost every computer commercial.

The ‘I’m loving it’ tune that you have learned to associate with McDonald’s.

And, of course, the Nokia Grand Vals ringtone.


“You hear that tune and you know it’s a Nokia phone. It’s transcended its musical history or the collections of beeps that have carried it over the years. It’s fundamentally the sound of people making connections with Nokia, and everyone knows that,” says Tapio Hakanen, sound design expert and audio brand enthusiast from Nokia Design.

Sound judgement

It’s not just the ringtone, of course. The sounds are carefully orchestrated across the products and across the company to – literallyplay nicely together.

The music that appears on TV adverts isn’t just chosen at random, or because it’s popular, but picked out carefully to suit Nokia’s audio brand and accentuate key values of the product in question.


If you look at it from the point of view of an advertiser, an instantly recognisable audio brand on a mobile phone is like having free ads playing in every crowded venue on the planet. Many feel audio branding is more powerful than print, web or video – you can’t close your ears.

And Nokia has just been recognised as one of the strongest audio branded companies worldwide.

The Audio Branding Academy publishes an Audio Branding Barometer, the latest of which is out today, and currently Nokia is sitting in sixth place. The results were polled from Audio Branding experts across the world.


What sound (other than the Nokia Tune perhaps) do you associate with Nokia? Let us know in the comments below.

image credit: Ludovic Bertron