Last year, national auto parts retailer AutoZone decided to revamp its sonic branding strategy. AutoZone was best known for its popular whistle jingle, but the retailer wanted to retool its approach.
From a sonic point of view, AutoZone’s brand was perfectly fine. It was the exact kind of pleasant instrumental ditty that one associates with a corporate audio logo. But this particular logo suffered from one fatal flaw: It did not include the word “AutoZone.”
Last year, AutoZone’s sonic brand was among the least recognizable sonic logos in the U.S. and UK, according to our audio intelligence research. Data found that AutoZone ranked among the bottom 10 brands in terms of consumer recognition.
This year, however, AutoZone, with its signature “Get in the zone! … AutoZone” slogan, increased its brand recognition with consumers by 62 percentage points and was now one of the top-ranked logos in our research.
It wasn’t just AutoZone, either.
Nine out of the 10 highest-indexing audio logos include the brand’s name in their mnemonic, the study finds. Including the brand name is equally important for both new and established companies. SmileDirectClub, the telehealth clear aligner company, released a sonic brand last year, its first, with the brand name in the jingle, and its sonic brand had better recognition than long-standing brands like Honda and Oreo.
A great historical example is Budweiser, which in the late ’90s released a series of iconic television commercials -- such as the Budweiser frogs -- about how people say the name “Budweiser.” These ads kicked off at the Super Bowl in 1995 -- and due to the stellar sonic branding and use of the company’s name, the ad secured a 77% recall among viewers in a 2004 Ace Metrix study. For perspective, even the best Super Bowl ads typically come in between 15% to 25% at around 90 days after the air dates -- not 20 years down the line.
A good counterexample is Mastercard. The credit card brand spent two years and a considerable amount of time, money and effort revamping its sonic logo, hoping to make its audio imprint as iconic and memorable as its signature red and yellow circles.
Unfortunately, those efforts haven’t made much of a difference. Two years after composing a new sonic brand, Mastercard has a brand association score of 0% according to the 2021 Audio Logo Index, meaning none of the consumers surveyed were able to make the connection between the jingle and Mastercard.
Mastercard wasn’t wrong to give attention to its audio branding. Its misstep was not including the word “Mastercard” over the jingle’s soothing, synthy tones.
With the explosion of podcasting and voice shopping, audio branding has become increasingly important. Brands need to think about how they present themselves via audio with the same intensity and attention they pay to their physical, online, and social media branding.
When they do, they’ll find one fundamental rule: If you want to create a strong audio logo, you have to say your own name.