shutterstock_313259189Audio Branding Language

In the dozens of books recently written on various aspects of audio branding, the language and vernacular is all over the place. Every book, every reference point — is different.

Here’s our language.  Our vernacular.    Enjoy!

(Also known as sound branding, sonic branding, acoustic branding)
Audio branding is unique, proprietary music and sound that emotionally conveys a brand’s essence and values.

All collective pieces of music or sounds — that define a brand.  It’s everything from the audio logo — to the sounds a car makes when it’s asking you to put on your seat belt.

It’s the first step in a audio branding project.  It’s doing an audit of all current songs, artists, jingles, and product sounds that make up a company’s current audio identity.

A living, breathing, ever-changing document that declares the rules/guidelines/bible for all brand sound elements — and guideline of permissions for what does — and what doesn’t align with a brand.  It’s the first step in creating a company’s audio brand.


The heart of a brand’s identity. The memorable, unique musical (or audio) ‘theme’ that defines the brand. The distinctive feature or dominant idea in the composition. It’s usually a short succession of notes producing a single impression; a brief melodic or rhythmic formula — out of which longer passages are developed.

(Also known as audio logos, sonic logos, mnemonic, audio mnemonic, jingle, bumpers, audio signature, acoustic signature, earworm)
Short, 3-7 second music/audio recording that often accompanies the graphic/animated logo. (It’s a recording/arrangement of the audio motif). Think of 20th Century Fox’s over its graphic/animated logo. Or TMX over its graphic logo. Or NBC’s over the peacock. A brand may have many versions of its Audio Signature; just as NBC has many versions of audio logos – used in different applications.

For some brands, they may have a full song version. It would include the audio motif. A brand could have many various versions, in different arrangements, of the brand song.

(Also known as soundtracks, bed music, background music, scoring)
Scored music for particular usages.  They always include the audio motif.  They’re used behind corporate videos, live presentations, website pages, on-hold music, in Instagram, Pinterest, etc.

They can be arranged in different styles and moods, in different genres of music. Their thread, like a soundtrack of a film – is that they ‘sound’ like the brand.

The adaptations, create the bulk of an audio library.



(Also known as an Inspire, auditory icons, soundmarks, sonic icons, sound symbols)
Any audio sound, whether musical, vocal or just a sound – that is a sound that is a part of the customer’s experience with the brand.

An example would be the sound of the beep in a brand’s car that tells you to put on a seat belt, or the sound the door makes when you successfully put in a hotel’s keycard.

As an analogy to a ‘landscape’ in a picture, a brand’s soundscape is the collection of all the consumer touchpoints. It’s everything you hear that’s a part of the brand’s experience.

Music Campaigns are particular promotional, marketing, advertising, PR initiatives that use music to emotionally engage customers, activate, and ultimately drive sales.

Music Campaigns may include adaptations of the motif — and may also include outside songs and artists that align with the brand and audio style guide.The music would align with the audio identity of a brand.

Music Campaigns use the power of music to engage customers.

An artist or celebrity that the brand engages as a mouthpiece for the brand.



Here are a few examples in SMU’s audio library of adaptations: