Doo-doo-doo, doo-doo-doo. Boop-boop. No, it’s not remedial English, but a written transcript of the audio sound marks for Canadian broadcasters CTV and Global.
Montreal’s Astral Media recently took the concept one step further, introducing 11 distinct sound markseach a variation on the four-note “whistle” mnemonic it introduced last yeartailored to individual broadcast properties. Its Virgin Radio stations, for example, now feature an electro-pop variation on the mnemonic, while rock stations like Edmonton’s The Bear feature a heavy guitar riff. Each is played once an hour, preceded by the message “you’re listening to an Astral Media radio station.”
Alain Bergeron, Astral’s vice-president of brand management and corporate communications, says he knew the company had achieved its branding goals when a child he met at a party whistled the Astral mnemonic after being told he worked for the company. “I said ‘mission accomplished,’ ” says Bergeron.
The goal is to take sound branding “to a different level,” says Bergeron. “If the idea is to portray Astral as a not so corporate, heavy-handed big media corporation, we feel taking the time to personalize the way we speak to each and every one of our consumers will be appreciated,” he says. “It’s just normal for us to treat those targeted audiences in a targeted manner, as opposed to coming in andKA-BOOMstamping the big corporate brand.”
But Chris Gerald, a producer with AAA Audio, says there’s a possibility Astral’s blanket strategy could backfire. “Do all those brands want to be seen in the same bed together by a listener?” he asks. “If you’re a huge fan of Virgin, and then you’re hearing a [different] interpretation of that mnemonic on a station you hate, it could taint your opinion of the whole company.
“I think a lot of people would rather keep it personal,” he adds. “If they know it’s all coming from a huge corporation, it loses a bit of its charm.”
Cognitive studies have shown music lingers in people’s mindswhich explains how we can remember the theme song to a long-cancelled sitcom, but not where we left our car keys. “Speaking as an old radio guy, the power of audio is often underestimated,” says Walter Levitt, senior VP of marketing for Canwest. “I think about radio’s long-standing use of jingles; there’s no question that audio, be it a jingle or a mnemonic, people remember it both consciously and subconsciously.”
Global Television introduced its two-note “boop-boop” mnemonic when it revamped the brand in 2005. The soundmark was the result of a stringent evaluation process; the rational part of the final decision, says Levitt, is Global is a two-syllable word and the mnemonic represents those two syllables. “But to be frank,” he admits. “It was less objective than that and a little more of a gut reaction.”
While Global hasn’t conducted research into the impact sound branding, Levitt says “there’s no doubt the mnemonic has been one of the pieces that has made the Global brand resonate, particularly with consumers 18-49.” Ultimately, says Gerald, sheer repetition of a mnemonic can help a brand stand out. “I don’t like hearing that kid say ‘Zoom Zoom’ every time,” he says. “But it’s a hit.”