Everyone from school-age onward has pondered the question: Why is remembering song tunes, lyrics and jingles so effortless and seemingly instinctive, while attempting to recall the material on today's history test so challenging? The answer is something you may not have heard of, but it is crucial to making your TV presentations stand out from the crowd. I call it sonic branding.
What is sonic branding? It implants a memory in the aural pathways of your brain that is so powerful it is virtually impossible to forget (and just as difficult to ignore). And this is why you simply can't get that catchy little ditty out of your head.
Sonic branding is what causes our blood to curdle when we hear the opening bars to the Jaws theme or the spooky instrumental accompanying the infamous shower scene in Psycho. It is also what invades your consciousness when you hear the beginning of It's a Small World each time you take the family to Disneyland. It is the signature music of CNN in tandem with James Earl Jones' booming baritone intoning, “This is CNN.” And how about that Intel music or those NBC chimes?
Our research tells us there is an average of three to four minutes of background music spread throughout almost any 30-minute local TV newscast. The music usually runs about 10 seconds at a time and underscores a desired temperament. Based on our station logs, the average TV station plays some form of its news theme 30 times a day, seven days a week, more than 10,000 times per year.
In today's most successful promotional technique, marketing and design professionals incorporate sonic branding as a key weapon in their scramble for audience share. This is a surefire way of connecting a TV station with its viewers.
Even when the television is on simply as background noise, sonic branding allows your station and its identifying tones to stand out and be heard. Statistics show that 50% of people are otherwise occupied while the TV is on. That figure jumps to 85% when a commercial kicks in, so a local TV station should use its sonic signature as often as possible.
Competition for TV viewers grows fiercer each year. Between 1980 and 2000, the U.S. TV audience grew by just 8%. But viewers' programming choices grew by 500%. Creative and effective use of sonic branding offers station and network marketing executives a guaranteed way of creating a cut-through message. This music travels straight to the brain, providing a critical element in identifying a product, program, service or brand. A TV station that simply “slaps” some music onto its visuals without much forethought is just being negligent, both to itself and to its target audience.
Over the last 25 years, Arnold has composed and produced music for hundreds of TV stations and for TV networks and programs.